The Key to Happiness

In 2014, I purchased the Cross House. And for a year I used the back door because I did not have a key to the front door, north door, or south door.

Then I contacted Greg from Midwest Locksmith. He came by and fitted the front door with a key! Oh what a thrill to enter from the front door!

Also, I particularly appreciated that Greg was able to re-key the original lock. He never suggested simply installing a new deadbolt lock as is common. You know, like this…


…oh, the horror! Eek.


Greg was amazed that the door retained all its original hardware and never had a new locket installed.

He also took apart the 1894 lockset and made all its inner parts work right. Now, by just pushing a button, I could “lock” the door or “unlock” it. This proved handy when I just stepped out for a bit (like to mow the lawn). I can “unlock” the door, mow the lawn, and then open the door without a key. I love this feature! Modern door locks offer no such convenience.

Greg also greatly admired the hardware. He thought it was incredible. Great is obviously, a kindred spirit.

About a year later I had Greg come by to work on the north door. He did his magic, and re-keyed it so I could use the same key as the front door! It was a thrill to now enter the north door from the outside!

Now, after much ado about getting the “red door” reinstalled in its original location at the south entrance, it was time for another Greg visit. And, like magic, I could, for the first time


…walk up to the south door…


…insert a key…


…and open it!!!!!!!! OMG! OMG! And then…


…I could step into the vestibule!!!!!!!! And then…


…I could insert the SAME KEY into the vestibule door, and walk into the house!


As Greg was leaving I thanked him for his ability to restore the original locksets to working order rather than drill a hole in the door for a new lockset. He smiled, and said: “My father would be pleased to hear that.” I didn’t understand and asked what he meant. “My father taught me everything I know about hardware.”

Oh. Wow. I was so touched by this. I smiled at Greg. He smiled back.

Before he left, he handed me a gift. I was totally blown away. Scroll way down. Prepare to be gobsmacked.


















O M G !


Greg gifted me with an Austerlitz knob set! These are the knobs on the house! They are incredibly hard to find (as Bo and Cody well know!).

I gasped! “WHERE did you find this?”

“I was rummaging around in my doorknob box the other day, found this set, and thought: Don’t these match the knobs in the Cross House?”

Staring at this treasure, I replied: “Several doors have gone missing from the house over the years. I wonder if this set actually came from the house?”

“Could be. In all my career I’ve never come across this pattern before.”

So, well…wow.


So, once again, in a tiny tiny way, something is better in the world. With thanks to Greg. And to his dad.





  1. Linda A. on January 29, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    O.k. this is getting spooky. But wonderfully spooky. House parts are coming back to you like pennies from heaven. Kinda falling into your lap. It is a sign. The house wanted you as much as you wanted the house, Ross. And obviously good deeds don’t go unnoticed!

  2. Ramona on January 30, 2020 at 1:03 am

    This just warms the heart.

  3. Stephanie on January 30, 2020 at 2:02 am

    This whole post is a shining ray of loveliness.

  4. Heather on January 30, 2020 at 3:18 am

    I never would have thought I’d find a post about keys locks and doors so interesting lol.

  5. Miss-Apple37 on January 30, 2020 at 6:04 am

    So many cool things in this post! And this vestibule door with colored-glass, don’t remember seeing it before! Nice one!

  6. Jenine on January 30, 2020 at 8:18 am

    I don’t know if you need any more of these, but I found a complete door set on ebay!

    • Ross on January 30, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Hi, Jenine!

      Yes, that set has been on my radar for a while, but the backplate is too small! They came in a number of sizes, and I did post about this a short while ago.

  7. Bethany on January 30, 2020 at 8:32 am

    That’s amazing! One more little thing is right in the universe.

    Also, we had a front door lock set like that in the 1904 house I grew up in; you could push in the little button to make the door stay unlocked. Unfortunately, as a kid I often as not locked myself out of the house (before I was entrusted with a key) because it was usually in the locked position.

    • David F on January 30, 2020 at 8:43 am

      We had the same thing in the 1930s house I grew up in. My parents called it “the night lock”. (Is the night lock on? Did you set the night lock?) It allowed you to exit without unlocking, but not enter. I never knew why the called it a night lock, because night was the only time they actually used a key to lock the bolt on the door.

