Discovery #2!!!!!!!!


Let the games begin!

This is the second of a series of Discovery posts, and all based on the Bo Adventure!


I have really weird front doors.

It’s true.

There are three entry vestibules in the Cross House, and each has an inner and outer set of doors.

The main entry faces west, and this has double door sets. The inner set is…normal. The outer set is…abnormal.

Bo noticed this right away, and offered an explanation as to their odd nature, and a potential way to undo the odd nature.


The outer doors. Upon first acquaintance they look…normal. DO NOT BE FOOLED!


Upon a second acquaintance, with the doors open, they still look…normal. DO NOT BE FOOLED!


The doors are not installed IN the frame as is normal, but are simply stuck OUTSIDE the frame, and inelegantly screwed onto the door trim with underscaled, dumb-ass hinges. THIS IS NOT NORMAL! Nor is it attractive!


BECAUSE of this odd installation, with the doors are open they would have bashed into the door trim on the opposite wall. So — EEK! — the trim was just, gasp, hacked away.


More — EEK! — hacking.


This is the door frame. See the vertical trim on the right? That is an infill piece. It is filling in the “rabbet” where the doors SHOULD have gone. This will make more sense if you…


…look at this image, where I removed the infill trim after Bo departed. The “rabbet” is now exposed. And, you can also see where the dumb-ass hinges have been inelegantly mortised into the trim.


During the Bo visit, it was conjectured that:

  1. The outer doors had been originally installed inside the door frame as is normal.
  2. Under the infill trim would be evidence of butt hinges having originally been mortised into the rabbet.
  3. The outer doors perhaps had been removed at some point and stored.
  4. Many years later they were put back in place, but the installer did not realize that the infill trim could be removed.
  5. So, the underscaled, dumb-ass hinges were inelegantly mortised into the door trim.


All this conjecture fell apart today.

I removed the infill trim, breathless to find the certain evidence of where the original Kelp hinges had been mortised into the rabbet (all the exterior doors have Kelp-style hinges by Yale & Towne).

But…but…oh…huh…as the image above shows, Kelp hinges had never been mortised into the rabbet. Nor any hinges.

Huh? What?

This means that the doors were never installed within the door frame as is normal.

Huh? What?

Moreover, under the infill trim, the rabbet is raw wood. I expected to find varnished wood. This means that not only were hinges never installed in the frame, but the infill rabbet trim was installed before the house was finished.

The doors are 99.9% likely to be original. They match the outer door at the north entrance, and they seem to be in place in an 1895 image (the image is a bit fuzzy), and are in place in all subsequent images.

Also, the doors were never mortised for any hinges other than the underscaled, dumb-ass extant hinges.


The new conjecture?

The doors were abnormally installed in 1894.

And I think I now know why.


This is how the doors SHOULD have been installed, fitting into the frame rabbet.


With the doors open, they would look like this.


Now, let’s return to this image. See how the open doors are FLUSH with the door frame? When open, the doors read as PANELING rather than doors.


And back to this image. Had though the doors been installed normally, the elegant FLUSH effect would not have been possible with the doors open.


This though is how the doors were installed. The rabbet was infilled with trim, and the doors were set behind the door frame. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.  However…


…when the doors are open they are, elegantly, FLUSH with the door frame. You can see this in your home. Open any door. See how the door is NOT flush with the door frame?




  1. The outer west doors were designed to be installed normally, into rabbets in the door frame.
  2. BEFORE the doors were installed however, it was realized that they would, well, look like doors when open.
  3. So, a decision was made to, instead, install the doors ABNORMALLY, but with the elegant end effect of looking like paneling.

This paneling effect is something I have admired from day one, and I can appreciate why this change was made.



Ok. All the above conjecture seems dandy.

But why the underscaled dumb-ass hinges? The house abounds with FABULOUS Yale & Towne hardware. So why were dumb-ass hinges installed in 1894 on the west outer doors?



All my conjecture could be wrong.







