The Cross House

A Self-Reconstructing Pantry

This is the original working drawing for the north wall of the main pantry in the Cross House. What was actually built was close but not identical, notably the size of the window.


When I purchase the house, the lower portion of cabinetry had been removed to install a washer-dryer. I will be recreating the laundry room in its original location, the basement, so I wanted to reconstruct the lost portions of the pantry.


Last November, I was thrilled when Bob Rodak, the previous owner, found the a lost section of counter in his garage. Squee! (Note, I have the missing drawer.)


Then, last month, Bob found the three vertical sections which sat between the “meal boxes”! Double squee! Thanks, Bob!


Bob thinks he has the north counter, too. Somewhere.

There are still missing sections of vertical bits. I have some of these, and Dr. Doug can make up the other lost bits.

I will soon be having all the various bits of the pantry analyzed to ascertain all the original finishes. So, when the pantry is restored it should look a lot like it did in 1894.

The only parts now restored are the diamond-paned sashes.

The pantry is currently…unimpressive.

When it is restored however I am confident that it will be a deliciously petite space. I envision standing it it, with a period-correct gas/electric pendant glowing softly overhead, a glass of wine in hand, and smiling broadly at its 1890s beauty. An 1890s beauty with…microwave.

Smiling broadly.



34 Responses to A Self-Reconstructing Pantry

  1. I love that you’re putting the laundry in the basement where it belongs. I just had a friend of mine suggest that I make my first-floor powder room larger, and add first-floor laundry, by eliminating the butlers pantry. I, in very kind words, told him he was a complete moron. I can’t de-friend someone just because they don’t share the same affinity for historic architecture…but I can certainly make fun of him for being short sighted and ridiculous ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What a delightful idea & yes you should celebrate and admire when you have restored to 1890โ€™s concept!! Kudos to Bob Rodak and his penchant for hanging onto obscure pieces that have been so helpful in your restoration.

    • But why did Bob take the pieces out of the Cross House? Why not leave them there? It seems likely there are several pieces of the Cross House at Bobโ€™s house: doors, trim, shelves….

  3. It’s not a big space. Do you really need a radiator in there? I know the house isn’t insulated but, still, the pantry probably stays warm enough.

    • I installed the radiator in the pantry.

      Originally, it had no radiator. For, the pantry was intended, in a pre-refrigeration era, as a “cold” space.

      But the room IS cold in the winter. And this is no longer desirable.

      Most of the heat from the new radiator will help to heat the kitchen.

  4. I know it’s not original, but you will probably live to regret putting the laundry back in the basement. There will come a time when the stairs will be too much for you, and you’ll bang your head and wish you’d left the laundry in the pantry. Mark my words! In the meantime, *leave the connections* so you can change your mind later on without replumbing and rewiring again.

    • When the stairs become too much for me…I will need to leave the Cross House.

      But I am determined to always be able to climb the stairs.

      • Haha! Are you going to install period-appropriate laundry facilities? I had to use an old wringer washer as a girl and it was an all day event to do laundry.

          • I love your blog and seeing all the changes to the house, however minute and obscure. Thank you for taking the time to post regularly.

      • Yeah, my grandmother lost the ability to walk shortly after we moved her into a “safe” high rise building. I said that we should instead have moved her into a trinity, or a rowhouse with 500 square feet or so on 4 levels, connected by death trap winder stairs.

    • I believe that there was a dumbwaiter on the original plans and Ross’s drawing board too. Ross can haul the laundry up and down on that.

      It appears to me that Ross is going for historic accuracy, not pandering to those TV “designer” shows, big box stores, or what the biggest media advertisers are pushing as lifestyle choices in his design decisions.

      Ross has been very clear about his goals. From the very beginning he has said that, if he were being sensible, he wouldn’t have bought the Cross House. He was looking for a large mid-century modern house at the time.

    • I was going to ask the same thing, but I think I figured it out. My grandmother lived in an 1890s farmhouse and she had two boxes just like these. She made everything from scratch and kept flour in one and sugar in the other. I don’t think it meant “meal” like breakfast, but meal like cornmeal, flour, etc.. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Meal is flour, buckwheat and cornmeal. It is almost always a ground grain, although potatoes, ground and dried, are also called meal.

    • One time when I told my grandmother that she had served a delicious meal, she said, “Never say meal, you say breakfast, lunch, dinner, or whatever the correct term for the time of day. I still say meal, ,but was careful not to say it around her while she was alive. My assumption is that she thought that when you thanked someone for the meal, you were thanking them for the flour or ground grain of some sort.
      She is long gone and meal has come to mean any of the above things, but in her day it was not proper to say it

  5. My former home, a 1904 Victorian rowhouse, had a small butler’s pantry. I loved it and, if I ever build a house, it will definitely have one. I love the idea of the meal bins, though critters seem to love them, too. They will make fine recycling and trash bins for you, Ross, no?

  6. Bob is a testament that “one day this widget will be needed, I’d better hang onto it”. I suspect he took some of the pieces off site in case the new owner went all “new” on the house, sold it, then the next owner wanted to restore. Bob is likely so pleased with you, Ross, that you also have the love of the original bits and pieces that Bob has so securely stored!

    A main floor laundry is definitely preferred, but then again, a huge laundry room with folding tables, drying racks and ironing board that never has to be put away also has its merits.

    When you can’t do stairs, that’s when to summon the lovers of the house to come and do your laundry once a week!

  7. You might stand there drinking a glass of wine, but I will be snagging up the ingredients to make a couple loaves of bread! So while the bread is baking and making the house smell all wonderful, I will then join you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. It’s great to see it coming together!

    I also think the return of the meal bins will be perfect, regardless of what you store in them. It will make a fantastic conversation piece (you know, along with the thousands of other beautiful details in the home).

  9. picture that famous painting “The Scream” and me saying MICROWAVE – NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!
    a vastly overrated piece of equipment that has no place or purpose in a,Victorian you really need water heated 30 seconds sooner? you can’t bake with them, they won’t brown –
    Fuggedaboudit – do your cooking on a proper stove and to paraphrase the orange wonder in DC- make your pantry great again

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