  8. Robin Biddle on January 30, 2020 at 8:41 am

    WOW! Bravo shoutout to Greg! How wonderful!!! Cross house is like a huge magnet attracting all of its bits and pieces. Upon entering the door with the gifted knob you can always harken back to this kindness and repeat the good vibes in thought and THAT is an awesome way to enter a home!! Good JUJU at work here, Ross! 🙂

  9. Beth H. on January 30, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Everyone who comes your way wants to add a little bit to the house, Ross – I love this story! That doorknob is so unusual that I’d definitely say it was original to the house… own it! And can I just say that I LOVE the lincrusta in the vestibule? So beautiful. Some day, I promise myself we’re going to get out there to tour the house. And before we do, I’ll have to ask if you’re looking for anything that we might find in a NY flea market!

  10. Beverly on January 30, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Oh! Such loveliness. I don’t recall even on the tour seeing that gorgeous tile in the porte cochere vestibule, or the inner door, whose stained glass matches the round windows in the servant’s back stairs. It warms my heart that there are still craftsmen like Greg and you, who carefully restore instead of taking the fast, cheap, and easy way (typically with horrible aesthetic results) of drilling and slapping in modern parts. Reading your blog is always a bright treat in my day.

  11. Chris on January 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Look! A sign from the universe that you’re doing good work. The house parts are coming to you.

  12. Sandra Lee on January 30, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Returning Cross House door hardware!!! Remarkable and heartwarming story! Further proof that all planets were in alignment for you to buy and restore to former fabulous beauty– the Cross House!!

  13. Louis J Copt on January 30, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Hi Ross.

    Why is it that your posts always bring a small tear to my eye.

    My best guess is that 526 Union has a special place in my heart.

    526 is the place where I proposed to my wife of almost 50 years, in the very room in fact that you are remodeling into the airbnb suite, the Octagon Room! After we were married we left Emporia and hitchhiked around Europe and once again landed at 526 and moved in to the top floor where our son was conceived and spent the first two years of his life. Frank and Ester became surrogate grandparents and were so patient and tolerant of our many parties and frequent guests.

    I grew up dirt poor living in a shitty apartment at 407 1/2 Commercial above the Town Royal, then to 919 Constitution in a ramshackle house that was barely habitable.In college I lived in a dingy apartment above what was Roberts Leather Goods downtown. When Phyllis and I decided to live together we moved in to a broken down trailer house at Paradise Trailer Court way west of town.

    Driving around one day we spotted a “For Rent” sign on the porch of 526 Union. We immediately snatched the available Octagon Room and thought we had moved to the Taj Mahal. Imagine the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s black and white life was transformed to the colorful world of Oz.

    526 will always be my Oz. I am so grateful for what you are doing to bring that treasure back to life!

    • Beth H. on January 30, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      What a wonderful part of your history – and the Cross House history – you’ve shared with us all! Thank you so much for reminding us of how many lives and stories have been lived in our well-loved old houses. We used to have previous occupants drop by in our 1889 farmhouse when we were young first-time homeowners… and now my husband has done the same to the current occupants who just bought it last year.

    • Ross on January 30, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Louis, what a beautiful comment!

      Thank you for sharing your remarkable story!

  14. Brita on January 30, 2020 at 11:41 am

    We need more craftsmen like Greg. They are becoming a rare breed!

  15. Linda A. on January 30, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Louis J. Colt, I love your story! Now that brings a tear to my eye!

  16. Cindy Belanger on January 30, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    What a nice gesture and gift from Greg. Total surprise indeed. So nice that there are still craftsmen that know about the workings of century old hardware and take pride in doing a good job.
    And that backplate on the red door is gorgeous. When we moved into our house, we too used the back door because the front door key was missing. About six months after we moved in, my husband spotted something shiny in the grass at the side of the driveway. Imagine his surprise when he picked it up and tried the front door, that was the missing key.

  17. Jackie on January 31, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    This post, and all the comments have completely made my day!!

    What a positive delight it all is. 😀

  18. Seth Hoffman on February 3, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    That is great news! It’s wonderful seeing an original lock tuned up to continue service, and even better to see one returned to work! So often (as you jave observed) people either tear up the door drilling it to add a new lock, or discard the original and sloppily adapt a modern knob or lock in place. It’s such a scar on the entry that sets the tone for the place. It’s great seeing yours true to itself 🙂

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