Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Girls Get Their Own Bathroom

Based on information provided by the original landlords this building was built back in the forties as a hotel for sailors who came into the port of San Francisco.  All three floors consisted of single rooms and a few double, some with bathrooms but most without.  Those without were served with a community shower room and separate toilet.

Fruit-Cabinet In Kitchen Converted For The Girls

The owner of the building was a man by the name of Weinstein.  Mr. Weinstein established a group of six Weinstein stores that were copy-cats of Woolworth's famous Five & Ten Cent stores.  Mr. Weinstein decided to remodel the old sailors hotel and convert the rooms into twelve one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments.  He left six rooms as they were, three on each floor, and these rooms were without kitchen facilities, although they had a small sink and running water, with toilet and shower access down the hall.

Each of the apartments had an alcove off the living room.  This room, generally eight feet wide, eight feet long and sixteen feet high, could serve as a second or third bedroom with the additional of a curtain.  Legally Weinstein could not advertise this as an additional bedroom but upon viewing to a potential resident he highlighted the advantage of the alcove.

The bathrooms in the apartments were small with a stansard-sized claw-foot bathtub, a toilet and a sink with medicine cabinet.  The kitchens were large enough for a four-seat table, refrigerator and stove.  The kitchens also included an open-air fruit cabinet three by three by two and a half feet.  The cabinet was built to extended into the large airwell and had a set of doors.  The outside wall of the cabinet did not exist, instead the back of the cabinet consisted of steel screening.  In the summer a resident could open these doors and receive a soft cool breeze throughout the apartment it served as a cool storage space for fruits and vegetables.  Off the kitchen was a small pantry with shelves, a wooden counter with built-in large sink and a group of four large drawers.

I moved into the apartment back in the late sixties.  The story of how I got the apartment is for another time but I moved in alone and paid sixty-five dollars a month plus utilities of about six dollars a month on average.  Over the years I used the fruit cabinet more as a storage area because the apartment was short on storage.  There was a small closet next to the alcove and off the living room and another small closet in the bedroom.  Each was barely large enough to turn around in.

After the Prieta earth quake of 1989 the four kitchen windows broke and fell out.  By that time the building was being managed by a Muslim and he did little to nothing when it came to repairs.  For those of us in rent controlled units we were on our own.  I replaced the windows with wooden frames and sheets of plastic, taped up the doors of the fruit cabinet and painted over them effectively removing the cabinet from use and view.

On Mother's Day in 2000 I brought home four baby girl cats, all sisters, and offered to me by a neighborhood vet who had spayed and given them their first set of shots.  I love these girls and each has a separate personality.  Now at thirteen they are my dearest companions.  We have never spent a night away from each other.  For years they've used a large litter box that has to be changed on a weekly basis, rain or shine but I don't mind.  I have always fed them the best food I could and because they are indoor cats made sure they had plenty of things to do and play with.  The litter box has had a variety of spots within the apartment - under the kitchen sink or under the bathroom sink usually.

As I began to remodel and repaint the kitchen I did it in sections.  The ceiling first, then half of one wall following by the next wall and so on.  Everything above my waist has been painted cake-icing white in a semi-gloss.  With the bay windows being replaced with new windows next week I decided to unseal that fruit-cabinet and see what was still in there and how I could utilize it once again.

Inside were clay pots, bags of dirt and some rusted gardening tools.  I took everything out and down to the trash bins.  The screening at the back of the cabinet had deteriorated so that, with the doors open, I had a full breezeway and I could hear all of the conversations of my neighbors below and across from me.  At first I decided to block this breezeway with another frame-scheme: built a frame to fit snugly, encase the frame in thick plastic and screw it into place.  I knew it wouldn't last more than a year or so and I'd have to re-cover the frame again.  After making the frame and putting it into place I put the cat's litter box in the cabinet and realized it was the perfect little bathroom for the girls.  I would not have to drop to my knees to scoop out the soiled litter and with a small carpet placed on the bottom the girls could wipe their feet before jumping out of the cabinet and traipsing litter into the kitchen.  I tried it for a few days and the girls loved it.  I could close one half of the cabinet doors leaving the other ajar allowing them to enter and leave on their own.

Now that I had a bathroom for the girls I wanted to improve upon it or really finish it off.  I pulled out the plastic covered frame and with hand saw and portable drill I cut six inch wide pieces of wood to fit perfectly, used a sealant gun to seal them into place then screwed them tightly to prevent any rain water from entering.  The wood blocked all the sounds of the neighbors whereas the plastic did not and I was sure the noise from one or two of the girls who love to dig and paw their way in the litter for ten minutes before finding "just the right spot" would drive my neighbors nuts.

Once the back cabinet wall was in place I painted everything inside and out, replaced one of the hinges on the left cabinet door so it would open and close freely and am now awaiting for the paint to thoroughly dry before adding a piece of black outdoor runner rug custom fitted followed by the large plastic litter box.

I'll report on the finished project in a few days, once everything is dry and in place.  I want to give it another coat of paint but for now, here are a few pictures of the cabinet.  I WISH I had taken before and after pictures but now, all I have are these "almost completed" pictures: