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Posters and Profits

Norman Riley rehabs an 1899 house and finds ancient varsity theatre posters used as a form of insulation - a sort of time capsule.

Submitted by: Norman E. Riley, October 2006

This entry relates to the past, present. 

Categories: New Beginnings, Unforgettable Experiences.



The house had obviously been a student rental for many years and showed all the signs of that neglect, but it had wonderful high ceilings that recalled a grander era, good light, and a palpable sense of history (I was to subsequently learn that it had once been the Luft family home constructed around 1899, originally located next to the second Varsity Theatre which the family operated, and eventually moved from that address to its present location on ā€œJā€ Street).  At some point it had been converted to a duplex and so we acquired two kitchens, two bathrooms, two hot water heaters, two electric meters, and two front entry doors, and two addresses.  At $96,000, it seemed overpriced even by 1987 standards, but we reasoned that we could not do much better and that by concentrating our energies on remodeling, the house could be restored to a nice condition.  


Over the next three years we moved walls, relocated doorways, gutted entire rooms, placed new hardwood and tile floors throughout the house, installed a wood burning stove to replace the nonfunctioning heater, stripped decades of paint from moldings, doors, and other fixtures, rebuilt sash windows, and replaced various things that were no longer salvageable.  The exterior was stripped and painted, and a handsome wooden deck was added out back.  One of my last jobs was the replacement of the floor in a back room closet.  When I lifted up the old linoleum I found a large number of movie posters from the original Varsity Theatre: a form of insulation, I assumed, and a sort of time capsule.  I had coincidentally left a sort of time capsule of my own in that house (I placed some photographs under the floor beneath the wood burning stove).   


By the time we finished, we had accumulated $15,000 in receipts from Hibbert Lumber and other places, had devoted uncounted hours at work on the project, and had come to know every detail of the old house.  In 1991 we decided to put it on the market.  It sold in one day for $246,000.  

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