Re-Opening The Past


In 1894, there was a door from the second-floor hall into a small room housing a toilet.


In 1929, it appears that the door was removed and the wall plastered over, as the toilet room and adjacent closet became a full bathroom for the new studio apartment in the former Sewing Room.

I have recreated the lost closet to the Sewing Room. The original toilet room will be a utility closet, and also the location for the dumbwaiter, which, inexplicably, never went to the second-floor.

But how to access this small room?

Obviously, the blocked-over door would have to be re-opened! However, the exact location could not be resurrected as new return ducts partially block the original opening. So, I had to move the opening over to the west a bit.



To cut through plaster I use a large flat-head screwdriver, very sharp, and pound through the plaster to the underlying lath. Then I pound the plaster with a hammer, and the plaster comes off easily with surprisingly little damage to adjacent plaster. I have been doing this for decades. One could cut through plaster with a mini-skill saw but this creates a shocking amount of dust.




You can see the original lath (right) and 1929 infill lath (left).


The new door will be short and not very wide. It will be cute! I hope Dr. Doug can scale down the proportions of an original door and make a new cute door.

With all this done, a lost feature of the house will return, albeit slightly shifted.

I’m excited!




  1. Adam on February 26, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    Now I suppose the obvious question that must be asked is, What happened to the original door?

  2. ArtistSusan on February 26, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    Very excited about the dumbwaiter coming to the second floor!!!

    • ArtistSusan on February 26, 2020 at 11:26 pm

      Also, if you make a mini door you could potentially use the smaller size of your pretty lock set.

  3. A. H. on February 27, 2020 at 12:32 am

    I am very excited about the idea of creating new woodwork for the house from scratch! I would love to see how a 2020 door would compare to one of the originals! It would be a real test of the carpenter, I’d imagine!

  4. Kim on February 27, 2020 at 7:53 am

    If the dumbwaiter didn’t go to the second floor, maybe it was only installed for coal & produce to go from basement to kitchen. Yes/no? Just a thought. Also, I don’t see any other bathrooms on the second floor. It kind of makes sense for there to be a hall door for the wc.

    Will there be a glass knob set for the missing door? I’m not familiar with 1894 homes but, glass knobs were a sort of standard for 20th century bathrooms – glass being the most sanitary of materials. I once went through a lovely 1914 home, in which all bedroom doors had clear glass knobs but the bathroom door had an amethyst glass knob! 💜

  5. SEB on February 27, 2020 at 9:24 am

    How neat to scale a closet door down a bit from a room door! Gives the observant guest a non-verbal hint how to find their room.

  6. Stewart McLean on February 27, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    This brings up the following question that has been piquing my curiosity for a while: Are you going to have a private master bath for yourself? Did you open this door because you are going to be using this bathroom yourself, sharing it with the Octagon bedroom/Sewing room suite? If not, why did you open it, and where will your master bath be?

  7. Kit on February 27, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I do always love a cute little door. Daniel over at Manhattan Nest has a closet within a closet with the cutest half-height door.

  8. Michael on February 28, 2020 at 6:17 am

    This solution does seem to work well, especially being in this secondary space rather than in the main stair hall. I believe you also have that tiny laundry shoot door just to the left.
    As an alternate, if you had the same situation somewhere where the smaller door would look out of place, it seems like the configuration of your doors with the horizontal panel across the top would allow you to create the illusion of a full size door. You could possibly frame the door at full height, and then have the top horizontal panel fixed with a shorter door of five panels below it maintaining the same overall proportion. I’m not sure of the exact door dimensions, so function would depend somewhat on at what actual height door that would give you. Hope that description is clear.

  9. Nancy from Georgia on February 28, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    So there’s no bathroom on the second floor? I’d prefer a bathroom to a dumbwaiter in the middle of the night!

    • Ross on February 28, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      Nancy, in the 1894 drawing it shows a bathroom (a sink and tub) and an adjacent small room that had the toilet.

      The 1894 bathroom is intact and will be restored with a sink, tub, and toilet.

      There will also be four other bathrooms on the second-floor.

      • Nancy from Georgia on March 3, 2020 at 10:56 am

        Yay! I don’t know about you, but I have to get up about 20 times a night! That’s what comes from age and being properly hydrated. 🙄

  10. Sue C on March 12, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Ross, our 1898 house had one room with just a toilet and an adjoining room with a sink and tub.

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