The Mystery of the 1894 Kitchen Sink

In my previous post I presented plans for the kitchen of the 1894 Cross House.

Several readers wanted to know why I was not going to install a big ol’ sink against the south wall.

To answer this question a bit of sleuthing is required.

 

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My kitchen. The bottom of the drawing is south.

 

The kitchen abounds with space and doors and windows and high ceilings.

It does not abound with wall space. Really, it is quite absurd how little wall space there is. On the drawing above #2 marks the only wall. #3 marks the brick chimney breast, where the original range was (and will be) located.

Now, let’s look at 1890s sinks.

 

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Slate.

 

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Enameled.

 

What both sinks have in common are very tall back-splashes.

And very tall back-splashes require a wall. But the Cross House kitchen had but a single wall, #3 in the plan above.

But this wall shows no evidence that a sink was ever installed there, and the original flooring under shows no holes for a drainpipe or water lines.

So, where was the friggin’ sink?

The ONLY possible location was in the SW corner, marked #1 on the plan above. But a huge double window is on the south wall.

This meant that the very tall back-splash on the sink would have covered part of the window. This seemed highly unlikely until I recently found the following image:

 

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See the nice lady preparing a meal? Look closer…

 

...and closer.

…and closer. The very tall back-splash is covering part of the window.

 

In the Cross House, there is a huge double window facing south, just like in the above image. My left window had a large radiator under. Due to its height, this meant that the sink was likely under the right window, and a drainboard was likely over the radiator. Sorta like…

 

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…this, but reversed.

 

Well…well…there is just no way I was going to cover up part of my glorious double south windows with a sink.

No. Way.

And this is why, in part, I developed the plan shown in my previous post.

Oh, one more thing?

 

1880?

When people think of big ol’ sinks they tend to think of this kind of sink. And I adore this kind of sink. But this is a post-1915 kind of sink, two decades later than the Cross House.

 

 

 

17 Comments

  1. KatieKofeMug on December 12, 2016 at 9:08 am

    The kitchen sink was often in the Pantry, hold over from scullery days. In a large, working house w/servants, dividing up the work space makes sense. Just as it makes sense not to cover beautiful windows, or have your sink in another room when you don’t have an army of servants 🙂 Happy Monday!

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      The main pantry has never had a sink.

      The butler’s pantry has a tiny sink.

  2. Barb Sanford on December 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Love your sleuthing abilities! And I love your plans for the kitchen. I’m looking forward to seeing how the evolve, because I have a feeling your the kind of person who plans, but is always open to new ideas to improve the plan.

  3. Carole Sukosd on December 12, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Don’t you have a green sink ? Also, my grandma’s sink was in the pantry, as I noted in an earlier comment. Close the door and no one saw the dirty pans or dishes. Her kitchen had stove and later a fridge and a beautiful round table and chairs. That’s it .

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      The green sink is for the carriage house.

  4. Mo on December 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Friends in Oklahoma who bought a big old early 1900’s “mansion” had a relatively unrestored/renovated/remuddled kitchen. Their existing sink was similar to the slate at the first image above. Their Icebox, probably an update, was in the adjoining butler’s pantry, with an ice door on the back porch, behind it. The only built in I remember was a baking station: A cabinet with a huge breadboard for a surface, a bin below for 50 lbs of flour, and a couple of smaller ones, and a set of shelves against a wall to the right, glass fronted, to contain condiments and mixing ingredients. Loved that house! It also had a larder outside the kitchen, beneath the stairs They sold the place years ago, and it probably has granite counter tops now. The original stove was gone, so while they were considering what to do with the rest of the house, they simply installed a functional 30″gas range — anomaly, but they were able to use the kitchen basically as they found it — with the one exception of moving the laundry from the huge basement laundry room up to what had probably been what you will be converting to your breakfast room. For their informal meals, they had a round oak table in the center of the kitchen.

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Wonderful comment! I love learning about OPK.

      (Other People’s Kitchens)

  5. Farlena on December 12, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I would have the long, white sink just because I loved it and because I could!

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      But where would you put it?

  6. Farlena on December 12, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Well, my mom has a Youngstown double enamel sink with 2 drainboards. The back splash is only about 5 or 6 inches high in the back. It sits on metal cupboards that went with the sink. She bought it second hand in the early 60’s, in Youngstown actually.

    You might see something you like as you go along and incorporate it, and maybe have a lovely sink in front of the windows but not blocking anything.

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      I have the same sink in my current house! And I love it!

      But such sink, post-WWII, is not period-correct for the Cross House. And the back-splash, while not as high as an 1890s sink, will still cover up the lower part of the windows. This will create a kinda well, where dirt and dead bugs will collect.

  7. [email protected] Ridge on December 12, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    So, did you find any evidence on the floor or such that the sink really was in front of the south window? The wall location next to the main pantry still feels to me like the natural original location in terms of function. Could the drain have gone back into the wall rather than through the floor? Oh, the many mysteries of the Cross House!

    • Ross on December 12, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      The flooring under the great south window was rotted and eaten by termites. Indeed, the whole wall, too. All was torn out in 2014, so I have no evidence of a sink against the window.

      The wall location next to the pantry shows no evidence of a sink, as mentioned. And the pipes could not have gone into the wall because it is filled with sawdust! For the built-in ice chest!

  8. Melody on December 13, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Would there be any evidence of the sinks location in the basement? Old supply and drain pipes still hanging around?

    I understand the resistance to cover up any part of a window. It’s just sad that something as well loved as an old sink (that kinda sounds weird) is not going to work.

    • Ross on December 13, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      There is no evidence of where the 1894 sink was. Any evidence was lost when the flooring under the window, and the south wall, are rebuilt in 2014 due to termite and water damage.

      A period-correct sink would cover like 18-inches of window! And the “well” behind the backsplash would collect dirt and dead bugs!

  9. Cody H on December 14, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Is moving the window higher up on the wall not an option? Being that the move wouldn’t be more than a foot or so, give or take, would it make that much of a visual impact in the exterior of the house?

  10. montana on December 16, 2016 at 5:03 am

    When I was very young (late 40s) our kitchen had a cast iron sink about 8″ deep but 2 X 4 feet. In the ealy 50’s they got smart and installed enameled cast-iron with a regular sink on the left and an extremely deep sink on the right – perfect for washing large amounts of fruits and vegetables or milking machines. But then, our kitchen was 18X24 so there was room. At the same time with a monster fireplace and 7 doors and 2 windows, wall space was in short supply. There was a pantry but on the north so no one spent much time there in the winter – definitely not a place for a sink.

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