The Butler’s Pantry. A MYSTERY!

See how the upper door, inside, is varnished pine?


But…wait! Why is the lower door a different wood? I never noticed this before.


Is this oak?


This baffles me.

WHY are the lower doors a different wood?

And why…


…are the two lower doors of a different style, outside AND inside, from the upper doors?



I never noticed this before, either.

The two lower doors have a large metal strap that goes across them, attaching to the lock hanging to the left. See?

This indicates that the lower cabinet was intended, or used at some point, as a silver safe. OK. But, why change the style and wood of the doors?


The original drawing. The doors in question are lower right. Here, they match all the other doors. 


[CAUTION: As drawn is often a different thing than as built. For example, see the two very tall doors, upper left? That is not what what actually installed. Instead, there are FOUR doors: two tall-ish lower doors, and two short very upper doors.]

So, why are the “silver safe” door entirely different than everything else in the pantry?

I have an idea.

Perhaps someone damaged the original “safe” doors trying to steal the family silver? If so, were new doors made to replace the damaged doors? And, if so, is THIS why the pantry was painted????????

It has always seemed odd to me that the butler’s pantry, originally varnished, was later painted. Why? Almost nothing else in the house was. So why the pantry?

Even if I am right, why paint the entire pantry just because two small doors did not match? Seems like overkill.

Anyway, this is all rather a mystery!



  1. Adam on January 14, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    I notice that the shelves appear to be hung using a different system than the other shelves above. Perhaps that might provide an additional clue?

  2. Cory on January 15, 2019 at 5:53 am

    Someone broke into the silver safe and stole the original doors…..but theyleft the silver.

  3. glenn on January 15, 2019 at 7:17 am

    It could be white oak, or perhaps ash.

  4. mick on January 15, 2019 at 7:41 am

    It definitely looks like oak. My money is on those doors being a salvaged item from something else at some point. Severe damage to the originals seems like the most likely reason to me. I think the painting was just a (bad) style choice at a later point. You may be able to detect if they ever had shellac on them when you strip them of course

  5. Derek Walvoord on January 15, 2019 at 9:32 am

    I vote for white oak. Maybe it was stronger – a preventative measure to keep the burglars out? Or someone stole the silver and mucked up the original set – I like that story better!

  6. Sherrill on January 15, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Curious indeed. Is it possible that the “as built” was drawers and later retrofitted with repurposed doors and shelves?

  7. Barb Sanford on January 15, 2019 at 10:42 am

    You have solved many mysteries about this house. Maybe Bob Rodak can provide a clue?

  8. Bethany Otto on January 15, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    You do know that you have officially the most interesting house in north America, right? At least the way you present it makes it seem that way!

  9. Brian A on January 15, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    I’d be running all over the house trying to figure out if those lower doors matched cabinet doors anywhere else. Maybe the other pantry? The laundry chute or dumb waiter? The upstairs closets-turned-bathrooms? The Murphy beds?

    • Ross on January 15, 2019 at 9:08 pm

      Done that already, Brian!

      The “safe” doors match nothing in the house.

    • Brian A on January 15, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Upon closer inspection, I’m inclined to think they’re original. They look slightly narrower than the upper doors. The trim piece to the left (where the padlock is attached) appears wider next to the bottom doors, and it doesn’t appear to have been altered.

  10. Sherrill on January 15, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    My vote is that the bottom was retrofitted after the Crosses sold the house. The Crosses would not have used a clumsy metal strap and padlocks. The new owners needed a lockable space, possibly because they had employees in and out. They removed “as built drawers,” which would have been made with a partial overlay to line up with the cupboards above, and had doors fitted so they could be secured with a strap.

  11. aBell on January 15, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Not an expert, but my vote is ash for those replacement doors. I can’t quite visualize this metal strap closure, and that lock, the screw eye and hook dangling above and the lock just don’t match or add up to original at all. I can’t tell from the photo, but the shelves inside that lower cabinet look different than the shelves above, are they? My thoughts lean towards a locking cabinet for frat boy ritual items kept locked away? Or motel receipts kept under key? Maybe a place to stow liquor away? It just does not match the rest of the pantry to be part of original Cross House use.

  12. Carl on January 16, 2019 at 1:50 am

    Joanna Gaines from Fixer-upper found the doors and thought they would make really cute shelves to display knick-knacks from Target in the dining room of a ranch house?

  13. Peter J on January 16, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Is it possible that that part of the house was built last? If not a catalog item it may have been built “in situ” with whatever lumber was left over from the rest of the house? As a part of the house for the servants the look would not have been as important?

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