A Small (But Big!) Discovery in the Attic

The other day, Gijsbert, our Dutch friend who has been transforming our attic space at the Tall House, made a small-sized-but-big discovery. He felt something hard on the floor:

So he dug it up:

Here’s what it looks like from another angle:

You can tell it’s man-made because of the ridges:

Gijsbert suspected it was a piece of shrapnel from WWII!

When we thought about it, that explanation made sense, because we know there were tanks on our street during the war, and we know the roof of our house had some repairs in the area right above where the shrapnel was found.

Also, when we look at the attic floor near the shrapnel, there are another 8 or so strange holes — and these holes aren’t found anywhere else in the attic, or on any other floors of the house.

I put pictures of the little piece of possible shrapnel on my Instagram stories, and a whole lot of readers confirmed it was indeed shrapnel. Some of the readers grew up in war-torn areas (like Sarajevo in the nineties) and recognized it. Others were historians and also recognized it. A couple of people pointed at that technically it would be called a shell fragment. And there’s a difference between shell fragments and shrapnel.

“Here’s the short answer: “shell fragments” is the technically correct term for metal pieces of exploding shells, bombs, and mines intended to inflict casualties, whereas “shrapnel” is an obsolete, specific type of antipersonnel artillery projectile. Unfortunately, following frequent misuse—beginning around the end of World War II—“shrapnel” has entered general usage to incorrectly mean any fragments scattered by an explosive shell, bomb, or mine.”

(You can see a photo of the two side-by-side here).

What a interesting (and sobering) discovery! There is so much history in this house it blows me away. It was built in the 1600s — 100 years before the U.S. even existed as a country! — and it’s seen so many changes. It makes me very curious: were other houses on the street also damaged in the war? Was there anyone staying in the attic at the time? Were the shells American? (I know most of the damage in our town was caused by Americans, so that is very likely.)

What would you do with the little piece of history? I’m thinking of maybe putting it in a small shadow box and hanging it in the attic bedroom.

13 thoughts on “A Small (But Big!) Discovery in the Attic”

  1. I like the idea of a little shadow box, but I think I’d put it in a library or living room instead of a bedroom. I guess the attic bedroom is where it was found.

  2. Wow -so cool! A shadow box is a great idea – maybe with an image of the town from that era as a background?

  3. Such an interesting find. I love that kind of history and connection. Didn’t you originally call the house something else? Why did you change it and how did you decide on the tall house?

    1. We’ve definitely jumped around on names for the house. First we were using a location-based name, but that felt like unsafe, like I was sharing too much info. So then I started calling it the Tall House, but it hasn’t really stuck for me. Then, a few days ago I shared a photo of some shutters in the backyard that had been repainted and rehung (you can see the image in the Windows Highlight on Instagram). My sister Jordan noticed the club-shaped cutouts, and suggested we call it The Club House. I asked followers for more suggestions and got a ton (I’ll probably share those on Instagram this weekend.)

      All that to say, we’re not really settled on a name yet. Maybe we’ll end up sticking with the Tall House, or maybe one of the new suggestions. I do like the house have a name — it makes it easier to reference.

  4. I would see if your town/region has a historical society that might be able to shed light and point you to some photos or articles from the time, You could use what you find plus the picture of it in the floorboard and your house to create a shadow box. Cool to have a piece of real history.

  5. I like the shadow box idea. We are in Haute Savoie and a friend of ours found a detonated grenade while gardening. She made it into yard art and has turned something scary into something attractive while still acknowledging the past.

  6. I have to say again, yall are amazing in your journeys with your homes and where you live. Thank you for sharing all of it. History of homes is not often found in the US, so hearing about your current discoveries is lovely!

  7. I’m late to this but had to add how thrilling this would have been for me to discover as a child. I read so many books about World War 2 and the thought of the scene that played out around your house all those years ago is fascinating – and a little sobering. Was a child living in the attic? It makes me want to write a story about it – great springboard for kid’s creative writing.

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