The Cross House

Discovery #3!!!!!!!!


Let the games begin!

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


THE most exciting, THE most thrilling, and THE most unexpected discovery during the Bo Adventure happened during the last half-hour of Bo’s stay.

During this mind-boggling half-hour, things began by Bo and I innocuously comparing notes on An Unexplained Oddity. He had one thought. I had a thought. He bounced off that thought. I bounced off his thought. And back and forth and back and forth like a game of intellectual ping-pong.

Then, in a brilliant flash, a moment of delicious, delirious excitement, A DISCOVERY BURST FORTH.

Oh my. Oh my! The excitement was palatable. The discovery was huge.

Every cell in my body tingled with excitement and joy and wonder.

WARNING: The following requires a totally sober mind, and a super-human ability of comprehension. And, I am not responsible if your brain explodes!


In my long career as an architectural designer I have learned that, well, fuck-ups happen. No matter how careful one is, and no matter how well done drawings are, fuck-ups will happen.

This is as true today as it was…in 1894.

The south hall on the first floor of the Cross House leads to the original family entrance. One walks through the stairhall, under an arch, and into the south hall:


The arch leading to the south hall. Now, see the right side where arch meets wall?


The arch “overshoots” the corner by several inches. I call this “the extension”.


See? I suspect this is an 1894 fuck-up. NOTE: The plaster on the bottom of the extension is missing.


I suspect that the arch was supposed to neatly MEET the corner, but the location of the arch is predicated on the the staircase.

And I suspect the staircase was installed rather late in the game (as is/was common). Only after the stair was installed could the arch be framed out. And this was, likely, AFTER this corner was framed out (the corner was vital to supporting the stair).

So, conjecture follows:

  1. Walls built.
  2. Temporary stair installed (this is normal during construction projects).
  3. Actual stair later installed.
  4. Arch created.

But the arch did not align with the corner. And it could not because of the stair.

I am assuming, thus, that the architect was forced by circumstance to devise a visual solution masking the fuck-up. I, too, have done exactly as such numerous times in my career. In short, when presented with a lemon..make lemonade!

NOTE: I am assuming that the arch not aligning with the corner is a fuck-up. This might, however, have been deliberate. But it feels like a fuck-up.


Now, we are standing in the south hall, looking at the arch where is meets the corner. Encoded in this image are seven vital points:


  1. Dirt line under picture rail. Explained here.
  2. 1894 wallpaper.
  3. 1950 wallpaper.
  4. 1950 wallpaper painted over.
  5. THIN strip of 1894 paper.
  6. Even THINNER strip of 1894 paper.
  7. THIN strip of 1894 paper.

So, in this small area a LOT is going on, historically. Fabulous!!!!!!!! Had I gutted the house to the studs (something common to This Old House and HGTV) all the vital historical information encoded in this small area would have been lost forever.


Now, back to almost the same view.


The above image reveals a LOT OF REALLY STRANGE INFORMATION:

  1. On the left is the 1894 wallpaper. This is expected. It survives because a wall was built over the paper in, I believe, 1929.
  2. In the middle of the image is 1950 wallpaper.
  3. To each side of the 1950 wallpaper are THIN strips of 1894 paper. Huh. Huh? HUH? For a close-up see…


…here. See the red numbers? These indicate four points of historical interest:


  1. 1950 wallpaper.
  2. 1894 ceiling paper…on wall. Huh? HUH????????
  3. 1894 wallpaper.
  4. 1950 wallpaper painted over.

And, excuse my language, but what the fuck does all this mean?

In 1950 the house was stripped of all wallpaper, and re-papered. Any pre-1950s papers which survive did so because they were behind radiators or protected by later alterations.

But why is the 1950 paper in the above image bracketed by THIN strips of 1894 paper?

And why does the 1894 wallpaper on the left overlap…1894 ceiling paper applied to the wall????????

I discovered this months ago and my brain was instantly fried. The physical evidence MADE NO SENSE.

But then…Bo arrived.

As we ping-ponged back and forth trying to make sense of the fuckin’ inexplicable, all was revealed in a sudden rush.


Has your brain exploded yet?

If not…


As we bounced ideas back and forth, it was assumed that the THIN vertical trips of 1894 paper survived, sandwiched between 1950 paper, because some sort of trim had covered the 1894 paper.

But what trim? What trim?

Back and forth we went.

What trim? What trim?

Oh…wait…maybe…this trim…stuck in a corner…and not matching any other trim in the house? The same trim, when I asked the previous owner where it went, he did not recall?



…THIS trim? And THIS trim, when applied to the two THIN vertical lines…


…matched. Perfectly. The trim has a wood base with an elaborate gesso overlay.



Bo and I were FREAKIN’ OUT, MAN! FREAKIN’ OUT!!!!!!!!

For three years this THIN gesso trim, matching NOTHING in the house, has been lurking in a corner. I just assumed it meant nothing, and that it was probably from another house or something. Really, I gave it no mind.

But…OMG! The gesso trim WAS from the Cross House! It WAS from 1894! It WAS important and vital and of enormous interest!

So, in short, ZOUNDS!!!!!!!!


Has your brain exploded yet?

If not…


The “extension” of the west side of the family hall was matched by an extension on the east wall. This was long gone when I purchased the house:


Long gone. To the right is 1894 wallpaper protected by a later wall. Above that is the remains of a temporary wall I installed. I know! Complicated!


Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, the west “extension” was matched by an extension on the opposite wall.

