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#162165 - 04/13/07 10:58 PM 1939 Hack Job  
Admin  Offline

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Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 3,460
NY, USA
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For those of you who think that the ol' mud over the box trick is new - well it seems that it is an older trick than I thought?

It seems there were hacks back in the early days as well.

Whenever I realize that there are buried boxes somewhere, I dig them out carefully, not just because I have come across live conductors in them, and sometimes from not just other circuits, but other metering as well. But one of the benefits is that you can get the news paper from the day they stuffed it in there. For the most part I usually only find the 1970's and 80's sometimes early 90's. But this is the first I have found from the 30's - June 12th 1939

Originally this building was a Hotel built in 1931, later becoming apartments roughly when this hack decided to bury the sconces in 1939, and fish two cambric and rubber conductors down the metal lathe & plaster wall, and install an outlet with no box just screwed right to the wooden baseboard. They did this all over this building... And on top of that, sometimes pulled the conductors from adjacent units to do it. I can tell that a professional did the conversion from Hotel to apartments - splitting the units, and adding the kitchens. (With a little permit search I found the company name too, as well as the inspector.) Four months later some hack got into a bunch of the units to do this in 50% of the units I have been in so far.

Piecing together other parts of the newspaper (wish those pic's came out better... Unreadable...) I got some good insight to local, national and international history – as well as a look at a portion of the funny pages.
  • Apparently you could by a house in that neighborhood worth ~$2.5M today for $5k!
  • The Old Cadillac Dealership that is now a movie multiplex used to sell Packard's too.
  • And people in Algeria were not happy about the Nazi's interfering with the flow of oil through their country - and that war in Europe might break out "any day now". (Wish I had more of that article - Maybe its stuck in some other box I haven't found yet?)

These apartments later were used as Officer Housing for the Presidio Army base, and have unobstructed picture perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge which was being built around the time it was a hotel.

Mark Heller (e57)

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#162280 - 04/16/07 09:28 AM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: Admin]  
pauluk  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
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and that war in Europe might break out “any day now”.


I uncovered part of a 1940s newspaper once during some work which made for interesting lunchtime reading -- Particularly the story about the heroic deeds which had just come to light of a serviceman during the war.




#162316 - 04/17/07 02:50 AM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: pauluk]  
e57  Offline
Member
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
S.F.,CA USA
Glad to see I'm not the only one who reads the paper found in the walls. Occassionaly I'll leave my daily paper in the walls as an archeological find - but not stuffed in a electrical box - just in the insulation.


Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#162347 - 04/17/07 10:15 PM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: e57]  
yaktx  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
Austin, Texas, USA
Quote
With a little permit search I found the company name too, as well as the inspector.


You found a 1939 permit in a permit search? That's amazing! AFAIK our database here only goes back to 1980. I don't know if it is even possible to find a pre-war permit.

I remember finding a newspaper in a wall about ten years ago. I couldn't find a date, but it had an ad for "the NEW Oldsmobile", which looked like about a 1910 model. There was also an ad for a local bank which boasted "$100,000 Capital".


#162355 - 04/18/07 03:47 AM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: yaktx]  
e57  Offline
Member
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
S.F.,CA USA
Here they are searchable by address back to the fifties, and searchable by lot number back to 1907. City Hall burned in 1906.* Many/most are hit and miss on-line the further you go back, but of you have the lot number you can go to the records dept and check microfische and some actual paper records. In this case I was lucky, as most of the permits are still tacked to the wall near the electrical service. You cant read most of the writing, but the permit number and form printing is clear.

(*Many strange buildings in poorer sections of the city sprang into being by squating, and erecting a shack. No City Hall - no title records... Several years ago I worked on one that was part of a box car and pieces of boat.)


Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#162380 - 04/18/07 01:11 PM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: e57]  
cschow  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 41
Boise, ID, USA
I worked in a 30's house in San Jose years ago. There was a mystery switch on the wall of the living room that we had no idea where it went. During the rewire, the owner wanted some sconce lights on each side of the fireplace at a 6' height and about a foot or so away from the chimney chase............

..............You guessed it, 2 round K&T pancake boxes plastered over in those exact locations from old sconce lights. It was actual plaster that filled these boxes. The wires were capped with porcelain wire nuts, so maybe they were live the whole time if the switch was flipped on.

Same house was also insulated in the 50's with that blow-in paper stuff and old newspapers were used to line the plaster lathe between the ceiling joists. All the papers dated from 1952. Very interesting reading.


#162404 - 04/18/07 07:56 PM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: cschow]  
steve ancient apprentice  Offline
Member
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 169
west springfield,mass
same thing here. Did a remodel about a year ago. Homeowner said the switch never did anything for over 50 years. During the remodel i got nosey and crawled into the attic. There is the old style AC cable going to two wall sconces right on each side of the fireplace. They thought it was neat and afterwards they found the old blueprints to the house and right there on the print was the sconces. He remembered then. They were happy and so was I


#162421 - 04/19/07 03:02 AM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: steve ancient apprentice]  
Texas_Ranger  Offline
Member
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,405
Vienna, Austria
Surprising they didn't plaster over the switch box I guess!

Hacks are around since the days of Edison I guess... the house where I live was wired when it was built in 1914 and it seems already the original wiring was a wild mix of conduit and cloth conduit wire direct buried in plaster, some very creative wiring runs,... sconce wiring plastered over is fairly common too. Usually they only taped the live wires and stuffed them into the wall. No big surprise then when the wall is hot...


#162428 - 04/19/07 04:28 AM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: Texas_Ranger]  
pauluk  Offline
Member
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
Quote
Usually they only taped the live wires and stuffed them into the wall.


Same here unfortunately. Just tape the ends, push the cable back into the groove, then plaster over.


#162481 - 04/19/07 10:02 PM Re: 1939 Hack Job [Re: pauluk]  
yaktx  Offline
Member
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
Austin, Texas, USA
Quote
Hacks are around since the days of Edison I guess... the house where I live was wired when it was built in 1914 and it seems already the original wiring was a wild mix of conduit and cloth conduit wire direct buried in plaster, some very creative wiring runs,... sconce wiring plastered over is fairly common too. Usually they only taped the live wires and stuffed them into the wall. No big surprise then when the wall is hot...


According to Terrell Croft, in Wiring of Finished Buildings (McGraw-Hill, 1915), the "plaster hose" system was commonly used in Austria at that time:

Quote
A groove 1 1/2 in. deep is chiseled into the plaster and brick, and a piece of very thick walled rubber hose, greased with soft soap on the outside, is laid in the groove. Th whole is then plastered up and surfaced off smooth. Both ends of the rubber hose, however, extend from the plaster. After the plaster has hardened the rubber hose is pulled out, the soap preventing the plaster from sticking to it. The result is a hole extending under the surface of the wall through which the rubber-covered wires are fished.

This system, however, is now being superseded by the Peschel system, since the latter is only slightly more expensive and much more substantial.


This is from the subchapter of the book that deals with European wiring methods. The remainder of the book is based on US practices of the time.

Incidentally, this wiring method is alive and well in Mexico.


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