Unless something goes terribly wrong,* carpentry is not usually not about adrenaline rush.  Firefighters burst into burning buildings to save puppies, while we shave another few thousands off a piece of crown miolding to make a perfectly coped joint.  Slow and steady tends to suit my constitution, but a bit of urgency now and then can be nice, too.  So I was excited to get the call from Lex, a repeat client of ours:  “There’s an oak library in a house in JP, and they’re about to gut the building.  We can have it if we can pull it out tomorrow; otherwise, it’s landfill-bound.”  We jumped into action, though our shop is not equipped with any slidey fire-poles.


Nineteenth-century mansion in Jamaica Plain Ma in need of repair


The house was substantial and tired.  The story I heard is that the last owners, formerly wealthly, divorced each other into penury, each living in a wing of the house while the battle wound on, burning chairs in the fireplaces to stay warm.  A developer had finally gotten control of the property, with plans to gut, fluff, polish, and condo-ize.


We set to work.

Oak library cabinets in old house


Carpenter preparing to dismantle oak library cabinets


two carpenters dismantling oak library cabinets


We found concealed compartments in the top of the crown assembly, but no gold bars…


Large crown section of oak library cabinets


Moving salvaged cabinet parts out of old house


Loading salvaged library cabinets into box truck


And cleaning up:

Cleanup after removing oak library cabinets from old house



Of course, we couldn’t leave without exploring a bit to see what other tasty bits the house might have to show us.  The room with the library also had a lovely oak mantel with a secret compartment, unfortunately empty like the ones on top of the bookcases.

Oak mantel and fireplace from late 19th century


Side panels of 19th century oak mantel


hidden compartment in paneled oak mantel from 19th century



There was also a Darwin-inspired spiral stair to the third floor:

Metal spiral stair in 19th century house


A call box, of course:

Call box in old house


And a truly fanciful dormer arrangement:

Unusual arrangement of dormers on Victorian house





*We were recently working on a house when another tradesman (not working for me, thankfully!) cut a gas pipe.  The house, the carpenters, and the resident cats all survived unscathed, and I got an adrenaline fix to last me for many years.