Saturday, March 18, 2017

When You Lose Your Family Home

photo by Nora Seidel

My family recently lost a treasure that should not have been forgotten to the ages. We all have one, or perhaps, "had" would be the better word, as many of these heirlooms no longer exist in the name of progress, ignorance, or apathy.

I'm afraid that until a local news article came out about the demolishing of a town's historical landmark home, our family's loss was due to ignorance.

...and the alleged apathy of the home's owner, who I must add does not even live in the town, but an hour away.

The home I speak of was built in 1792 in the little town of Morgantown, PA.

Let that date sink in a moment.

Our country was in its very beginnings at that time as the United States; George Washington was still president, the Louisiana Purchase had not yet occurred, and the U.S. Postal Service had just been created that very year.

Amazing to think of life then, right?

Now, how does the house pertain to my family and I?

When I saw the article it said one of the long time owners was "Plank". That being a family name, I texted my mom to see if there was a connection. She texted back that she had looked it up and we were direct descendants.


I was already aghast at the demolition of such an old home, but now it just got personal.

The history of the house started when Colonel Jacob Morgan had the house built for his daughter, Mary Hudson. She and her husband, John, had five children that were born and raised there.

Fast forward to 1869 when Dr. David Heber Planke and his wife Ida bought the home; this is when my ancestry gained a link to this home. Dr Planke practiced and saw patients in his home there, and his wife ran a girls school. They lived there until 1913. After that the house was rented out to various families.

In 1952 William Bertolet Planke bought back the family home when he and his wife resettled in their hometown. His wife and daughter continued to live there after his death until it was sold at an auction in 1989 to a Thomas Abbinizio of Wynnewood, PA for his daughter, Angela Zager. She rented it out to families for a few years and then let it fall into disrepair, then abandoned it altogether.

I don't know why anyone would hold on to a house they aren't using, but it makes me mad no matter what the excuse to let such a home rot.

A distant relative of mine and a descendant of the Planke family, Rosine Plank Bumback, succinctly expressed what not just myself, but I'm sure the whole town feels at the loss:

“I am distressed that a building so connected to the town’s historical and social fabric, including to its founder, should have been allowed to rot and finally disappear. There will be no more physical vestige of its habitants who lived in it over two centuries. My great-grandfather, Dr. Heber Plank bought the Plank House in the mid 19th Century and raised 5 sons there with his wife, Ida Eugenia Bertolet Plank. Their second oldest son was my grandfather Walter Frederick, who died before my father Lt. Col. Walter Frederick Plank was born. I remember visiting the house in my youth at which time it was occupied by Helen Beck Plank, the widow of my great uncle William Bertolet Plank, professor of mining and engineering at Lafayette College, and their daughter Adeline Jane Plank. My only great uncle Plank I really knew was Rev. Alfred Quintin, an Episcopalian priest who served at St. Mark’s in Washington as well as parishes in Baltimore and new Jersey. He sent yellow roses to Ft. Belvior Hospital on my birth, upon learning that my name was Rosine.
I stayed at the Plank House in the 70s with my mother when Cousin Adaline Jane was living alone there, the last Plank to do so. I was shown the ground floor office where Dr. D. Heber Plank received his patients. There was a photograph on the wall of uncle “Bertie” with Max Plank, apparently a French Huguenot relation. Upstairs in the attic, there was a large portrait of a rather fierce looking Dr. Theodorus Zwingerus holding a scull under whom Delaplanche or DePlank ancestor studied medicine in the late 17th Century at the University of Basel, Switzerland before crossing the pond to America. Under the portrait was a chest where I found and avidly read Dr. Plank’s journals written on the eve of the Civil War, in which he reflected on the challenges of the Republic. I sensed the many human events that transpired within those walls. I could even almost hear the voices of the Plank boys clamoring down the staircase.
One by one, each house that held a family connection for me in Morgantown has been demolished. This included the Finger house where my grandmother Lettie Finger Plank lived with her siblings, and the neighboring houses where Dr. Plank’s brother and family lived. As cars zoomed by the modern drug chain store and whatever replaces the Plank House on Main Street, there will be little evidence of the town’s unique cultural, architectural, and historical heritage, charm, spirit, and complexity.”

