The Cross House

NOT Burning in Preservation Hell

About two years ago I did a post about burning in preservation hell.

This is what happens to people who screw up old houses.

You might want to read the post again, here.

In the post, I outed myself as having earned points to Preservation Hell by removing a portion of the original butler’s pantry so the archaic floor plan of the house would better suit modern living.

 

The problem was that anybody using the south entry (left arrow), which will be my principal entrance, had to traverse an extended and loopy route to get into the kitchen. Try and imagine this at my age and with bags of groceries. In 1894, this was not an issue as the owners would not likely have ever come home with groceries. This would have been the task of a servant, who would have used the east entry (right arrow) straight into the kitchen. (#1 is where the recreated laundry chute will be. #2 is where the recreated dumbwaiter will be.)

 

However, by punching through the butler’s pantry, a direct route was created.

 

The new door also made getting from the parlor to the kitchen MUCH easier.

 

Beginning the new door.

 

I had debated this change for two years before actually doing it, and was careful to retain all the vital cabinet bits so the change could be reversed somewhere down the line by a later owner.

It just never occurred to me that I would be the one reversing.

 

 

A few months after making the change, the first inkling of doubt crept into my brain.

During the Bo visit in March, 2017, a number of discoveries were made, including one really interesting one in the south long hall, which I articulated in mind-numbing detail here.

The discovery involved a curious “arch” that had been mostly removed. Oh! And I suddenly had a desperate desire to recreate this fascinating lost feature but…I could not because the new door in the butler’s pantry was exactly where the eastern part of the arch was.

Poo.

Then, last September…

 

…I began work on restoring the butler’s pantry by removing the paint on one of the cabinet doors and refinishing it bright as it had been originally. Squee!

 

A third factor was my ever-increasing awareness of just how special the Cross House is in terms of being so original. I knew this, of course, from day one and this was one of the reasons I purchased the house. But, during my five years of ownership, I have visited a lot of other fabulous old homes and am continually struck by how remuddled so many old home are. Thus, with each passing year, my appreciation of the historic integrity of the Cross House grows.

These three things culminated in a startling thought: I should reverse what I did.

At first, I dismissed the thought. What was done was done, and I really did enjoy the vastly better flow through the house.

The thought though nagged at me: I should reverse what I did.

And nagged: I should reverse what I did.

So then, I kinda sorta toyed with the idea, and began to shift my traffic pattern in the house by avoiding the hole in the butler’s pantry. Was, I thought, a circuitous route really that bad?

Then my preservation instincts just took over, and proclaimed: Fuck your better route! PUT BACK THE BUTLER’S PANTRY!

Golly. Such language.

And so, my dear readers, I am here to out myself once again.

I am now officially reversing, and putting back the butler’s pantry bits.

 

Yesterday, Dr. Doug came by to take a bunch of measurements to recreate some other lost bits.

 

The south pantry wall. The bottom four drawers are extant. Doug is going to recreate the two long-lost upper drawers, and the long-lost counter above.

 

The parts I removed two years ago (six drawers and two solid tall doors) will go back. With Doug’s recreated bits back, the pantry will return to as it was, cabinet-wise, in 1894.

All the wood needs to be stripped of later paint and varnished. An ugh task.

I purchased a period-correct gas/electric ceiling fixture, and a type intended for a pantry.

I will be having the plaster analyzed to ascertain the original paint color, and will recreate this.

 

The lost nickel-plating on the sink will get recreated, and period-correct pantry faucets will be installed. I am uncertain what the original finish on the counter was and am hoping that this, too, can be ascertained.

 

When the butler’s pantry is fully restored, it will be wondrous petite space, with richly glowing wood, a shimmering nickel sink, and all gently lighted from a period-correct ceiling fixture.

And the moral of the story?

Historic beauty is more important than modern comfort.

 

 

30 Responses to NOT Burning in Preservation Hell

  1. I’m loving this reversal! I think you’d have found that the entry via the pantry was too narrow anyway, if you’re holding bags of groceries. Also – you park in the back, don’t you? Right at the kitchen stairs….or your servant will 🙂

  2. I am thrilled that you are putting the pantry back to original. I too am sort of a stickler for original. Especially since the majority of the house is original. Always trust your instincts.

  3. Plus, the longer route will just give you more opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the house 🙂

    One of the parts I enjoy most about your blog is how you share your thoughts and evolution of your plans and ideas. It pulls us into your journey of learning and discovery. It’s so much better than the most polished and scripted “reality” programming could be.

  4. To the last line in your post: I one hundred and fifty thousand percent agree. I’m SO happy you put it back…YAY!! And I’m also happy that there is at least one other crazy person like me in the world (which I already knew many, MANY of your posts ago lol).

    After restoring several late Victorians I’ve moved onto my other passion: mid century. And I’m absolutly sick of having to justify why I’ve spent money to restore a pink or blue bathroom for example… or why I haven’t “opened up the kitchen”. Because if I wanted a 90s house with no walls I would have bought one…duh.

  5. Maybe put some kind of trolley near the door that you can set the groceries on and wheel into the kitchen? I love the reversal, but as someone who is way too young to be so physically weak, I understand fully your desire to make the route to the kitchen shorter.

  6. Not fair! Between this and your deciding to learn plastering over sheet rock now gives me nothing to hold over your head when you comment on my restoration. Damn you, damn you!!!

  7. What about a secret door? I know nothing about this, but with this you can keep the pantry and have a door, if the drawers are on the door… But perhaps the space is too narrow for this

  8. It’s especially amazing how original the house remains considering that it was broken up into motel rooms. You are such a role model to myself and so many others. Keep up the good work! It’s my dream that if I ever get to drive cross-country to visit family, that we will come through Kansas and visit.

  9. “Historic beauty is more important than modern comfort.”

    Well said, Sir.

    That observation bears similarities with a sentiment of the great art critic John Ruskin, who felt comfort perpetually interferes with good taste. William Morris, whose advice as a founding member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings should surely save an old house owner from Preservation Hell, was alleged to have said “If you want comfort, go to bed!”

  10. This makes me very happy. Can’t wait to see all the bits back in place. Though replacing the wall will be a lot of work for you.

  11. This makes me very happy! I, too, thought you had lost your mind two years ago. This post gave me an excuse to re-read that exciting post from two years ago as well. And besides, I love complex floor plans–so much more interesting.

  12. Love, Love, Love! “Fuck your better route! PUT BACK THE BUTLER’S PANTRY!” Way to go Ross. It was the right thing to do.

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