Eric Weinstein’s house in D.C.’s Chevy Chase neighborhood dates to 1927. (“I call it the house that Ruth built,” he jokes. That’s the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs.)
Eric recently “seniorized” an upstairs bathroom. When an odd space above the shower was opened up, the contractor found at least a case’s worth of empty liquor bottles, including several bottles of Old Lester brand whiskey.
“Very strange, as the dates were later, like 1936,” Eric wrote. “Perhaps the bath had been redone before? Who knows. Might explain some of the strange angles.”
Several years ago, Pete Toman completely renovated his family’s 1959 Cape Cod-style house in Alexandria, Va., to create a master suite. On the second day of demolition, the contractors found two empty bottles of the beer that made Milwaukee famous: Schlitz.
“They are now proudly displayed on the bookshelf in our newly remodeled basement rec room,” Pete wrote. “Looking at them always gives me a chuckle thinking about the two carpenters who knocked back a couple of cold ones after a hard day’s work over 60 years ago.”
Well, you hope it was after a hard day’s work and not before a drunk day’s work.
A few years ago, Bill McIntosh was working in the basement of his District house. “I realized that there was a space where I could see a portion of the floor joists supporting the living room above,” he wrote. “Curious about the construction of this c. 1940 house, I grabbed a flashlight to get a better look.”
That’s when he found an empty bottle of Kessler’s Private Blend whiskey and a can of Lion Beer. He thinks they were left by the builders. Wrote Bill: “I wonder what else lurks beneath the floors.”
Just this month, the crew renovating the master bathroom in David Elfin’s 1960 Bethesda, Md., house found two cans of Blatz beer.
Gary Peck of Silver Spring, Md., hasn’t found any liquor bottles in his house, but some examples of vice and debauchery did turn up between the studs of the house in Somerville, Mass., that his daughter and son-in-law renovated: “girlie” magazines.
“They were of 1940 or early 1950 vintage, before Playboy came out,” Gary wrote. “The photos were not nudes but, for example, of attractive women in their underwear and high heels vacuuming in the living room. There was often an inset of a leering, grinning man holding a cigar observing the event.”
Wrote Gary: “The magazines were used as insulation.”
I bet they were.
On a more wholesome note, Merrill Kaegi once owned a house on Brandywine Street NW built in 1936. During repairs to the kitchen ceiling, a worker discovered a clear glass, pint-size milk bottle from Fairfax Farms Dairy resting on a beam.
“We have kept the bottle and occasionally use it as a vase,” wrote Merrill.
Berna Heyman splits her time between Williamsburg, Va., and a 1791 house in Schoharie, N.Y. You know she likes old things.
When the upstairs bathroom in her New York home required stripping down to the original structure, a shoe was found hidden above the door lintel between the ceiling of the second floor and the attic floor.
She consulted Al Saguto, Colonial Williamsburg master shoemaker, who indicated that it is probably a woman’s shoe from about 1870.
The discovery led Berna to investigate why the shoe was there.
“The practice of concealed shoes appears to have originated about 1500,” she wrote. “People sometimes hid old boots and shoes in chimneys and walls to bring good luck to their houses and to ward off evil spirits. The shoes are always worn out and very often there is only one shoe. Most concealed shoes have been found in Britain but occasional cases have been reported in the United States.”
Berna reported the discovery to the Concealed Shoe Index, maintained by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery in Northampton, England. Some 3,000 pieces of footwear are listed in the index.
I was unable to find a Concealed Beer and Whiskey Bottle Index. I suspect there isn’t a supercomputer big enough to maintain it.
Next week: I’ll share stories of things homeowners left for future generations to discover.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.