Sherlock Holmes in the Cross House
What a thrilling day!
I am uncertain how the great adventure started, but Justin (the main contractor working on the Cross House) and I were walking through the house, going over various issues, when our discussion unexpectedly veered toward sleuthing.
Don’t ya’ love it when that happens?
THE GREAT DINING ROOM DOOR MYSTERY
For no particular reason, we were standing in front of an exterior door in the dining room when the conversation veered.
I knew the door was not original; it had been a window in 1894. When did it change into a door? I have long surmised various possibilities:
- In 1929 when the Cross House was converted into apartments on the second floor? The owner, Scott Mouse, Sr., lived on the first floor. From what I can tell, the family converted the dining room into their living room. Perhaps the window was changed to an exterior door so that the family could have a private entrance, as the main entry was now be used by the apartment tenants?
- In 1950 when Scott Mouse, Jr., converted the house into the Palace Motel?
- In 1960 when the house was purchased by the Tom family? It has been confirmed that the family occupied an L-shaped suite comprising the dining room (used as a living room), the kitchen, and library (used as a bedroom). Perhaps they converted the window into a door to create a private entrance?
I knew the while the door was not original to the location, it certainly was original to the house, in that it matches all the other distinctive first-floor doors. Thus, I asked Justin: “But where WAS the door originally?”
There were other peculiar aspects to the door in question:
- It has a full exterior door “kelp” hardware set by Yale & Towne. Huh? Huh? All the exterior doors on the house have the “kelp” hardware. But not the interior doors. And I was not missing any exterior doors. So, why did THIS door have an exterior door hardware set on it?
- The door had a large clear glass panel. I had always assumed the door was altered when it inserted into the dining room, and that a paneled interior door (of which I am missing several) was altered by removing the upper wood panels and infilling with glass.
Justin and I were vexed!
We walked around the house looking for where the door was originally. I knew I was missing two first-floor doors. One was between the butler’s pantry and kitchen. This seemed the obvious location. Seemed. But the size did not fit. The other missing door was between the main pantry and kitchen. But, again, the dimensions did not mate.
Argh! Justin and I stroked our handlebar mustaches.
I then started thinking about the four entrances to the house. Three were used by the family, and have outer and inner doors, creating vestibules.
As we walked around, I realized that the inner doors all have “kelp” hinges, too.
Was I missing an inner vestibule door?
Justin and I, now rather excited, ran back to the dining room, measured the door and its hinge locations, ran back to the vestibule, and, wow, incontrovertibly knew that THIS is where the door was originally!!!!!!!!!!!
So, too, was the presence of the “kelp” hardware set explained.
But what about the big clear glass panel?
The inner door MAY have originally been all wood. The north entrance has a solid inner door.
So, we returned to the dining room door, took off the wood trim holding the glass in place, and expected to see the tell-tale signs that the door had been altered.
But no such signs existed. We took off more trim. Still no signs. None. Not even a hint.
Thus, we deduced — deduced! — that that the glass panel had always been there. Well, that does actually make sense, as this would have offered natural light into the dark hall.
But was the glass itself original? I doubt it. It makes more sense that the glass would have matched the feathered glass in the transom windows, and outer door.
So, Justin and I smoked our pipes in deep satisfaction. We have found the answer to a great mystery.
THE GREAT KITCHEN DOOR MYSTERY
All jazzed up by the adventure, Justin and I wanted more.
We raced around the house, our capes flying behind us, in search of oddities, and stopped in front of a door in the kitchen, leading to the basement.
But why the glass panels? I can understand the two vertical panels, so that a person pushing the door IN would not bash into another person pushing the door OUT. They could see each other. But why the upper horizontal glass panel?
Justin and I scratched out heads.
“I think I know,” Justin said. “The glass panels would have let light into the windowless pantry.”
Elementary, my dear Justin, elementary!
Justin and I resumed smoking pipes in deep satisfaction. We have found the answer to a second great mystery.
TWO MYSTERIES REVEALED
THE GREAT SINK MYSTERY
Now we were REALLY jazzed up!
With capes a-flying, we raced around looking for more secrets our brilliant minds could reveal.
And we stopped before the sink in the butler’s pantry.
I had recently done a post on the pantry, and its copper sink.
Bo Sullivan had commented on the sink. He thought it was unusual in being copper, as pantry sinks in 1894 were normally nickel-plated. As Bo is a Old House God, I default to accepting anything he says with absolute faith. (Those who know me will smile reading this, as this is SO not my normal instinct.)
So, what Bo said preyed on my mind. HAD the sink been nickel-plated originally?
Justin and I stared down at the small sink, as if willing it to spontaneously reveal nickel under the copper.
Then I said: “Justin, is it just me, or is the color of the sink the exact same color as the painted wainscoting?”
We both turned on our iPhone flashlights and pointed them at the sink.
The color WAS the same.
This meant that my copper sink was not copper, but simply painted a coppery color! Who knew!
I raced to get the paint stripper…
Justin and I felt good. Damn good.
We ended the day sitting on the front porch steps, our capes pulled close for warmth, and finished smoking our pipes.
It had been a good day.
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