The Cross House

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 2

In Part 1, I detailed the adventure revealing the, well, not quite lost, but, ah, overlooked gas sconces in the 1894 Cross House.

They had been there since 1894 but I just never really registered them before. This was not too surprising as some were buried behind later plaster while others were just small nipples sticking proud of the walls. There were no actual sconces remaining in the house.

The idea of returning the house as much as possible to its original appearance is something strongly alluring to me. To this end, the speaking tube system will be renewed, the dumb waiter recreated (only bits remain), the laundry chute recreated (partially extant), the telephone closet returned to use AS a telephone closet (I cannot wait to make the first call. Hum, can I make a call back to the…past?), the basement laundry room returned to use AS the laundry room, the missing porch columns recreated (already done!), and so on.

To add to the list: fourteen gas sconces!

However, as I pondered this latest discovery, something nagged at me. If the Cross House was state-of-the-art when built, which it was, why did it have old-fashioned gas sconces? Why not the all new, all innovative gas/electric sconces???????

The thought nagged at me.

I hate when history nags.

 

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The Krueger-Scott Mansion — the Cross House on steroids. Note the gas sconces on each side of the mantel. The mansion was built in 1888, just six years before the Cross House. During those years however a revolution ensued: ELECTRICITY. So, the Krueger-Scott Mansion had GAS lighting, while the Cross House had GAS/ELECTRIC lighting (at least regarding the chandeliers in the house). Just six years apart but miles away in terms of modernity. The Krueger-Scott Mansion is extant. Image: NJ Historical Society

 

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My quest started with a single gas nipple in the parlor. The nipple is threaded, and a gas sconce would have screwed on. As there is no evidence of electric wires, the sconce could not have been gas/electric. Or could it?

 

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It is amazing what a little destruction can reveal. And there they were, the little devils! TWO wires!

 

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Over to the left was the newly revealed left sconce. A bit more digging uncovered two MORE little devils!

 

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I rushed over to the entrance hall mantel, and removed the cover plate.

 

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ZOUNDS! More wires (and old wallpaper)! Then I ran from mantel to mantel all over the house and some digging revealed that the Cross House DID have gas/electric sconces when built in 1894! DOUBLE ZOUNDS!

 

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An 1890s gas/electric sconce. Gas UP; electric DOWN. This is the type sconce the Cross House would have had.

 

However, my great excitement was soon…tempered.

Golly, where was I ever going to come across fourteen gas/electric sconces???????????????? They all did not have to match, of course, but I needed seven pairs. Seven pairs! Yikes!

Moreover, my pondering mind then hit a brick wall. In some areas I could run new electric wires to the sconce locations. But in other areas this would not be possible, like with the library and entrance hall. The gas pipes, and old electrical wires, were encased in the brick chimney breasts. There was no way to run electrical wires save chiseling through the brick and running conduit. Ugh. BIG ugh.

My pondering mind, now pixilated, wondered about kinda faking it.

WARNING: If I reveal my susequent thoughts, you have to promise not to tell ANYBODY! OK? I am trusting you to keep it a secret that I might resort to defrauding history.

PROMISE?

OK, here goes…

 

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What if, what if, I do NOT bring back fourteen gas/electric sconces into the Cross House? What if I just bring back fourteen gas sconces? I can actually find these kinda cheap, like the pair shown here. Sconces like this were very common. They have double swing arms, and would likely have had glass shades.

 

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I found a matched set of ten of these, which is an amazing find. Ten! Note the fleur de lys just under the mounting rings, and just above the gas cock. Fleur de lys were a feature of the original wallpaper in the two-story stair hall. But I passed on them because they don’t have swing arms, which are vital in some locations in the Cross House. Plus, I suspect the original sconces in the Cross House would have not been quite so plain.

 

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The perfect shades for the above sconce. There is NO WAY I would ever find twenty.

 

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These sconces also swivel. They are more elaborate than the sconces above, and would be a better choice for the 1894 Cross House. Oh! So you agree? I am so glad because I purchase them for the parlor! They need shade fitters, and shades. My fraudulent thought (don’t tell!) was to simply insert a votive candle inside the shades. Thus, when I am entertaining, the sconces would LOOK like they has gas flames. Pretty cool, right?

 

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Back to this sconce. I have actually been collecting, for over a year now, this type shade for the Cross House. The shade features stars, and there are stars in the door hinges of the house, and in most of the trim corner blocks.

 

Well, I am wracked with indecision.

Wracked!

Should I go back to gas/electric sconces in the house?

Or kinda fake it (shhhhhhhhh!) with just gas sconces, further faked (shhhhhhhhh!) with candles?

Oh, I feel a bit faint, and need to repose on the divan.

 

14 Responses to On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 2

  1. I’m afraid it will be hard to be satisfied with less than the gas/electric sconces. Of course the gas sconces can be temporary and one day you’ll find just what you want.

    • Hi Sally! I agree that I can put in temporary gas sconces. But, to later put in gas/electric sconces I will need to put in the electric wiring before each room is restored/finished.

  2. Forgive my heresy, but couldn’t you put in gas/electric and just not hook up the electric? Then it looks right and is right, and you only use the gas (candle?) portion when you want to have them on.

    • It would bother me that the electric portion was always dark.

      And the always dark bulb would be a constant rebuke to my lack of courage in running new electric wires.

      I would hear all the dark bulbs crying out over the ensuing years: Light me! Light me!

      I shudder at the thought of such plaintive pleas.

  3. Hi Ross. My thoughts: sigh – yes, go back to gas/electric sconces. I don’t think you will be happy with faking it.

  4. What about retrofitting the Gas/Electric sconces to battery operated with remote control? LED Tea lights for the “gas” jets?

  5. I also have a house of roughly the same vintage, though not nearly so grand. I like the look of the gas/electric combo fixtures and have collected a number and restored two or three that are now proudly installed in our home. Before jumping into to installing gas sconces do you know how sound all of the piping is? And do you know where it all goes? You just found 14 outlets, you know there’s likely more above your ceiling according to the original plan you shared. Are you going to cap them all and do a pressure test?

    Another alternative is to rewire the gas/electric for all electric. It’s tricky work taking the fixtures apart, drilling out the calve and re wiring, but ultimately it’s safer. You can get some nice flicker bulbs for the gas side,…

    Just a thought!

  6. they’re probably too small but how about snaking the wiring thru the gas pipes and i would be leery of running especially city gas through those old pipes

  7. My first thought is the same as Montana’s: why run new conduit when you’ve got perfectly good gas pipes already installed? Just use the pipes as conduits and run new wiring through them. Montana thinks they might be too small, but in the pictures they look like the same size as conduit.

    My second thought is that electricians are able to run wiring through existing walls with minimal demolition. You’ve already got two wires going to each location. You could use one of the old wires to pull the new wiring through. Just tie the new wiring to an old wire and pull the old wire out the other end. You end up deinstalling the old wire, but you didn’t have any use for it anyway.

    • It is not possible to fish wires through gas pipes. Such pipes were designed for gas, not wires. Gas EASILY moves through pipes and their many right angles. Wires do not!

      And one cannot use the old wires to pull new wires through. I wish! The old wires were installed before the plastering was done. This means the 1894 wires are encased in plaster in countless locations and they don’t move! In addition, the 1894 wires are single wires, and run through THIN porcelain tubes where they meet wood. Modern wire is MUCH thicker and does not fit through such tubes. Even IF the wires moved.

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