The Cross House
Yesterday I was minding my own business when Cody asked a question. I was struck dumb by the question, and did a post as an answer.
The question: Would I be installing period-correct light switches in the Cross House?
I had never thought about this before, and knew NOTHING about what light switches looked like in 1894 when the Cross House was built.
Now, the next day, I know a few things thanks to the wonder of the internet and from readers.
Mike offered a fascinating link that, well, articulated everything one needed to know on the subject! Thanks, Mike!
Here is what I have learned from the article, and from other things I have read in the last day.
I think, think, that there were FEW light switches in the house. The extant switch in the telephone closet may have been the ONLY switch in the house.
Most rooms had gas/electric sconces. The electric sockets would have had turn-key switches. So, one walked up to a sconce and flicked the bulb on and/or lighted the gas.
Same with the gas/electric chandeliers. Each electric socket was individually controlled. At the time, when people were long used to individually lighting every gas jet in a house, switching on individual sockets would have seemed normal. I doubt that anybody ever thought: Damn! Why can’t a wall switch control the whole chandelier!
The switch above is made by an Australian company, and they have a different electrical system down under. So, one could not actually use the above switch in America. However, the company can, I believe, produce US-compatible versions!
So, should I rush out and order a whole bunch of the compatible versions?
Why not???????? You are mean!!!!!!!!
Because this would screw with the historical narrative of the house. Which I discuss often. Even though some readers want to punch me!
It seems that the Cross House had almost no wall switches in 1894. It very likely did not have a single electrical outlet, either (explained in Mike’s link, above). Indeed, no outlets are shown on the original drawings, an omission which has always baffled me. Until now.
Today, to FILL the house with literally hundreds of switches as pictured above would screw with the historical narrative, for I would be introducing something which did not exist when the house was built. I would be creating a faux history, and this is something I work hard to avoid. I do not want a pretend house. A fantasy house.
So, after quite the roller-coaster ride the last 24-hours, I am back to square one:
The Cross House was built during a very brief historical era, sandwiched between the gas era and the latter electric era.
Right before the Cross House was built gas lighting was the norm. There would have been no wall switches for sconces and chandeliers. There would have been no electrical outlets.
Not long after the Cross House was built all electric houses were being constructed and with wall switches and electrical outlets.
So the Cross House represent a brief, unique history. A flash in time. I have worked hard to respect and highlight this distinction, something special and remarkable about the house, by buying gas/electric chandeliers to go in most rooms. To truly honor the historical narrative I would eschew wall switches altogether and individually click on each electric socket in the house at night.
My solution will cause no confusion with the historical narrative. The many many many switches and many many many outlets to be installed will be obviously, proudly modern. The history of the house will be respected. And my life will be made easier.
And I can live with this.