20th Street Project: Site Prep


Closer up to house, much more visible with trees gone

We closed on this property I believe on July 23, 2015, give or take a day or few. Nearly 5 years later, the first step towards actual work took place on Friday morning, July 3, 2020. It was the teeniest of first steps, followed by a few more a few days later, but I was excited about it nonetheless. Finally.

I’m not going to post about Every Single Step, I promise. But I’d said in my Memorial Day post that we would likely get started in 5 weeks so wanted to give an update that somewhat matched that. I’m thinking I’ll probably collect items over the course of a month and post at that interval. It will depend on how much progress I want to record (or, more likely, remember to).

On Friday, July 3, all that happened was the wooden fence that created side yards for each unit of the existing duplex was taken down, and the vacant lot cleared of weeds and other debris. On Tuesday, July 7, the trees came down.

This is what it looked like before.

Far shot of the house, barely seen because of trees in front of it
Street view from Google, taken in 2016

And after.

The 3 trees that were directly in front of the house are gone, along with the fence and the huge tree that was on the side of the house.

I’ve actually spent some time on my porch the last several evenings, including as I’m typing this, because it’s much more pleasant with those trees gone. I liked them in some ways because I could hide up here and people rarely saw me if they were walking by. But those privet trees dropped filth onto this porch year-round. I swept it and the stairs good on Tuesday after they were done. It was so refreshing to walk outside on Wednesday morning and have it still be clean. In 5 years that had never happened before. It will be even nicer once it gets a roof!

The porch on the day I moved in, October 30, 2015.
The porch today.

In addition to the trees being gone, notice also the difference in color of the porch. That’s how filthy those trees were.

Front of the house showing trees and fence
A closer view taken a week ago.
Closer shot of the house with lots of emptiness on the right side with the fence and trees gone
This comparison gives you a slightly more dramatic view of the difference without the fence and trees.

That’s probably all that’s worth seeing really: the before and after. But that’s not going to stop me from posting a few more of the during…

vacant area from the 2nd story porch, worker starting to remove fence
Friday morning, July 3: the first slats of the fence started coming down. It was ridiculous how excited I was at such a small step.

This was about 9:30am on July 3. The contractor had a couple of guys over to start clearing the land so he can start working on the foundation of the new duplex that will go here.

vacant land cleared of weeds and debris

Taken about the same time the next morning. Notice the tree shadow is in the same place as that red marker.

Four days later: the cottonwood tree across the way, and the camphor tree close to house now gone. That last remaining tree in the back is on the property line. We just got clearance last week from the city to remove it, but the contractor needs to make arrangements with the users of the parking lot – Community One Health across O Street – to make sure that area is clear before we can do it.

A large camphor tree in the side yard

This was a large camphor tree that I’m sure is many decades old. We had much discussion about whether to leave it or take it out. At a minimum it would need to be trimmed back terribly. In the end the city approved it’s removal (did you know you can’t just remove your own trees without a permit??) so we figured that was a sign. It does provide a lot of shade to the south-facing windows of the existing house – of which there are many. Oh well. Once the new duplex is in that will help block the sun some, as will having new windows and insulation put in the existing house.

From this angle that camphor tree would have been on the right. But now it’s gone!

It got a little bit of vertigo watching the guy go up in that cherry picker. It was wild to watch them take down that huge tree limb by limb, using a rope/pulley technique to keep them from hitting the house as they chain-sawed them down.

All that was left of those 3 privets in front until they took a pretty scary saw to those stumps that ground them into dust.

A few “before and after” shots from the inside with the trees gone.

That tree provided a ton of shade for the house.
Here you can see him hacking away at the big trunk, now lying on the ground to the left.
From the bathroom. Now you see it….
…now you don’t.

And, it’s a Lot More Brighter on the inside without that camphor tree. I don’t usually have the shades up that high anyway but wanted to see what it looked like. And it’s bright.

Yesterday and today they started doing “exploratory demolition” to see what kind of condition the bones of the house are in. We’ve actually been a little worried about what they will find when they start tearing apart a 120 year old house. But so far so good and we hope that continues.

It’s Very Loud work. I actually went into the office today and worked there all day for the first time since March 16 because I just couldn’t concentrate with all the noise.

I didn’t mind one bit.

And so it begins.

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