The Importance of the Small Bits


The Cross house front porch, 1895.

The Cross House front porch, when new in 1894. Of course, it is all intact. Deliciously, gorgeously, and fabulously intact. I spend way too much time staring at this image. Lustily. Longingly.


The front porch, June 2014.

The front porch, June 2014. Ahhh….it is no longer intact. Over the last 120 years columns have rotted away, porch railings have been removed, and the lattice seemingly moved itself to Florida, no doubt.


In 2014, It is something of a miracle that the porch remains at all. Almost all late 19th-century porches were wholly replaced at some point in the 20th-century. That the 120-year-old Cross House porch remains, albeit battered, is something I am deeply grateful for.

Still, with so many bits missing, it is like looking at a beautiful woman, who smiles, only to reveal several missing teeth. The effect is, ah, diminished.

So, too, with my front porch.

There is no way to express how much this bothers me. I have no idea WHY I should be bothered as such. I mean, the house needs 4,567 things attended to STAT. The missing porch bits are not an emergency situation. Yet, I really really really want my porch made right again. Damn it.

There is good news however.

The columns are redwood. Geez. More than half are missing. I found most in the back yard. They were carried into the house, where they have spent months drying out. It developed that I only needed a few columns made.


The columns sit on bases. I need a dozen, and these have been ordered.


Above the columns are hand-carved redwood capitals. Geez. By some miracle only four were missing. Others need repair. The four missing capitals have now been recreated in some sort of space-age resiny material which, once painted, cannot be distinguished from the orginals.


The delightfully low railings were in the basement. Most of the spindles are OK. Most of the rails are shot. These are being ordered next month.


Luckily, a few bits of lattice remained, and these have offered an invaluable service as templates (when one owns a house like this, one cannot just run off to Home Depot and buy some lattice. Noooooooo, one has to precisely match the scale and thickness of the original lattice, damn the cost). One long straight section has now been made (for the north porch), and the rest are ordered.


Most of this work is being done by a guy who owns a house comparable to the Cross House. Obviously, the guy is comparably insane to the owner of the Cross House. Well, kindred spirits are a lovely thing.

Anyway, I am crossing my fingers that all these bits will be installed in 2015, and that the 1895 image and the 2015 image will match, but with the latter being in glorious color.

Hence, my being breathless with anticipation.


The redwood columns. I am in love with them to an unnatural degree.

The redwood columns. I am in love with them to an unnatural degree.


  1. Sharla Hayes on August 31, 2014 at 11:59 am

    This is gorgeous!

    • Marlene Sathekge on March 25, 2020 at 2:50 am

      Hi Rob, I’m new to your blog. Love the house/project. Have you thought about making this a video blog instead of just a blog? It would be so great to see video of the work being done and you discussing your plans, etc.

      Just a thought (it could also help with the fundraising).

  2. Lynn Emery on September 8, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Hi Ross. I am totally loving the new color scheme! I’ve never been much of a fan for blue exteriors and when I first saw this house, I thought to myself that if I had it, I would change the blue colors. Great job!

    • Ross on September 8, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Hi Lynn!

      Thanks for the kind words!

      The new color scheme is actually an old color scheme! I am repainting the house in its original colors.

      It is exciting seeing the original scheme return bit by bit.

  3. Sophie on November 23, 2016 at 4:59 am

    What an amazing property!

  4. Timo on December 30, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    In the black and white photo, the columns appear to be two colours. The hand carved capital and the ring above the base are the darker colour, while the rest of the column is the lighter colour. Why did you choose to paint the column one colour?

    • Ross on December 30, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      Hi, Timo!

      If you keep reading, you will find that I did the columns a different way.

  5. Trena Wawrzyniak on February 27, 2021 at 5:42 am

    Hi Ross I admire what you are doing to this beautiful house. I was fortunate to work as a nurse, in the early 1990’s, I was her nurse for the last 5yrs of her life. To a wonderful woman who owned a beautiful old mansion all original with amazing wood work,stain glass,etc. Gertrude Sternbergh, Reading, PA.The mansion was n still is called”Stirling”. Her father had the house built. J.H.Sternbergh. After she passed away it was sold n turned in to a bed n breakfast. All of the original beautiful wood work has been kept. The rooms have not been broken up. The new owners have changed paint n wall paper. Check it out . Google it.

    • Ross on February 27, 2021 at 10:41 am

      Nice to meet you, Trena! And thank you for the lovely comment!

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