A Little History...
Before I bought this great old house, it had been used by FIRST, Inc (which stands for Forsyth Initiative for Residential Self-Help Treatment). The organization was founded by a former addict, and they bought up this property when it looked like it was falling down, secured grants and donations, and put the residents to work bringing the house back from the brink of death.
As nice a job as they did with getting the house all fixed up (primarily the downstairs, where the offices were), there were a few things I found surprising about how they did or did not care for things once they were all moved in. For instance, the former president/director/founder had a dog she kept in the director's office, which is now the master bedroom. It did not like being cooped up, and so there are serious scratches on two of the doors where he/she/it pawed and pawed to be let out. Also, the base of the fireplace mantle has been chewed up.
But the human damage in this room seems to have resulted from the director putting her office chair on one of those plastic secretarial mats so it would roll around smoothly, but there was nothing on the beautiful hardwood floors to protect them from the spikes under that mat. Here's the result:
When I brought in some hardwood flooring experts to talk about refinishing the much rougher floors upstairs, we also talked about whether anything could be done for this chewed up area. The most knowledgeable of these guys postulated that the hardwood floors downstairs were actually covered with a thin veneer, rather than being true all the way to the sub-flooring. He thought they might be able to do something with it, but it came with the warning that there might not be enough thickness in this veneer for them to work with. We are talking about a house that's now 105 years old, after all. As you can see from the picture here, there is some beautiful inlay work in the hallway and parlours, and some nice thin border inlays in the bedroom along the walls. I'd rather leave the floors untouched and rough than do anything that might monkey around with that amazing design.
So when the HVAC folks decided an additional return duct was needed in the master bedroom, it meant there was a great opportunity to extract a sample of the flooring and see exactly what's what:
That's some pretty wood, isn't it? You can clearly see the veneer laid on top of the tongue-in-groove hardwood flooring, and below that at an angle is the original sub-flooring, which is some solid old wood that was laid on the diagonal. Even though his firm was pricier in its estimate, the hardwood flooring guy who knew that it was likely a veneer laid on top impressed me with his expertise, and when it's time to get the floors upstairs finished, he's pretty much at the front of the preferences list.
Here's a shot of the cross-section of that flooring: