Hints of a Proper What Was


ABOVE: The living room of the Cross House, December, 2014.

I always thought it odd that none of the rooms in the Cross House had a picture rail. Wasn’t this de rigueur for houses of the period?

I mean, punching a nail in plaster walls to hang a picture was simply not done! One respected laboriously hand-done plaster walls and did not damage them up with tiny holes. That is what a picture rail was for:




After scraping off all the post-1950 wallpaper off the living room walls, I saw a faint, very faint, ghost outline: a horizontal line running around the room at exactly the height a picture rail would have been:



ABOVE: The large oval marks the faint line where the bottom of the picture rail was. The small oval is a hole where a nail would have held the picture rail to the wall.



ABOVE: At the side of each piece of door and window trim, up high, is the tell-tale shadow of the picture rail.

So, I did have a picture rail. I am so relieved.

I was beginning to worry that my house was improper. Oh the horror! The horror!


  1. Betsy on December 27, 2014 at 1:26 am

    So fun to read. Stripping layers of wallpaper is no fun, I have done it. But I am sure the discoveries under it all are making it much more rewarding. It is great to read about all the surprises you re uncovering (speaking tubes, ice box room, wallpapers).

  2. Andrew on December 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I love your recent posts! As a house restorer/archaeologist, have you run across any personal artifacts or other ephemera in the Cross house? My mother recently gutted the kitchen in her WWI era home and a recess in a wall produced a small cache of long lost photos. Fascinating stuff.

  3. Chris on January 23, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    And that shadow even gives you the proper profile for your picture rail! Architectural archaeology is so always fascinating.

  4. Michael Mackin on February 20, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    It would seem unlikely that they would go through the expense of wallpaper in the entire house and leave out a detail like that!

  5. Montana Channing on February 24, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Quick – take some of whatever you were smoking in your last post and you’ll calm down.
    The people that remove the radiator and find that ratty old wallpaper will rip it off, throw it in the dumpster (beside the radiator) and say “Wow, that old geezer that lived to 92 was a real nut case. Oh well let’s get this plaster out of here and put in some fiberglass insulation. It’ll work good with the new vinyl siding”

  6. Seth Hoffman on October 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Do you have plans to replicate the picture rail? It looks like yours was very ornate (to compliment the rest of the millwork, of course). The shadow lines on the door and window casings look strong enough to arrive at a pretty accurate reproduction.

    We have the original picture rail in our home (1912 Foursquare). It’s very handy not needing to punch and repair holes whenever you want to move a picture on the wall.

    • Ross on October 11, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Oh yes, all the picture rails will be going back.

      It just ain’t proper without ’em!

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