A Born-Again Staircase

I have done several posts about the grand stair in the Cross House. In 1929, its expansive opening was reduced in half, and the balustrade repositioned. In 2014, I reopened the closed-over portion of the expansive opening. Then I installed a 2×4 railing. And this is how things have been since. Sigh.


Last week however I began work to take the various bits and pieces of the 1894 stair which had been stored in the house, and to try and see how much I could reconstruct. This image shows some balustrade back in place after 89-years! Also, see the lower portion (left) of a cut-off newel post?


Today, the upper half was reunited with the lower half after 89-years! Squee!!!!!!!!


The newel post had a ghost outline of the original handrail.


And once I got all the various bits reinstalled, the handrail perfectly matched up. Squee!!!!!!!! This was a lovely confirmation the Ross has stellar jigsaw puzzle skills.


I first installed the undamaged spindles (left). Then I began installing the soot-covered spindles (right). Oops. While the same hight overall, the sphere, lower ring, and base were of different heights. Oops. A quick sleuthing revealed that the EAST spindles were originally unique. They don’t match the spindles on the north, west, and south sides of the stair. Who knew? So, I looked at another soot-damaged section of balustrade. Ahhh, THESE spindles matched the east side.


On one handrail portion, I found this on the bottom. Inside the holes are nuts which hold the two sections together. This handrail portion was almost certainly on the west side originally, as the 1894 length would have too long for a contiguous rail. I am fascinated by this discovery, and hope to recreate the detail for the new west handrail. I suspect this is a common detail for long railings.


And MORE done!!!!!!!!


And more!!!!!!!! OMG, I was SO excited!!!!!!!!


Again, the BEFORE.


Squee!!!!!!!! I am short two spindles. These will have to be recreated. Over to the left, the handrail will angle up, as there are three steps adjacent.


The reconstructed handrail is, well, laughable. I will have a new length made. It’s 9-feet-long so I should be able to get a contiguous piece. I will also replace the bottom “shoe” as the section to the right is actually scorched.


This is the area over to the left (the north edge of the east balustrade). What you see is original to 1894. The upper section was horizontally cut in 1929. I have some more bits and am hoping I can recreate the lost angled section. I do have the balustrade for this section.


The west side. I have some of the spindles. They are soot-damaged. I plan to have a new length of handrail made for the whole of the west side. Then, under the balustrade is…


…this. And I am missing a long length of this on the west side. I can have this made but, at the moment, have no source for the pressed wood decorative trim. I may have to make a mold of it and recreate it.


Well, today was QUITE the thrill!

I am confident that during the next few months I can have the missing spindles recreated, new handrail milled, and other bits. So, perhaps by spring the fabulous grand stair will look, in 2018, pretty much how it looked in 1894.

My excitement will be…vast.




  1. Annette on January 4, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Oh my Lord, that is going to be so exciting. I really look forward to seeing the staircase restored to it’s former glory. It will be stunning!!

  2. Tony Bianchini on January 4, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    I never cease to be mesmerized by this; I mean the fact that those “loose” pieces managed to survive nearly a century of being, well loose.

  3. Matt on January 4, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Ross you are amazing and look at it all back together!! It’s like the house got it’s missing teeth back. So divine and again the balance of good and evil in this world are restored. Bravo!!

  4. JET Texas on January 4, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    In the photo captioned “Squeee!!! I am short two spindles…..” the reconstructed bannister has a hole near the top. It could be for the railing, but it faces the open middle and not another bannister. Is something missing?

    Overall, this is a huge accomplishment. That staircase is just gorgeous and you’ve got it at least 90% finished.

    • Ross on January 4, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      I think you mean the reconstructed newel post. Right?

      This newel post in question was removed in 1929, and later installed on the first floor, along with a section of 1894 balustrade, to be part of a 1950 staircase added to access the basement (as per the motel conversion).

      I removed the stair in 2014.

      The “hole” in the newel post was for a light switch.

  5. Jonathan Wilkerson on January 4, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    That hole in the reconstructed bannister is very peculiar and makes little sense to me. Unless it was used in another place before/after the remodel.

    • Ross on January 4, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      See above!

