The Cross House

Old House Ceiling Fans

In the 1894 Cross House I am planning to install ceiling fans. The idea is to install a chandelier in the center of most rooms, with a pair of ceiling fans to each side. The rooms are large enough to do this.

One concern is that the house would not have had ceiling fans when built. So, I would be introducing a non-historic element, and a highly discordant visual element. However, my desire for comfort is quite high, as well as my desire to reduce heating/cooling costs. These factors may override aesthetics.

I know essentially nothing about ceiling fans although while writing this post learned that ceiling fans were introduced in 1882.


A Hunter Fan classic. Simple. Basic. This is what had been in the back of mind since buying the house. But, as I would never install reproduction lighting in the house why would I install reproduction fans? Well, this got me to thinking…


…about actual vintage ceiling fans. Something which I have never before spent a second of time on. This beauty is from 1909.


The age of this knock-out is unknown but it engenders significant lust. I have no idea of what a fully restored period-correct ceiling fan would be but 100% expect it to be shocking. So, this got me to thinking…


..again about the unthinkable: reproductions. It seems like this Hunter fan would aesthetically fit in the Cross House. It is $500. I would need twelve.


I can see this better in the Cross House than…


…this, which is a $500 fan by Rejuvenation based on a 1913 model.


In the end I may skip doing ceiling fans, and just place strong fans on the floor, pointed up to move air. These would be mostly invisible.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?



24 Responses to Old House Ceiling Fans

  1. Ceiling fans. 🙂 We finally put ours in last week. A Hunter Kingsbury. It’s so pretty! lol 🙂 I can’t say I’ve ever found a ceiling fan with a light kit I liked so demanded ours not have one. Would’ve loved a vintage fan but looking at the prices, yikes! I can’t imagine going vintage in all the rooms you want them in.

    But my house isn’t fancy at all, your house is different. I’d go the floor fan idea. Not pretty but at least you can hide them because…”The idea is to install a chandelier in the center of most rooms, with a pair of ceiling fans to each side.” Don’t know the rooms you’re going to put them in but your eyes will constantly be going up because of the heaviness of what’s on the ceiling, your ceiling will look too cluttered. (This is coming from someone that has their ceiling fan on 359 days of the year…I take a day or two off when it’s 10 degrees.)

  2. My first thought when I started reading was no way, ceiling fans will look dreadful. But I had no idea their invention was so long ago and after seeing them, I don’t hate them. In fact, I wish my little ranch’s fans were that beautiful.

    However, I would still be hesitant to put them on your first floor. From an aesthetic perspective, I think they’d be… distracting? The kitchen might be a good place though.

    Although upstairs, I think I’d feel less reluctant. Mostly because I live in Kansas too and I think you, and any owner after you, would be thankful for moving air where the heat rises. Especially while sleeping. You’re trying to make a historic house live-able now, which you’ve written about a number of times… I understand the desire for comfort.

  3. I’ve had a similar struggle. Ceiling fans are very effective at making a room more comfortable in hot weather, but are nearly impossible to make visually unobtrusive. If you’re considering a pair of fans on each side of a vintage chandelier, I’d strongly suggest mocking it up in a few rooms (get some junk fans a landlord is throwing out or something), and looking at it for a while. I have a feeling it will look cluttered and out-of-place.

    I’d lean towards using freestanding fans in the formal public rooms downstairs (some sweet old metal-cage pedestal and table fans would even look really nice!). In the kitchen, you’re not doing a perfect reproduction, so an appropriately-styled ceiling fan could fit in very well. In the bedrooms upstairs (where I find them most needed on hot summer nights), the stylistic incongruity is less visible, so I’d use some either historically-styled ones (I do like that ornate Hunter model), or one that blends in with the ceiling color.

    In our house, I’ve used modern fans and light kits in antique brass finish (matches our original hardware) in the bedrooms (replacing brass-plated plastic $30 landlord specials that were there), and in the kitchen, but avoided them in th more formal public parts of the house. I may end up installing one in the living room, but I’m going to use a ceiling-hugger fan, modified with a vintage pan fixture for light. The pan fixture is a match to the rest I’ve acquired and restored for the public parts of the first floor, so I’m hoping it will tie it together without being too garish.

  4. I would recommend a fan on the floor, there are some stunning antique tall ones at would suit the house (at one point I almost bought one powered by a gas jet!). Upstairs, by all means install them, I can’t live without mine in the bedroom. Be advised though that any marginal plaster will respond poorly to the vibration. The effect has been intense enough that I’ll be skinning our ceiling with blueboard and replastering because of the cracks that have developed.

  5. Fanimation offers some of those belt-driven ones as well as some of the ones that look like two table fans mounted on ends of a bar, overhead. There is also a floor model with a horizontal fan at about 8 feet off the floor; basically, a ceiling fan not hooked to the ceiling. Fanimation has those. I guess you could call them tall pedestal fans.

    Barn Light Electric has some belt drives also (

    See also

    A friend here in Wichita has in his old house one with folding blades; when the fan is not running the blades fold up into the light fixture. Very cool although I don’t remember the manufacturer…but it’s old. I’ve seen modern ones and a few with a faux-old look, but his is the real deal.

