Thursday, December 8, 2011

heart in the woodwork

339 East 140th Street is a simple wooden house with some not-so-simple decoration.

Designed for a single family and built in 1901, it’s one of very few left from an era when housing was built by skilled European immigrant carpenters, not highrise steelworkers. 

Oft times these woodworkers would be from northern Europe or Scandinavia and they liked to show off what they could do. In fact they loved this stuff; the Swedish word for this fancy woodwork translates literally as “carpenter happiness".

Every piece of woodtrim would have been handsawn onsite, then tacked into place. This iron and oak foot-powered scroll saw dates from an 1885 patent by Ansel Ball, the same year as our ClockTower.
By February 8, 1898 (three years before this house) a simple handheld version called a “coping saw” was patented. Both of these saws were likely used here back then.
Today, the land is worth twice the house for a combined value of about $334,000.

Next time you walk by take a moment and look up. One day it will be lost to demolition. They won’t be building any more.

And surely someone’s heart is in the woodwork.

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