This means that the newly discovered THIN trim, two pieces, must have also been on the east extension.


And, lo and behold, FOUR pieces of THIN gesso trim were found of exactly the right length! ZOUNDS!


All four pieces had a mitered edge at the top, strongly suggesting that the same trim ran across the ceiling, too!!!!!!!! Was this “missing” trim still in the house? Bo and I raced, RACED, down to the Aladdin’s Cave of house bits in the basement, for, if the trim existed it would be there. And…


…our assumption/hope/prayer was confirmed!!!!!!!! OMG! OMG! We were FREAKIN’ OUT! The two pieces (top, in image) EXACTLY fitted the ceiling between the wall trim pieces.


Has your brain exploded yet?

If not…


…back to this image. On the right and left are 1950 wallpapers. In the center is 1894 wallpaper (right) overlapping 1894 ceiling paper. WTF???????? This THIN strip was protected by the gesso trim. Bo and I assumed that the ceiling paper infilled the space BETWEEN the gesso trim pieces, and that the green pattern shown above are the edges of the ceiling paper medallions.


This is one of the “medallions” of the 1894 stairhall ceiling paper. The evidence indicates that these medallions also marched along the south hall wall “extensions”. Except…except…they don’t appear to exactly match the wall extension extant bits (NOTE: my brain just officially exploded).


So, back to this image. See the arch to the right?


Well, with arch to the right, this is my crude drawing of what the EVIDENCE reveals:


  • The extensions were covered with the ceiling paper.
  • The extensions were edged by gesso trim (the very bottom pieces of trim have, so far, not been found).
  • The gesso trim continued across the ceiling, linking the west and east extensions.
  • There was wallpaper.
  • And a frieze.
  • And ceiling paper.
  • There was, too, a picture rail.


Has your brain exploded yet?

If not…


I found this 1999 image today, looking south. AND FUCKING FREAKED OUT! In the foreground are the two extensions…with the gesso trim in situ!!!!!!!! OMG! OMG! Just behind the extensions is a non-original door frame. Sadly, the ceiling is not shown. Drat! (Image courtesy Bob Rodak.)


In this 2000 image, looking north, the east extension (right) has been removed. The west extension remains, with its gesso trim removed. It remains as such today. The ceiling has been removed. (Image courtesy Bob Rodak.)


Another 2000 image, looking south, showing the lost east extension. (Image courtesy Bob Rodak.)


Considering the vital national and global issues currently alarming people paying attention, all this is a piffle.

But…I am nonetheless agog.

The extensions may, or may not have been, an artful solution to an 1894 fuck-up, but there is no question that I will recreate the lost east extension, and restore the 1894 gesso trim to its original locations. For, I do have a great admiration for…the odd detail.

Oh, and I love Bo!



22 Responses to Discovery #3!!!!!!!!

  1. I rather adore this fuck up. How quirky! My brain failed to even faintly sizzle…I followed you pretty easily. However, my sensibilities are bothered by the fact that they fucked up AGAIN by not aligning the bottom of the extension, which was supposed to hide the initial fuck up, with the bottom of the arch. They overshot it by like 3 inches man!

  2. Oh, by the way, I have a feeling that I might be getting ahead of you by asking, but are we perhaps going to get an answer to the mystery of the closet door that swings in? Was Bo able to save the day there too?!

  3. WOW! That’s a LOT to take in!!! I can hear your excitement! Wonderful! Bo needs a second trip there, I think. If your brain can take it 🙂

  4. Was there any evidence of having corbels o some kind of return under the extensions? They visually leave me hanging with their sharp corners and abrupt ending. This is really obvious in the 1999 Bob Rodak picture.

    • I wondered the same thing but there is no evidence of any. But that does not mean no! Just…perhaps. Or perhaps not!

  5. About the wallpaper on the extensions. You didn’t say what the wallpaper on the frieze looked like, but it almost looks like maybe the wallpaper on the extensions was frieze paper installed sideways (installed vertically instead of horizontally). Or maybe they used a 4th wallpaper pattern?

      • Wow! That is amazing that you have the original patent document and are able to know exactly what you have. I love reading about all your mysteries/discoveries and seeing all the progress you make. I love old houses and have learned so much from reading your blog. I know a lot about history, but all I know about architecture is what I learned in art history class, so, in other words, not much! I know exactly zero about construction so I will admit, I had to read this post twice before I kinda sorta understood it!

  6. About the wallpaper on the extensions… You didn’t say what the wallpaper on the frieze looked like, but it almost looks like maybe the wallpaper on the extensions was frieze paper installed sideways(vertically instead of horizontally) Or maybe they used a 4th wallpaper pattern?

  7. I wonder if this mess up is related to the stairs not matching the drawings. If the stairs were drastically changed, everything around them probably got shifted around.

  8. Your writing and enthusiasm astounds me. And all the people stuck in all the world problems should just buy an old house. Priorities abound here! I read your every word and admire your work…and Bo’s, of course!!!

  9. Ross I can see you running around the house dressed like Sherlock Holmes hot on the trail of your mysterious Cross Manor! I love your story telling adventures ❤. I wait a week or two to come catch up so it’s like reading a book. I so want to come and see your beautiful work in progress and I would love to put in some elbow grease just to say I helped make her sparkle a little more. ????

  10. Omg Nikki I literally was scrolling down to post that Ross sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch from BBCs Sherlock Holmes when I noticed you already did-lol

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