  6. A couple of thoughts. You have put a ton of time and brain power into getting your HVAC to really circulate well. This will really help with efficiency and keeping constant temps. Your planning there will really serve you well.

    In our house, which does not have your extensive ducting (basically we have one split coil Mitubishi AC system pushing cold up from downstairs and cold down from the 3rd floor with the original hot water system for heat) I put ceiling fans upstairs in bedrooms and one in the kitchen on the first floor. I can live with that compromise and went with inexpensive white fans that are kind of invisible next to light colored ceilings.

    For your formal rooms, I really think you should use the stick/vertical floor fans. They will be pretty unobtrusive. I don’t think you would be happy with ceiling fans in your grand rooms.

  7. I like the comments above about the ceiling fan in the bedrooms and kitchen. It’s so helpful to have air moving when you’re trying to sleep, especially when it’s hot. Emporia can get like a blast furnace in the summer, and you don’t have much shade on your home.

    I’d be careful about putting ceilings fans in your dining room. We have an atrociously ugly one in our dining room, right above the table. It’s almost impossible to keep it from getting dusty, and dust is the last thing you want dropping on your food when you’re eating. I think the folks who recommend the stand fans are on the right track.

    As always, I learned something new reading this post, both from you, Ross, and the commenters. It’s one of the things that makes it such a pleasure to read your blog — it feeds my Input theme 🙂

  8. I DEFINITELY lean towards no ceiling fans, at least not in the main rooms. No matter how old and beautiful a fan is, they always clutter a space and detract from the visual effect of a high ceiling.

  9. I concur with previous suggestions and advice.
    In my home, I’ve limited the ceiling fans to our bedroom and the family room (1968 additions to our 236 yo home) and the kitchen which is an addition we think was added mid 19th century. This fan was here when we bought the house. I disassembled it, removing the tacky light fixture, spray painted the bright 80s brass to a hammered bronze, and stained the blades to match the pickled sage cabinetry. As these ceilings were quite low, it now melds into the stained beadboard ceiling and really helps move the air through the house as this room is practically in the center of the home. I hope you don’t clutter your formal rooms with ceiling fans after you’ve put so much effort into restoring them to their original appearance.

  10. What about unobtrusive fans hidden behind gorgeous cast iron registers? Or copper, or wood, or wallpapered, or faux paint…….endless possibilities! It’s what I plan on for my house, built 1877.

    We do have a ceiling fan in the livingroom, where the antique woodstove is our sole source of heat. It’s a small house at 866 sq ft (not including attic and 10×20 service porch) but it is insanely hard to circulate air decently. So I’m going to be cutting holes through a few walls, both near the floor and near the ceiling, with tiny electric fans.

    I think it’s hard to move air here because half the house has 9 foot ceilings, and half has 7 foot. Two rooms in particular (one of each ceiling height) are impossible to keep warm. Nice in summer, but not in winter!

  11. Thank you everybody for your comments!

    A while back I was restoring a 1910 house for a client. She demanded ceiling fans. I was aghast! But it was her house.

    In the living room I insisted on keeping the original chandelier (which she wanted replaced with a fan) so instead installed a pair of fans to each side. Because the chandelier hung much lower than the fans, the results surprised me. The chandelier still dominated, I did not mind the look, and greatly appreciated the silent breezes during the summer.

    However, a 1910 house is quite a different thing than the 1894 Cross House. Hence, the wariness I expressed in this post.

    Reading all the comments though has convinced me of the errors of my intentions! I will just do as I have always done and keep floor fans around.

    Derek reminded me of a vital feature: the massive return ducts I installed for the central HVAC system in 2014. These ducts will SUCK up all air and move it around just fine. Even during the winter when the radiators are the heat source, the central return ducts will suck up the hot air collecting near the second-floor ceiling, and pull it down to basement where it will be pushed out through the basement and first-floor ducts. All to rise again through the open maw of the staircase, to then repeat its return journey, all in an endless loop.

    So, ceiling fans be dammed!

    Thanks, everybody!

  12. When I bought my house which was built in 1949, every room had a ceiling fan and I hated them. They came down and went to the curb for free. I use table top fans from the twenties and thirties.These move the air just as well and can be put away when not needed. So I vote for no ceiling fans.

  13. Sounds like your original question is moot and that you are leaning against ceiling fans. I’ll just add support to that decision by pointing out that early ceiling fans–both belt driven and self-contained–were used in factories and commercial businesses–department stores, hotels, restaurants, etc.. They didn’t move to the residential market until the 1920s. Even then they were mostly in the large high-ceilinged southern homes. The Washington Post published an interesting article in 1997 on the history of ceiling fans that claims they were never very common for domestic use until the 1973 oil embargo and the push to save energy.

  14. My grandfather had a grocery store my dad took over that was in a brick building built around 1900. In the 1960s I remember going around and pulling on all the strings hanging to turn them on when we opened and off when we closed up. There were a lot of them! Funny, I don’t remember the store ever being too warm in the Iowa summers. The ceilings were very tall, though.

    I would love to see what you end up doing, and seeing pictures of any antique/vintage floor and table top fans.

  15. Your decision has been made, but I just wanted to chime in that I promptly removed the three ceiling fans that had been installed in my pre 1900 house when I bought it. Stick to floor fans. There are some really cute ones out there and they do a better job of cooling one off.

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