I have a picture of the portrait she spoke of from our Plank family history book. It is now all I have as a link to "what was". (sorry for the cel pic)

It pains me that I knew only too late all the links I had to a town I once went to school and lived in when first married. I had more of a link to the town than I ever thought, and now that physical link is forever gone.

My dear friends...find your roots. Your homesteads. Claim them back or protect them. Let's not lose our history or heritage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Master Closet Layout - First Look at Plans

We're moving right along with our winter goals list and have been at work trying to figure out how to maximize the space available to us in our master closet (which used to be the spare "oom" - read more about the renovation here).

It's a good-sized room and we have been using it for six months with some make-shift temporary closet rods and our dressers. I like using a room for awhile to get to know what it needs in order to serve you well.

During our six months of using the closet we have been able to narrow down a design, as well as what we need the room to have; we want to be sure it'll be a functional space for us in many years to come. Here's the priorities we need it to include space for:

- our clothes (duh)
- shoes
- my purses
- my scarves
- hats
- hooks to hang robes
- shelving for sweaters (shelves help lengthen the life of sweaters vs. hanging)
- suitcases/duffels
- extra blankets and sleeping bags
- jewelry
- ironing board that can be tucked away
- a full length mirror
- laundry hampers for whites and colors

That's a lot of unique items! We also have to figure out how best to use the space when we have a floor radiator and two windows to build around. However, a bonus is a small existing closet that's in the room that we can modify.

Karl is a whiz at 3D renderings of rooms, and has been busy at work trying to figure out how to incorporate all these things. Here's a look at the first draft:

When you walk in from the master bedroom, my side of the closet is on the left, Karl's the right.

We're thinking of using the small existing closet for building shelving that would store our shoes and purses, and then laundry hamper baskets below.

The bench along the far left wall below the window would be a hinged top with storage underneath for extra blankets.

The drawers would be for socks, jeans, tshirts, etc., while the hanging rods would be for dress shirts, dresses, pants, and skirts. The upper cabinets above the drawers would hold shelving for sweaters, ties, and jewelry hooks. On the exposed side of the wardrobes would be large hooks for hanging our robes and/or an outfit for the next day. Suitcases would go in the cabinets above the rods.

I'm thinking we could tuck the ironing board into a place between the built-ins and have it slide out when in use, then slide back out of the way when not. We're going to be researching what's possible.

We are calling this a first draft because we still have to figure out how to lengthen the space to hang my long dresses and coats, a place for our hats and the ironing board. We also have a "dead space" between the windows that I want to put to good use. Maybe have hooks to hang hats?

It's a good start! Besides working out the storage needs and ironing board, we'll probably start designing the face of the drawers and cabinets a bit more in-depth too for the next draft so we have something to show the carpenter of our vision.

We'd LOVE your input for how to best use the space - goodness knows we're behind on closet organization technology. Feel free to comment below!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How To Install A Switch on a Sconce Light

This past summer when Karl and I were renovating our master bedroom, one of the ideas we came up with was to install hardwired sconces on either side of the bed. Sconces in the bedroom save the limited tabletop space side tables provide and are aesthetically pleasing, so it was an easy decision for us.

I began researching sconces that were in the style and budget I wanted, as well as hardwired. For some reason once you filter out all the non-hardwired in an online search, your options become limited. Add in that we wanted switches on the scounces so we could turn them off and on from the bed and we were left with either spending $100 and up per sconce, or some lights that looked as cheaply made as their $20 price tag.


That's when I happened upon these sconces when I was taking advantage of the air conditioning at Home Depot on a very hot summer afternoon 8 months preggo (no a/c except a window unit in our bedroom meant this mama-to-be survived in stores the last month of that hot summer). I liked the look of them a LOT, and for $30 a sconce we were well within budget.

They were perfect except one minor detail: no switches.

In my excitement of finding sconces I didn't think of this until I got home with them. I'd spent more hours than should be humanely necessary trying to find THE sconces, so I was less than willing to take them back.

Thus began my self-inflicted drudgery of looking up anything I could to Macgyver those lights into switch sconces.

