When you buy an old home, most surprises found inside the walls during a remodel are unwelcome: dead animals, asbestos, knob and tube wiring. The reaction of a Minnesota woman when she popped off a baseboard in her recently purchased 1910 Cape Cod kitchen was no different. Then she took a closer look.
“When I first pulled off the baseboard I thought, ‘ewwww…someone’s nasty stuff is back here,’” Amanda Reddy told TheBlaze in an email.
Then, she started pulling out post cards dating back to 1907 and 1909 along with a few other possessions.
“It felt like I had discovered a time capsule,” Reddy, who purchased the south Minneapolis home in Dec. 2013, said.
The cards were addressed to a woman named Mayme Berneck.
“I haven’t forgot and shall return some of your dear cards. Am having a dandy time, going to the circus to-night. [Can't read this part.] but it’s dandy here. Answer soon,” Reddy transcribed on her blog of a note from “Lennie [or Dennie]” of Sioux City, Iowa.
On most of the cards, only small snippets of the original message remained as time had eroded the words.
At first, it would appear as if the post cards had just fallen behind the baseboard, but then, Reddy said, the boards were nailed firmly to the wall, causing her to think they were purposefully hidden there.
“The letters are from 1907 and 1909, and the house was built in 1910, so maybe Mayme brought them with her and hid them behind that baseboard when the house was being built,” Reddy speculated. “There are no letters addressed to anyone else, so that would lend itself to the theory that she hid them as well. I’d love to speculate that she maybe had a lover that she was hiding from her husband, but unfortunately the postcards didn’t have any juicy details that would imply that. Then again, maybe back then the subtle contact of sending a postcard to a married woman was racy enough.”
A little Internet sleuthing revealed to Reddy that Mayme was married to a man named Fritz Emmanuel Carlbom or just Fritz Emmanuel. Reddy’s brother, doing a bit more poking around at the local library’s special collections section, found the inspection list from the home’s original building (below).
The discovery gave her the Nancy Drew urge to seek out other hidden items in the house as well.
“I Googled ‘hiding places in old houses,’ which informed me that, yes, people did hide stuff in their homes back then — under floorboards, behind wallpaper, buried under trees and so on,” Reddy told TheBlaze. “It didn’t list behind a baseboard as one, but maybe Mayme was just smarter than the rest. I think I might just have to take a flashlight into the attic and the basement and see if I can find anything else!”
At this point, Reddy is considering finding Mayme’s family and giving them the items or framing them and putting them in her home.
The cards gave Reddy the “oomph” she needed to finish up her remodeling. Most of the work she said is just cosmetic but replacing the kitchen floor and downstairs bedroom are a large priority.
“Some days I feel so overwhelmed with the amount of work I want to do, and don’t have enough time working two jobs,” said the 26-year-old who works full-time for a early childhood resources and advocacy nonprofit and part-time for a mental health agency. “And then there’s the money aspect, which also weighs on me. I bought this house as investment. I plan to live there and rent out the other rooms, so I can save more money and buy a second property in the next few years, and then another and another. That’s my plan at least.”
Finding the more-than-century-old items helps relieve some of the stress of finishing up the home and renting the rooms she wants to.
“I feel so lucky to have found these items,” Reddy wrote. “It brings such a special connection to the history of my new home.”
Head on over to Reddy’s blog to check out more photos of here discovery and remodel.