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Smiling House after the tornado

Smiling House after the tornado

The structure was first built in Ferry Hill, Alberta, ordered from the Canadian Aladdin Co. catalogue. (There’s a pdf version of their 1920 catalogue online). While we cannot be absolutely sure, the model that is closest to what we have is called  The Edmonton. If we are correct in our research, the wood came from B.C. by train and the hardware – doorknobs, hinges, etc. – came from Ontario. There is an interesting guarantee that came with Aladdin houses: a refund of “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…” (which was a lot of money in 1920). What we have noticed is that this house is still square 90 years after it was built, and that we have never seen straighter or stronger framing.

The house is 26′ on each side and very close to 26′ high – not counting the foundation. In modern (platform) framing, they build the first floor completely before starting on the second. Smiling House is built using the balloon framing method, which means they build both the first and second floor exterior walls at the same time with very long 2x4s (they go from the bottom of the main floor up to the top of the second floor). The floor of the second floor is then built inside the balloon frame. One of our expert friends tells us that balloon framing is one of the reasons that Smiling House is still square. In fact, he said that this house will likely still be standing 300 years from now, barring flood, fire or tornado.

Thankfully for us, we bought it after it was completely gutted. No lath and plaster left, just bare framing. The main floor is divided into a kitchen, a dining room with a bay window and a living room that we plan to put a nice fireplace in. The second floor is divvied up into several small rooms. Our plan is to combine two of them into a bedroom slash walk-in closet, an office, and a bathroom. The third floor is surprisingly large but I’m sure when we’re done with it, the one room will end up being about 12′ on each side.

Ideally, we’re hoping to build a small conservatory off the kitchen. It’ll be glass on three sides, and likely contain our kitchen table, surrounded by plants under the windows. At the back, we want to build a summer kitchen – basically a screened-in porch with a stove. There is also a distinct possibility of a mud room off one side with either a sink or a full bathroom. Right now, we’re just two people (and my wife informs me that this situation is permanent)  so 26′ x 26′ is going to work just fine for us. We have a strong distaste for McMansions and know that in the future we may have to heat this house by our own labour, so smaller is better.