If walls could talk

Oct 15, 2010

An old school picture form and handwritten letters dating back to 1927. 

In the French film Amélie, the discovery of a little toy hidden in the wall of an old apartment leads to life-changing events for a young woman and those around her.  I have yet to find a beloved toy in the walls of my home, but I have experienced the delight of discovering other personal items, including handwritten letters, old magazines, and even a vintage camera.

Opening up a wall in an old home is like an archeology dig.  After a few major remodels, I have found that it's not uncommon to find little treasures or lost items tucked away in the walls.  It's not a question anymore of if there's something behind a wall, but what?


Letters and publications seem to be a common find in walls.  Here are a couple of old Life Magazines we found in decommissioned ducts of our 1948 home in Eugene, Oregon.  Inside one of the magazines, there is a feature on Russian-born American artist Max Weber (1881 - 1961). 


The article was written by Winthrop Sargeant (what a great name).  Here's an excerpt from the introductory paragraph.

To the average person the somber landscapes, primitive portraits and slablike nudes that Max Weber paints look deceptively heavy, coarse and unskilled.  But to fellow artists, Weber's work places him as the greatest artist in America and one of the few really great ones in the world. . . Weber's brooding canvases have been shown and bought by virtually every important museum in the country.  They have won the most important prizes the art world has to offer.  Collectors buy them avidly at prices that sometimes reach early five figures.   

Our greatest find to date is a Kodak Folding Brownie camera (manufactured sometime between 1916 - 1926) in its original case.  We were replacing a kitchen cabinet, and there it was behind the cabinet wall!

   
One day I would love to run some film through it.  The camera is upside-down in the picture, but the cable is what you use to snap the picture.  The viewfinder is the squarish component next to the cable.

We have also had some bizarre finds in our home.  In our first bathroom remodel, my husband and I found an enormous lot of used razor blades in the wall behind our sink. We learned that it was commonplace for men to dispose of their razor blades in little slits found on the inside of older medicine cabinets.  A fun little fact but not a fun little find.  And, in a kitchen remodel a few years ago, an electrician was reaching inside of a wall to retrieve a wire when he found a small tin vial with white powdery substance.  (This was not a keeper.)

What are some treasures you have discovered in your home?

4 comments:

Margie Oomen said...

i have not found anything but a few coins and some drawings on wood
but we have not done any major, wall altering renovations either.
My house is over a hundred years old and now I feel like getting out the crowbar and tearing down a wall.

Nicky said...

Wow! I have never found anything. Why do you think they hid that stuff? Do the letters keep any secret? It must have been very exciting to find all those things!

HomeCollection. said...

All these old papers always seem magical!
Even if i live in an old apartment, i've never found (yet) any treasures behind the walls..

Cathy said...

We found one of the letters when we took out a soffit in the dining room. My guess is that it slipped through the attic floors somehow. All the letters are casual correspondence to family or friends. Nothing secretive as far as I can tell.

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