As It Were

Posted on: August 20, 2016

A Lady of Grace

The call came in to visit a home that was, well, let's just say it was "out".

I was told a tale of a staircase that was dilapidated, broken down and just plain ugly. The entire family insisted the elderly homeowner just tear the whole thing out and get something new.

So, it was with some depredation that I got in my truck, and drove down the highway, over the country road, through the small town and past a row of small, simple homes.

"Hmmm, gonna be tough to sell a new staircase in a one floor house."

And then, there it was.

The sturdy brick structure told two tales. The first was of attentive construction in a previous era. The second, a litany of the things that people do to their homes, that were built too small for their current arrangements, and the money was tight when the space was added.

It did have two floors.

I knocked on the side door, and it opened. As I followed the elderly matron through the myriad of small hallways and uneven rooms, I was pondering the math of "what in the world have I gotten myself into?"

And then, there it was.

Old? For sure. Dilapidated? Ummmm, no. Broken down? Hardly. Ugly? Hmph.

The 150 plus years had been hard on her, but she was up to the test. As I marveled at the stairspace before me, (our word, it is all encompassing), I could not miss the details that just do not exist anymore. I mean, who has dovetailed a baluster into a tread, in like, the last hundred years?

Nobody I know.

We looked at her. The owner told me the tale of all the abuses. The broken tread, (nothin' a little glue and a clamp wouldn't fix), the missing newel cap, (she showed me the ball that was formerly there, before it was knocked off and chewed on by the dog), and the missing tread returns, (no big deal).

She told me how she and a friend had stayed up weekends, for months on end, stripping the old black varnish off of each and every inch and out of each and every curve of the balustrade. She told me about the good times they had, listening to Elvis as the stripping solution's "vapors" took hold.

I took one hard look at it, and knew, that even though we install beautiful new balustrades of solid newel posts, graceful banisters, and the complete a melange of available balusters, that there was nothing I could offer her that would replace what she had.

Ain't gonna do it. Ain't even gonna try.

I told her what a treasure she had. I assured her that there was nothing amiss that a little glue, and the phone number of an old guy I know couldn't fix. He can turn a ball from a log, and fabricate what ever little pieces were needed.

Tear out that authentic piece of history? Destroy the work of craftsman? Let alone sell someone something they just don't need. 

We are stairspace artists. We don't do that.