  1. Tony Bianchini on March 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    WoW! All very intriguing…

  2. Jackie on March 15, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Maybe they installed the doors as paneling on the fly and needed to use hinges that were on hand and then no one ordered the fancy ones or bothered to switch them when the order came in.

    • Ross on March 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      You mean, a temporary fix that became permanent?

      In my own design career this has happened numerous times!

      • Jackie on March 16, 2017 at 12:13 am

        That’s what I’m thinking. They were getting ready to install the doors and the idea of the paneling option came up. The original hinges wouldn’t work so someone mocked it up with what was on hand, or available locally, and then no one came back and switched them out with the fancy hinges. Most people wouldn’t notice that these were plain hinges so I can’t see it being high on anyone’s list to swap them out.
        We’ll never know likely, but I can see that idea to set the doors back so that they didn’t look like doors being the kind of thing that was thought up on installation day.

  3. Celeste on March 15, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    My theory: The smaller, plain hinges blend into the door frame when it is open. The doors themselves also fit closer to the vestibule wall, adding to the paneled wall effect.

  4. Tamara on March 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    I agree with both of the above theories and wish to add that the smaller hinges damage less of the trim than larger, more ornate hinges so that may have also been a reason for their use. BTW, I love when you have a Cross House mystery to solve. Sifting through various solutions is way more satisfying than any novel or movie. Obviously, I need a life. 😉

  5. Bo on March 15, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    I wondered how the heck you were even going to be able to explain this whole discovery process.

    Very nice job, as not only was I completely able to follow the initial chain of thought, but I was also able to easily follow the subsequent exploration and the reasoning behind the revised conjectures.

    Excellent summary, excellent photos, excellent theory. I love it.

    And yes, those unimpressive hinges remain confounding… It does seem like with all the brainpower that went into the rest of the house, a more thoughtful and elegant solution could have been worked out for hanging those doors.

    • Ross on March 15, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks, Bo!

      This was one of the hardest posts I have ever done.

      I keep thinking: HOW do I present this so it makes any sense to people?

  6. Jill on March 15, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    “Dumb-ass hinges”…… is this an industry term?????

    • Ross on March 15, 2017 at 10:52 pm


  7. Seth Hoffman on March 15, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Your current theory makes sense. I’ve seen enough old carpentry to realize that despite the overall high degree of craftsmanship, there was still sloppy work and quick fixes. I’d speculate that this was a later change after the frames and perhaps casings had been already installed. It may have fell on a junior carpenter to meet the unreasonable demands of the owner, architect, or his supervisor, and the current installation was the result.

    I would think that if this effect had been considered prior to construction, a more elegant solution would have been implemented. I can think of several, such as offset hinges (common in hospitals now), or using wider doors and interior frames.

    I’ve discovered several finish carpentry hacks in the same spirit as this in our house, and while I’ve been tempted to rectify them, I’ve decided to leave them be, as they make interesting conversation pieces for the history and construction of the house. Plus, they lower the bar a bit for my own work, and soothe my perfectionism when I make a mistake in my own work 😉

    • Jackie on March 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

      Found myself looking for a ‘like’ button for your comment! 🙂

  8. Matthew on March 16, 2017 at 7:13 am

    Is there any evidence on the doors; such as an alternate way of them being hung. I have seen in a couple of Victorian buildings in the uk where the hinges are on a type of pin at the top and bottom edges of the door slotting into brass fittings in the floor and top of the frame.

    Is there any evidence of alteration to the doors?

    • Matthew on March 16, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Or could it be something simple, such as the handles protruded too much into the space between the door and the screen doors meaning they could not close and this made it necessary for the doors to be recessed further into the vestibule?

      • Ross on March 16, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        That, too, maybe!

    • Ross on March 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      I will look!

  9. Cory on March 16, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    You have lincrusta in your vestibule? That’s pretty amazing.

    • Ross on March 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Yes! There, too! And all intact!!!!!!!!

  10. Jamie on March 17, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Any chance the exterior doors originally opened outward? And later reinstalled inward to allow for a screen door?

