Favorite Houses: 919 Merchant

I had an adventure today. And not just any adventure, but an architectural adventure! Whoee!

Recently, I was contacted by Bill, who was doing research on his house. Looking through old deeds, he discovered that in 1869 Harrison Cross owned his house.

Harrison Cross, of course, built my Cross House in 1894.

Obviously, I was delighted to meet Bill. With alacrity!

Once inside his house however it was instantly evident that Cross could not have lived in the house, as it was clearly not an 1860s house. I estimated its age as being from 1885-1895.

In walking all through the house with Bill, we had quite a time (and a lot of fun) trying to figure out how the structure had originally been built, as many many changes have taken place over the decades including staircases being torn out, and new staircases being built in different locations. Zounds!



919 Merchant.


See the small first-floor window over to the right? That is very odd; it just seems way off. Behind the window is a SO not original bathroom, but with an astonishing and intricate parquet floor. Huh? What? HUH?????

After some pondering, I surmised that the bath had originally been the foyer, and that the small, odd window was originally the location of the front door. I also surmised that the front porch originally extended all the way over to the right side of the house.

But was I correct?

There can be no question that the current bath MUST have been the foyer. And the only location for a front door would be where the current small window is. But did the porch continue to the right???????

To ascertain if my assumption was correct, I checked out old Sanborn insurance maps. Fewer things make me happier than pursuing old Sanborn maps.



919 Merchant in 1888.


What I discovered above does not match the house there today. Was the 1888 house later expanded?



In 1899 the 919 lot was the site of a stone foundation…


OK. Wow! This mean that if Harrison Cross lived at 919, he occupied a house which no longer existed by 1899.



…which by the 1905 map had a house atop the foundation.


But the house outline shown above in NO way matches the house which is today at 919 Merchant. WHAT was going on?????????



But, on the 1911 map, the house shown DOES match the house which is extant today. HUH?


OK, now my head is exploding.

In the span of about two decades there can no question that THREE houses occupied the 919 lot.

And the current house was NOT there in 1905, but WAS there by 1911.

But the current house is OLDER than 1911, by several decades. So, it had to have been moved to the lot. This was a common practice at the time (no longer, sadly).

So where did the current 919 come from????????????

Oh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See the last image? See how the porch DOES continue across the entire front facade? This confirmed my assumption. Whoee!

In short:

ONE assumption confirmed!

EIGHTEEN mysteries discovered!

Ain’t history interesting?


  1. meganmoss82 on April 3, 2015 at 8:25 am

    I think the last two houses are the same house, just with badly scaled jogs in the back, a back porch that was absorbed into the house and the octagonal bay changed to a square. The footprints of the two are just too similar… Still would love to know what the original looked like though. It continues to blow my mind that one man could be responsible for so much of the remarkable architecture of a town.

    • Ross on April 3, 2015 at 8:57 am

      The two last footprints looks very different to me, but you might be right!

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