Everyone loves a good mystery. At least I do.
And, everyone that works on old houses is always looking for that hidden treasure that no one has ever found before.
I had the thrill of finding both, in one item, while taking down the old house known as “Western View”. That memento was hard for me to give away, but I did. And, it took me fifteen years to solve the mystery behind it, but I believe the answer was finally revealed.
Up near the top of one of the chimneys I found a stone with my initials carved into it… NB. The “N” was inverted (that part of the mystery I still haven’t solved).
It’s not uncommon for masons to carve the date on a stone in the chimney, and perhaps their initials, but when they do so it’s always at the base of the chimney where all can see it.
This stone was near the top and on the side of the chimney that faced the roof. A mason rarely gets up on a roof, he works from a scaffold and the roof side is the back of the chimney to him, he just reaches over to that side. Every indication was that this stone was carved by someone sitting on the roof after the chimney was built… how odd was that?
Now, I clearly owned this stone, it was mine. I bought the salvage rights to the house. I found the stone. It had my initials in it… how many times will this happen in my life? It was a keeper for sure.
But when it came time to build my client’s fireplace I felt that the stone belonged there in plain site, to honor that mysterious engraver from so long ago. I just wished I knew why someone would sit on a peak of a roof to carve their initials in a rock.
Fifteen years later I received a call from a potential client who owned the farm across the road from where Western View once stood. He had on his property an old stone kitchen that had once belonged to Dolly Madison’s grandmother. He wanted me to restore it and add on to it a vintage log cabin (which I did, but that’s a story for another day).
When I went to look at this stone kitchen I was pleased to see that it was built out of the same kind of stone that Western View’s chimney’s was built out of. This new client pointed out all the names and initials that were carved into the stones, put there by Civil War soldiers while based there on the property, some of the names had inverted letters. Ah Ha!
I did a little research and found out that it was common practice to assign someone during that war to take a lookout position on rooftops. I then had this vision of some young man stuck up on a Western View’s roof, sitting next to a chimney, with nothing to do but carve his initials in one of the stones.
Likely the only thing that young man ever did that still survives to this day is that one carving. Now that is something to think about.
Originally posted 2015-02-23 15:23:32.