  6. Claudia on January 4, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Dear Ross,

    As you may recall from my visit to the Cross House, I love your staircase. There is nothing you could do to make me happier than to restore this feature. It is in the huge grand entrance and marks such a grand statement. I love all that beautiful oak. So all I call say is SQUEE!!!!!!


  7. Cory on January 5, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Until you get your 9 foot section of handrail reproduced you can use the three piece section as a breakaway prop like they used to use in old westerns where a guy gets punched and falls over the handrail.

  8. Pamela on January 5, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Wow Ross. This is a major accomplishment even at this early stage. I can imagine this grand staircase being so encouraging to you every day when you enter the house. You are the puzzle master.

  9. Seth Hoffman on January 5, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Wow, that is looking great!

    Do you have theories on why the spindles were unique on just one side? From the comparison, it appears the direction of the twist was also reversed? Did this tie into some other aspect of the architecture? It seema like such a miniscule detail, but also seems unlikely that it was done by accident. Unless perhaps they were short on the first order of spindles, and the millwork suppliet had made a subtle change by the time they discovered this and re-ordered more. If this was the case, it’s logical the builder would group them in one location to minimize the evidence they are different.

    • Beth Huwe on January 5, 2018 at 8:08 am

      I also noticed the twist was reversed in that first close-up photo – that spindle looks like it’s a loose one, not attached to shoe and hand rail and in that photo was upside down. The later photo, where the small piece of “laughable” handrail is in place shows the twists all matching, so I suspect the spindle got flipped to correct the twist.

    • Colin R on January 5, 2018 at 11:08 am

      In photos 2, 8, and 9, you can see that there is another reverse twist spindle in the short angled run on the south side. Ross’s history of the stair would suggest that this area was never altered from the original. Maybe this run was finished at 5pm on a cold, dark friday? Maybe the pattern of twists are a code, revealing the secret location of the missing screen doors?

      Looking forward to seeing the stairway come together!


      • David F on January 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm

        Could it just be upside down? It looks symmetrical from top to bottom.

      • Beth Huwe on January 5, 2018 at 12:37 pm

        Oh that’s hysterical. Sometimes when there’s just one little thing off like that in historic architecture it’s intentional because of tradition/superstition, but nothing is coming to mind as an explanation. Now that I see, I cannot unsee, but I like it!


    • Brandy Mulvaine on January 5, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      Could they be upside down??

  10. Meghan, UK on January 5, 2018 at 7:52 am

    I got shivers! SHIVERS! Ross you are an artist. This staircase is gorgeous.

  11. Randy C on January 5, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Wow! Nothing makes a house grand like a beautiful staircase. This is exciting indeed!

  12. Grandmere Louise on January 5, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Niiice. Very.

  13. Carlyn on January 5, 2018 at 9:47 am

    This is awesome! It’s so much fun to watch your house come back together and the damage disappear as if it had never happened!

  14. San on January 5, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Stellar sleuthing skills indeed! Conan Doyle would be proud.

  15. David F on January 5, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    What was the purpose of the square hole cut in toward the top of the reattached newel post?

    • David F on January 5, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Duh. I should read all of the posts first. Sorry!

  16. djd on January 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Wow! That seems to have gone fast!

  17. B. Davis on January 5, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    This is AMAZING! To think that most of the missing pieces are still in the house and salvagable AND still fit!! What fun! How gorgeous! I hope you’re taking slow motion pictures so that one day the transformations can be morphed into a video of the before, during and after!

  18. B. Davis on January 5, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    This is AMAZING! To think that most of the missing pieces are still in the house and salvageable AND still fit!! What fun! How gorgeous! I hope you’re taking slow motion pictures so that one day the transformations can be morphed into a video of the before, during and after!

  19. Peter J on January 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Well done Ross. When I first read your blog your description and pics of the grand staircase scared me! “Good luck with that!” I thought. Luckily you have the majority of the missing pieces. It will be the “jewel in the crown” of the Cross House when finished!

  20. Sandra Lee on January 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Could Bob have any other missing pieces?

    The restored staircase is amazing & SQUEEE!!!

  21. [email protected] on January 7, 2018 at 3:41 am

    You are incredibly lucky to have all those previously un-installed pieces available to you. The detail on those spindles is amazing.

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