Credit: Andrea Bauer

Sarah Frier’s father and her then boyfriend were helping her renovate a Ukrainian Village two-flat she’d purchased, but it was nerve-racking to watch. “Every time I came home they were doing something so insanely unsafe,” she says. “It was driving me crazy.” One day she found her father poised to dismantle a door frame from below it, with a crowbar. “I walk up and I’m like, what are you doing?” Frier remembers. “Can you please get on a ladder and knock it down from above? You’ve lost your mind!”

He pulled it down anyway, she says, and stood there looking like a coal miner: “He’s covered in rubble, covered in soot.” Angry, she left the room, but her boyfriend called her back—mixed into the mess were “a thousand little coins.” Then her dad told her about the letters, something else he’d found and tossed into a pile on the table. “There’s like: McDonald’s wrapper. Whatever. Pile of letters from the 1800s. Like, a hammer. I’m like, what is wrong with you? Did you find anything else? Because now’s the time to tell me.”

There were a few other things: A bayonet. Some old bottles from Italy. She thinks that some previous tenant—her house was built in 1891—hid the finds beneath the floorboards of the room above. The coins are from the 1800s and from all over the world, she says, and the old letters are mostly unreadable. They’re in a safety deposit box kept by Friers’s mother.

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