Paul Wiemann encountered a lot of dust and debris when restoring his 1890s Queen Anne home.
He also uncovered an unexpected item, the origins of which he may never know.
Wiemann, who owns a construction company, has owned the house on the northeast corner of 13th Street and Koenigstein Avenue since the 1980s. It was designed by noted Norfolk architect J.C. Stitt, for a man named Johnson who owned a hardware store, Wiemann said. In fact, Wiemann said the Johnson family owned three houses on that block.
Stitt also designed a number of other significant buildings in Norfolk, including the former city auditorium and the first public library, which now houses JEO Engineering.
After buying the house 30 years ago, Wiemann did some remodeling to make it a functional home for him and his family. Now that his children are grown, he’s restoring it in hopes of selling it.
While removing plaster and lathe so he could upgrade the plumbing and electrical systems and add insulation, Wiemann discovered a lithograph that was held in a frame by a couple of now-yellow newspapers. One of them, called Moore’s Rural New Yorker, was dated June 15, 1861.
It so happened that Wiemann made the discovery on June 15, 2019.
“What I thought was eerily cool was that I found it 158 years to the day, from the printing of the paper,” Wiemann said.
The other paper called the Northwestern Christian Advocate dates back to 1863. Internet research revealed that a newspaper by that name was published by the Methodist Episcopal Church. Moore’s Rural New Yorker began publication in 1850.
Titled “Freedom’s Wreath,” the lithograph shows a person who appears to be “Lady Liberty” holding the American flag and standing on what appears to be a person of royalty.
Although Wiemann has found other old newspapers in the walls that were placed as insulation, he’s fairly confident that was not the reason why the framed lithograph was placed in the wall. Because there is no attic above the spot where it was found, he’s sure it didn’t fall there accidentally.
But who placed the picture there and why it was placed there is, and will probably remain, a mystery, he said.
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Wiemann is interested in hearing from people who have stories or memories about the house. His email is email@example.com.