    • Ross on March 17, 2017 at 8:36 am

      There were screen doors originally.

      The previous owner removed them, and then took them off site.

      I am hoping that he will donate them back to the house.

  11. Brendan McConville on March 17, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    On the Haas Lilienthal house in San Francisco, the outer set of doors are pockets doors…any indication of recesses that may have been closed in at a later date?

    • Ross on March 18, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      Hi Brendan!

      I see no such evidence. But an interesting idea!

  12. Chris on March 20, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Ross, what you done to my life? I was watching the classic movie “Psycho” and as Vera Miles was looking for “Mrs. Bates” in the Bates home she was opening the beautiful front door with a beautiful (maybe) Y & T high end doorknob. Thanks to you, I looked at the door hinges and blast it all! The carpenters installed shiny bright brass PLAIN hinges. The movie is ruined FOREVERMORE.
    Thanks for the hardware enlightenment.

  13. Miss-Apple37 on March 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Ross, I have found an example of what it would look like if the hinges were where they should have been. Your doors going flush with the door frame look so much better! See this house.

    • Nikki on March 30, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Oh ya that does kinda kill the look glad they installed the doors “wrong” it looks soooo much better! I was thinking maybe they used plain hinges due to theft prevention, that would really suck to come home or wake up and your doors to be missing thier hinges. Just a thought probably not the reason

  14. Stewart McLean on June 28, 2017 at 9:57 am

    I never saw why the Cross House had outer doors. I find that, when closed, they are the most forbidding aspect of the house. With the porch to protect the entrance and tile floors, there was little risk of weather damage to the foyer area between the two sets of doors. Maybe Squires had the revolutionary idea of an entry without outer doors so one could appreciate the Lincrusta wainscoting and moldings in the entry. Maybe it was tried that way first. Maybe Mrs Cross’s mother or friends expressed their opinions that no respectable person knew how to approach a front entry without a separate vestibule. After all, the great unwashed could peer in from outside through the glass inner doors, and, unobserved, see a part of the beautiful new home. Maybe Mrs Cross felt that, having pressed their noses to the glass of the inner doors, visitors would be able to temper their reactions to the GRANDIOSITY when the bell was answered.
    Reports, from the person whom she had delegated the answering of the door, of visitor’s reactions on entry, may have been one of the high points of her day. Therefore, after having given in to her architect’s whim during original construction, Mrs Cross told Mr Cross to hire someone else to add forbidding outer doors within a year after the house was built. Maybe the person that he hired, a respectable local finish carpenter, made the doors without being aware of the FABULOUS Yale and Towne hardware, nor how significant the proper hardware and untrammeled trim would be to Ross in 2017, bought dumb ass hinges locally.

    Are the doors detailed on the original plans?

    Are there any clues on the walls behind the doors?

    Yes, I know, I am crazy too.

    If I am wrong, to quote Emily Litella, “Nevermind.”

    • Ross on June 28, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Hi Stewart!

      Having double sets of doors was common for the era, and the Cross House has double sets on the west, north, and south entrances.

      I read somewhere that if the west outer doors were closed, this meant that the Cross family was not receiving. Oh, that would make sense!

  15. Will on April 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Ross!

    I am very late to the party on this post. Regarding those narrow utilitarian hinges on the outer doors, perhaps they needed to use such narrow hinges so that the screws would be able to go directly into the doorjamb rather than into the gap between the jamb and wall stud. I hope this makes sense. Using standard door hinges with the screws set further back from the hinge pin would have put the screws in questionable territory regarding the ability to hold up such a heavy door.

    I was introduced to you and the Cross House via Circa Houses on YouTube about a month ago. I have been reading your blog from the beginning ever since. What an amazing adventure you are on!
    I’ve loved and been fascinated by old houses and buildings of all types since I was a child growing up in small town Wisconsin. I’ve done a few restorations over the years, but nothing like the Candy Land of a house you have.

    You and your blog are an inspiration for me to restart a few stalled projects!

    • Ross on April 24, 2020 at 11:56 pm

      Nice to meet you, Will!

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