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A Peek at the Past

When I visited Colorado recently, I noticed that the town of Frisco transported several historic homes to its Historic Park and Museum. This park is a great place for families to “go back in time” and see how life was in the early 19th century.

Back in the day

Rustic homes, called "shebangs" were surrounded by saloons that served homemade whiskey concoctions known as Tanglewood, Forty-Rod, and Coffin Varnish. Saloons also offered Cactus Wine made from peyote tea and tequila. And where there is wine, there are women.

During the Frisco mining heyday, prostitution was legal. The prostitutes, or "soiled doves," worked at brothels that ranged from elegant parlor houses to shabby "cribs." Hurdy-girls, who worked as dance partners, could decide whether they wanted to rent rooms at the dance house (or hurdy-gurdy house) to entertain their customers. But not all these girls were prostitutes. Many earned a good salary dancing to the music of the hurdy-gurdy hand organ and serving drinks.

The buildings

interlocked lumber© Kia Ricchiinterlocked lumberAs a contractor, I also enjoy looking at how historic buildings were constructed. Because these buildings have exposed framing (the walls are not covered with sheetrock or exterior siding), they allow a viewer to readily understand the logic behind construction methods.

For example, collar ties were used in roof rafter construction because they stop the rafters from pushing the walls outward. (If the letter "A" represents a rafter, the horizontal line is the collar tie and it holds the vertical members together.) Unified corners also help prevent collapse and therefore logs (or large framing members) were often notched and interlocked at the corners.But several of the Frisco historical homes did not have interlocking corners. Instead large vertical poles were inserted into the ground at the corners and attached to the walls. After the framing was complete, horsehair or, more commonly, mortar, filled the gaps between the logs to prevent wind, rain, and rodents from entering the home.

If I had to choose

non-notched corner © Kia Ricchinon-notched corner Historic homes appeal to me because of their simplicity. Homes were often less than 1,000 square feet and generally contained only basic essentials such as a stove, sink, table, bed, and chair. (Finally a house you can clean in under an hour!) But one essential item is noticeably missing - the bathroom. When I think of all of the wonderful inventions, the Internet and indoor plumbing top my list. So although I always enjoy a brief step back in time, I wouldn't trade it for my hot shower at the end of the day. I really appreciate a good scrub and I know the people around me do also.

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