The Cross House

Dashed! Dammit!

The walls, trim, and doors in the kitchen of the 1894 Cross House were painted originally. There is no evidence of anything being varnished. I enjoy this triple set of kissing doors. The left door goes to the basement. Middle goes upstairs. Right to main pantry. My plan to to discover the original colors of everything and repaint the kitchen in the 1894 scheme.


As I was passing the middle door for the millionth time, I was suddenly seized by an idea. Was the original color under the hardware? I mean, surely the door was painted BEFORE the hardware was installed, right? So, I abruptly stopped what I was doing and excitedly removed the hardware.


And was dashed by my house. Drat! Double drat!


Crushed with bitter disappointment (I hope you appreciated that line), I re-installed the hardware. Of course, I am constitutionally incapable of first not removing globbed-on paint. So, while the door cruelly dashed my hopes, and while the door is still painfully covered in decades of bad paint jobs, at least the hardware has been made right. And America, for all the recent insanity, has been made a tiny tiny tiny bit better.




12 Responses to Dashed! Dammit!

  1. Is it possible the door hardware was installed before it was first painted? None of our interior millwork was painted, but it was all installed, including door hardware, before it was shellacked the first time. It appears they were just vary careful around the hardware. When I’ve removed doorknob back plates and such, I’ve always found completely bare, unstained, unfinished wood behind.

    I suppose the only certain way to know is to start stripping the layers of paint and see what’s at the bottom. There’s so many layers obscuring the beatiful profiles of those doors, you’ll find yourself stripping them in any case, repainted or not 😉

    Of course, I always do my painting and finishing before installing the hardware, but it appears that the professionals at least sometimes took shortcuts.

      • I’ve had the same thing with salvaged doors (that’s some 6000 miles across an ocean in Europe). Most doors I’ve come across so far were painted before the hardware went on but these (from a nearby house, built in 1902 I think) they installed the hardware and then painted, not too carefully. Apparently at that time in Vienna there were three possible finishes for interior doors: light grey paint, off-white (cream) paint or faux graining, usually oak. Off-white looks best but seems fairly rare, grey was everywhere. Can’t say I’ve ever been tempted to restore anything to that colour!

          • I’m in Vienna, Austria, Europe. Actually it’s probably a bit more to Kansas, I faintly remember those 6000 miles from a flight to NYC. Im insatiably curious about how houses are built and restored around the world so I’ve been reading blogs for about 15 years.

            Actually I found yours via the Historic District forums!

  2. Ross, you may know this, but the matte black finish on your hardware was called Bower-Barff, or “rustless iron.” It was developed in the late 1880s and was the hot new ticket in the early 1890s (perhaps being most famously used by Louis Sullivan and in The Rookery building in Chicago).



    Yale & Towne held the exclusive rights to the finish – and, of course, you have Yale hardware throughout the house, so no surprise there.

    A good little article on it in the hardware world here (and just $25 to join the ADCA if you find yourself bitten by the hardware bug):

  3. Ross, I’m sure I have read in the Old House Journal years ago that you can strip layers of paint off of graining by tapping it with a spoon. Alternately you may want to use wet/dry sandpaper to expose the first layer. Use it wet. My house has shellacked chestnut woodwork, never painted, so I haven’t ever had to try it.

    • Chestnut wood? I’ll bet that’s beautiful! I’m kinda a Chestnut nut, I’ve been to visit the largest American Chestnut tree in my state and have started many from seed. Do you have a blog so I can see the woodwork?

      • Brandy, no I don’t. I was gifted a camera, which I have yet to master. Which means that if a friend holds my hand and teaches me how to post a link to a picture, i’ll try it. Otherwise I could post a picture in facebook. Keep posted, i’ll let you know when it happens.

  4. Now you have to pull the hinges off, just to be sure that the original layer isn’t hiding beneath them! 😉

    Love that hardware finish. I would love a kitchen full of hardware like that.

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