The scounces were fitted for candlabra size bulbs. I googled for lightbulb socket adapters that came with switches, but no such thing is made for candlabras...period. No idea why not. I looked for candlabra to regular lightbulb socket adapters, and an hour or two later found none that would fit inside the sconce shade…

I think I was a little obsessed with the idea that there HAD to be a way. We'll blame it on pregnancy hormones and the heat.

It paid off though when I had a lightbulb moment (haha get it?) several evenings later: install a switch directly on the sconce wall plate!

Turning again to searching the web, I had to find something that was thin enough to fit between the plate and the wall, and finally I found success!

Home Depot to the rescue!

They cost approximately $4 each.

All that to say that this is the way that one can Macguyver any wall sconce to have a switch.


First, make sure the toggle switch fits between the plate and wall.

Using a drill press, make the hole for the switch in each plate. You can stick painters tape or duck tape to the area before drilling to ensure it won't split the plate or cause rough edges to the hole.


To figure out which of the wires on the switch are “off” and “on”, use a multimeter that’s set to “ohms” to measure continuity.

0 ohms = “off”, anything else is = “on”

Shut off the breaker power to the room you want to install the sconces.

And since I’m not an electrician and cannot explain the process as well as Karl, here is a video that shows how to attach the rest of the wires so that you can mount the lights.

There you have it! Pretty simple and inexpensive way to modify any sconce light!

Pin for later!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beautiful & Affordable "Restoration Hardware" Knockoff Ceiling Lights

Hi all! How's Winter treating you? Getting projects done despite the cold?

We got a head start on our Winter project goals by replacing our two ugliest light fixtures, as well as installing our bedside sconces - woohoo!

If you remember, we had a certain look in mind for both of the ugly lights we wanted to be rid of, but keeping the cost low made the search a bit of a challenge.

But I like a challenge.

Let's start with the bay window light:

It's infamously referred to as the “circus light” for its jarring multicolor arrangement. The circus also reminds me of clowns, which I also dislike. Yup, this light and I were downright enemies.

Here's what I was picturing replacing it with:

This industrial light shade with Edison bulb is from Restoration Hardware for $139. Not a price we had in mind to pay for a simple fixture that wasn't the main lighting of the room.

Enter the Andante fixture on Wayfair, almost exactly the same, and guess the price…$40!!

I snatched that baby up, and now here it is! So much better than the circus!

The quality of the light fixture is pretty good too, so I'm pleased. Also, did you know they make LED Edison bulbs?! Neither did I until I came across them at Lowes! It's supposed to last 9 years. Crazy.

Now we come to the vestibule with its bad track light. When I think “vestibule”, I'm thinking of it being an extension of the formal entryway, and hence needs a pretty light and something period-appropriate to the house.

A track light is neither of these by a long shot.

Here's what I was going for with the overall look, once again from Restoration Hardware. Price…$675! Woah.

Once again I had luck with Wayfair. By the way, this was my first time ever buying from Wayfair. Is that weird? I feel a bit behind the times saying that. Well it's proving its worth to me lately, because look what I found for $200:

It's the Winchester 3-light semi-flush mount, and has real glass crystals and not fake plastic, which makes a big difference for longevity. I was pretty happy to find glass at this price point. However, if I must complain, it would be that some of the upper “brass” circle has a painted design and not actually embossed. Nor was any of it actual brass. Buuut you can't really tell unless you're up close... and it hangs from the ceiling, passes a-ok.

And it's purty.

...And my desire to spruce up the entryway and vestibule is even bigger now because such a pretty light deserves a pretty room to match. (new paint on walls, remove paint from door and then stain...) Come on, Spring!

Now we come at last to the installed bedside sconces! Woohoo!

If you look closely at this last picture, you can see a toggle switch on the bottom center. These sconces did not originally come with the toggles. Karl and I wanted to be able to turn them off and on from our bed, so we came up with these as a solution to being able to use the sconces we chose despite them not having a switch. Thus, we were able to get the sconces and the price we wanted!

Next post I'll be showing where we found the switches and how we installed them onto the sconces. It's pretty simple and a convenient add-on!

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