A few years back, my son was working with a friend of his on a job renovating a few old Victorian houses on Long Beach Island. These places were Real VIctorian and not the Plastic Victorian you see springing up by the carload. A lot of the upstairs rooms had been sectioned off to make smaller bedrooms for the Bed and Breakfast trade that it had become. They were removing the false walls and setting up the rooms to the original size. He does have a sense of history on that island because it is a place that no matter how many "McMansions" they build they always find things that laugh at the efforts. Because it is prone to flooding, the basements are really at ground level but there are still things that pop up to remind you of the ages past.

Ship timbers come to light on the days after some of the storms. Some of them had been used in the construction of the houses that were built maybe early 1800's. When they removed some of the sheet rock to find that there was another layer of plaster and under that wooden wainscoting they realized they were getting to the heart of the original home.

They found that some of the original bedrooms were very large and had been divided into three smaller rooms. There was a magnificent marble fireplace on the back wall that had been covered up.

There seems to have been an attempt at ducts that may have been from a coal furnace, which had in time been replaced by other furnaces and eventually electric baseboard heat. The size of the fireplaces that they uncovered would have heated the huge bedrooms . Only in one room did they find that the fireplace had been broken apart and chunks of the marble mantlepiece were left. My son was horrified to think that someone did that to what was a work of art to "Modernize"!

When they got to the last layer of wall, thick and hand plastered, they found something that really got them wondering. Some old newspapers had been used as insulation in some spots and in others there was this strange looking stuff that had been used between the inner and outer walls as insulation.

It was seaweed! The seaweed that you find floating to the beach and settling at the high water line. It was tightly packed in those walls but fell apart easily as they removed huge piles of it. And so did most of the newspapers that they pulled out.

From what little they could make out it was a paper from Philadelphia and there was not a photograph in it. Advertisements were drawn and most of them seemed to be for women's hats and gloves and seamstresses who would dress you in the "Latest Paris Fashions".

He told me that he felt like an archeologist uncovering pyramids.

He would love to become a multi-millionaire and buy one of those houses to restore it to the way it would have been. And he and his wife would live there and become part of its history.


By Swampetta (SWAMPETTA@aol.com)

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