Say you’re about a century and a quarter old; how are you feeling right about now? Maybe a bit weary, worn around the edges, sagging, drooping, splitting apart. Wait, what?
The particular 126-year-old in question is the Arboretum’s Queen Anne Cottage, and she’s been getting an extensive facelift. The decision was made, reports curator Mitchell Hearns Bishop, to “return to a Victorian Era roofing scheme that is well documented in historic photographs.” As of now, her signature red roof is looking quite neat and precise with “closed valleys and tight edges.” Work on the cottage tower and the barn will begin in the new year as the shingles must be manufactured, stained and shipped from the mercurial-weather states of the Pacific Northwest.
Restoration work can also be a bit of a gold mine; you never know what treasure you might stumble upon. For one, a slew of hand-forged nails dating back to the 1880’s. Next, how about a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can? (And, no, it’s not circa last Saturday night with a 7-11 bag lying nearby.)
Bishop believes this beer was brewed and packaged prior to 1965 “by the simple fact that the can is steel and was opened by piercing since it predates the pop top.” Can you imagine the workers, after a long, hot day up on the roof, kicking back for a moment and drinking a cold brew? Maybe it should be surprising that Bishop and his crew didn’t find a whole case of cans rattling around up in the attic.
Little critters get the credit for the next find. Over the years, the cottage’s deteriorating shingles had allowed raccoons to claw and dig their way into the roof. Bishop says it was a mystery as to why they “were so determined to access the attic.” Upon further inspection, the mystery was resolved when a mass of honeycomb was discovered. The honeycomb, Bishop reports, “proved to have a truly unusual flavor due to the unique mix of nectar sources the Arboretum provides (and) as a former beekeeper, I can assure you I have never tasted anything quite like it.”
Final note: the raccoons devoured the honeycomb in a matter of days.
L.A. County Arboretum
301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
Open Tues.-Sun. (varying hours); admission ranges from free to $8
For complete info, call 626.821.3222 or visit arboretum.org