You can’t go far in Buffalo without tripping over something historically significant, or randomly meeting the guy who’s grandfather built your house. Or something like that.
It’s always interesting to open up these old porches and see for ourselves why there are now so many building codes and regulations. One reason we have to get our foundations inspected and plans drawn up and approved before getting a permit is because back in the day people would just throw a 2×4 on top of an I-beam that was anchored in nothing but heavy clay and maybe some rocks and call it a day. If you need any more convincing that this is nowhere near enough to support that porch roof, take a look at how that 2×4 is bowing under the weight.
During our Greenfield porch project last year our on-site inspector made us swap out the 4×4 posts the permit inspector had approved with 6x6s because of concerns that the porch roof would be too much for them to carry.The framing around those posts that the shingles were nailed to was all tied in and carried some of the load, but that’s probably the only reason this porch wasn’t in worse shape. And by worse, I mean it hadn’t started to collapse and take the porch roof and part of the second story with it.
That’s even more surprising when we learned a little about the house and its neighborhood. It turns out that Matt, who rented us the dump trailer to haul away the old porch, had some history with the house. His grandfather had actually helped build the house we were working on back in the 1920s, as well as many more on the street. It was a company neighborhood, with the houses being built first for the executives of the Pierce Arrow Company and later, as the neighborhood expanded, for the rest of the workers.
The Pierce Arrow complex at Elmwood and Great Arrow, which is undergoing massive renovations, was designed in 1906 and operated until 1938 and during that time produced some of the most powerful and efficient automobiles in the country. President Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows and two White Model M Tourers to serve as the first official cars of the White House, in addition to many Hollywood stars and tycoons of the day owning one of luxury cars.
One interesting feature of these executive homes that Matt learned from his mother was that apparently the porches sported a steel I-beam as the header. This explains why there is absolutely no sag to the front of the porch but makes it even more baffling that with a steel beam running along the top there would be only a 2×4 at either end supporting all that weight. But who knows, those columns could have been rebuilt later by someone who didn’t realize what was hidden above. Either way, I’m glad that I’m some cases they don’t make them they used to.