Tamara, will you please join me in the 1894 telephone closet?

Yesterday, Tamara asked:

I’m dying to know exactly what does the inside of a telephone closet look like? Is the original telephone extant? Does it contain a simple bench to sit upon whilst making that all important call? That particular feature is one of the least mentioned in all of your posts and my curiosity is killing me. Please don’t let me die without knowing the answers to my questions. OK, perhaps I am being just a tad melodramatic, but seriously Ross, spill the beans and please tell us more about that darn closet. I really am fascinated by the thing.

When the Cross House was built in 1894 it was state-of-the-art. It featured wondrous new technologies and inventions:

  • Radiators!
  • Gas/electric lighting!
  • A dumb-waiter!
  • Speaking tubes!
  • A built-in ice chest!
  • A laundry chute!
  • And a telephone closet!

I am restoring all these features.

On the first-floor is a niche in the expansive entry/stairhall. To the left, is a door. The door opens to a small, oddly-shaped closet.

But this is no ordinary closet. One curious aspect is that it contains a round stained-glass window. There is also an operable transom window above the door, the only such feature in the whole huge house.

For, the closet was not intended for clothes, but for making telephone calls.



The niche. Looking poorly but still fabulous. The windows are stained-glass, but these have been removed for restoration. See the door?



The door has a transom window, the only one in the house.



The transom retains its original WAY COOL hardware, and it still opens/closes.



The closet is oddly shaped. Deliciously so. The waste pipe is not original and will be removed. Gleefully.



The lower walls feature the same Lincrusta which abounds on the first-floor, but is mostly missing in the telephone closet. No matter, I will have it recreated.



There is a small round stained-glass window, which looks…



…like this. It is currently being restored.



There is a very very very vintage light switch. I absolutely plan to retain this. In working condition.



Across the hall is this telephone ringer. I have no idea of how old it is, except that it is very very very old. Could it be original? The telephone closet would have certainly had a REMOTE ringer, as with the door to the closet closed nobody would have heard the phone ringing.



I greatly look forward to restoring the telephone closet.

I will also have restored the ancient ringer. Surely there exists somebody who restore such things?

I will install a landline wall-hung telephone in the closet. I will not install a phone from 1894 but rather a modern phone. A vintage phone would be cool, but not easy/comfortable to use, resulting in my not wanting to use the telephone closet much.

I will place a small, comfortable chair in the closet.

I will have installed a tiny shelf to hold a glass of wine.

And when all this is done, my first call will be to Tamara.






  1. Jason J on July 11, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    The box, looks like an extension or auxiliary bell….Since there isn’t a crank, there wouldn’t be a magneto, needed to place a call…Though it could have been modified, if you open it, you may get lucky and the wiring schematics may still be pasted inside…It may have a copyright date and manufacturers name on it….Just google 1890 telephone, and look at some of the beauties…..because the original owners were so wealthy, they more then likely had on of those on a stand in the closet…Doubt, they would have had a candlestick telephone…to “common folk” lol

    • Ross on July 11, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      The box is a remote ringer. I plan to do a post on it!

  2. Tamara on July 12, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Oh Ross thank you, thank you, thank you! I am in love with your closet. Such a quirky little feature which absolutely abounds with character! And now with my curiosity sated I can drift into dreams of quiet footsteps and late night trysts, of whispered conversation behind a closet door with soft light sparkling through a stained glass as round as the moon which it frames. I raise my glass to you in a toast of admiration.

  3. Tiffaney on July 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

    You’re so lucky to have found a house that still has a trace of things like the telephone closet, the dumb-waiter, the laundry chute, etc. These are things many houses had at one time, but have been removed from the majority of houses in an effort to modernize. I hate seeing big, old Victorians homes with nothing remotely Victorian about them!

  4. Sandra G. McNichol on July 12, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Ross, I read every single post that you create, and also enjoy every single one! I don’t always comment, well, because my dialogue is mostly an inner one.
    I LOVE Tamara’s request to you, and this post in response! I too have been very curious to learn more about your awesome telephone closet. Wonderful!

  5. Bethany on July 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Jealous. Just jealous. I want your life. Well, at least your house if I can’t have your life.

  6. Tony Bianchini on July 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Gasp! I guess we all collectivley came out of the closet together on this one… Egads!

  7. Carole Sukosd on July 12, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Jason, thank you for the idea to Google “1890 telephones”. I shall do that to see all of the choices Ross has. Ross, I can’t wait to check out your options! Your blog provides such joy to all of us followers. Thank you for sharing your Victorian Journey with all of us. I shall toast you tonight!!

  8. Lisa Phillips on October 25, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Cool Beans!! 🙂

  9. Seth Hoffman on November 2, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    That’s interesting that the telephone closet door is the only one with an operable transom. Were they going out of style by this time, or was it simply a stylistic decision by the architect? Perhaps the central heating made them less important for ventilation? Although I would think airflow higher up would be more important in summer…

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