Trying To Reveal The Past

While the Cross House has remained…relatively speaking…largely intact during its 127-year-life, the adjacent carriage house has been through a lot.

A lot.

I knew none of this when I purchased the property in 2014. Indeed, I did not even know that the carriage house WAS the carriage house to the Cross House.

The ensuing years (combined with intense curiosity) has revealed much:

  • The structure just south of the Cross House was, indeed, the original carriage house.
  • The structure was, circa-1921, sold off.
  • The structure was then converted into a house. It was moved west and atop a new foundation. Its north ‘barn’ was sliced off, pivoted to the east atop a new foundation, to become the new kitchen wing. The roof was pierced by many dormers to create a habital second floor.
  • The structure was later converted into three apartments.


So, in 1894, it seems that the structure had a huge roof interrupted only by a turret. But, why a turret? Was this simply a decorative element to complement the Cross House? Or was the turret, with its three windows, a room for the groom?

I have pondered these question for years now.


In walking through the second floor of the carriage house, I now understand that what I see a dates from the circa-1921 conversion. In 1894, the second level of the carriage house was likely a hay loft.

But…what about the turret? Was it, too, just part of a hay loft? Or, was it a room?


I discovered that layer and layers of paint simply peal off from the turret room and the process is rather intoxicating. Cody then fell under this spell, and began pulling sheets away, too. In the process, a large area of paint pulled away from one of the turret windows. Revealing…drum roll, please…the original shellac on wood finish.


I created a new opening for a door in the east wall of the turret room. And…found a square-cut nail. 


These images offer potentially vital information.

In the Cross House, the servant’s areas are all shellac on wood. Plain and simple. During the 1921 conversion, it seems doubtful that such a finish was still common, with paint being the preferred choice for the era.

And what about the square-cut nail? While such nails were used in 1894, I think round nails were common by 1921 (round nails were used for the base molding). So, is this evidence that the east wall is original, confirming my suspicions that it was a separate room (possibly for a groom)?

These two clues are tantalizing, and potentially support that the turret was an actual room in 1894. It is now plaster on lath, but this work would be part of the 1921 conversion. If the turret was a room, it would have likely been bead-board, as is the third floor of the Cross House.

More clues might be revealed in time. If the other second-floor trim (all heavily painted) is shown to have an original shellac finish, this would indicate that the turret shellac trim finish dates from 1921. However, if none of the other trim is found to have an original shellac finish, then this would surely confirm that the turret finish dates from 1894.

It is all quite exciting. The past, slowing revealing itself.





  1. Julie on July 25, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    I love your fascinating mysteries, and the fact that you delight in them. It makes me happy.

    My little house, originally a one room house built in 1877 has square nails, and I so covet them. And when the house was added onto in 1900ish, virtually all of the lumber involved was salvaged from an old barn, and from the original porches, and from god-knows-where-else. And many square nails were used too (along with so many different sizes of other nails, I can’t count!)

    During the much needed demo/rebuild (of the addition) , I salvaged every square nail I pulled from all the lumber I salvaged. I wore out a nail puller, and probably pulled ten gallons of nails total. I straightened all the square nails, which is surprisingly, and very satisfactorally, easy to do.

    Some were used to restore a possum belly baker’s table for my daughter. Some were used in the big base cabinet I built for the kitchen, and some were used for hanging utensils in the kitchen. It made me happy do do so.

    I look forward to the solving of your mystery!

  2. Laurie L Weber on July 25, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    I can never get over the fact of how you uncover all these wonderful things. Were you an archeologist or detective in another life? Always so interesting. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Dan Goodall-Williams on July 25, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Love this. Really fun. Interesting. Just don’t let it slow you down.

  4. mlaiuppa on July 25, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    Shellac on wood. Fabulous! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a servant’s quarters. I can’t think of what other use it would have, being on the second floor and all. I would think they would want to store equipment on the ground floor with the horses and carriages.

    Now, is there any way of peeking behind the plaster to see if there is bead-board up there? And if there is….would you remove the plaster and restore the wood?

    I stripped some trim in my house but ended up with bare wood. No shellac. And the wood wasn’t that attractive either. So the baseboards and trim in my 1922 (lathe and plaster) house were always painted. Kind of a disappointment as I as hoping for something a bit more Craftsman. But except for two spots where I had to repair where the plaster had come off of the lathe, the house was in surprisingly good shape. Minimal bastardizing. I did swap out some trim where it had been cut around a light switch plate. I got a replacement piece from inside a closet and then just cut the switchplate. I had to do that in three places, all from the 1949 remodel. I don’t think the workmen were used to such wide trim.

  5. Leigh on July 27, 2021 at 4:37 am

    Perhaps the turret used to be the coachman’s saferoom? A place to rest when he is not yet needed or a place for him to securely leave his livery, instead of lugging his boots to and from work everyday?

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