The Cross House

Wanna Meet My Basement?

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The basement of the Cross House. The original 1894 drawing. What was actually built does not precisely match what was drawn. In 1950, the basement was converted into five motel rooms, and each with a pink en-suite bathroom.

 

  1. Servant’s stair. This goes to all four floors, and is the stair I mostly use. I think of it as the default staircase.
  2. Stair to exterior.
  3. Original laundry room.
  4. Dumbwaiter. Now lost but I will recreate it.
  5. Laundry chute. This is only extant on the second floor. Everything below was removed. I will recreate the missing section.
  6. Boilers.
  7. Workroom (under dining room).
  8. Storage (under library).
  9. Room (under stairhall).
  10. Room (under parlor).
  11. Location of extant motel bathroom.
  12. Room (under entry hall).

 

ROOM #3 Laundry

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I removed all the motel rooms. But their ghost imprints remain, as seen on the floor of the original laundry room. 1) Motel room. 2) Door to motel room. 3) Hall. 4) Closet. 5) Door to bathroom. 6) Toilet. 7) Tub.

 

The pink plastic remains of the bathroom.
The pink plastic remains of the bathroom. These will get covered by the recreated laundry chute and dumbwaiter. And maybe a century from now will be rediscovered.

 

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The laundry room has these HUGE south-facing windows, in a dry moat. The sunlight is currently obscured by scaffolding. The upper sashes are above ground level. The 1894 laundry room will again be a laundry room. A gorgeous, expansive, and comfortable laundry room. Dare I say it will be the second-nicest laundry room in the entire galaxy? (Amy has THE nicest.)

 

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This is the “monster wall” I built to prevent the east facade of the house from collapsing. You see, above the wall is the east exterior wall of the kitchen. Above that is the second-floor wall. Above that is the roof load. And all this massive weight was…suspended in mid-air. Because the actual foundation was five feet over to the left, and holding up…the porch floor. Yep, totally idiotic. But no longer.

 

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I believe that sunlight is a gift from God and should never ever EVER be disrespected. So, these lines to the three AC condensers will be removed, relocated through the foundation, and the window will look like…

 

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…this when restored. When I purchased the house this window had one glass pane with a Y-shaped crack through it, and the other pane had been lost and replaced with cardboard held in place with duct tape. Well, I can put up with a lot, but I have limits, and this affront was rectified moments after I closed on the house. Moments!

 

 

ROOM #6 Boilers

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There are four high-efficiency pulse boilers. I love them to an unnatural degree. You are looking about $40K worth of equipment and installation. Golly.

 

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Aboard ships, no matter the condition of the hull or decks or interior, it is tradition that the engine room will be SPOTLESS. Everything will be painted and polished and GLEAMING. And this is how the “engine room” of the Cross House will look. The floor and walls will be painted in high-gloss paint. The ceiling will be varnished beadboard. There will be no rust or dust or cobwebs. The room will be a shrine to OCD cleanliness. People will gasp upon entering the room, their jaws slightly dropped in awe!

 

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The vents for the boilers were installed where a window was. An affront to God. These vents will be removed, moved over to the right, and punched through the foundation. And the sash will be restored and returned. I will be very happy that day. God, too.

 

 

ROOM #7 Workroom

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Because I was brutalized in childhood, I have a hyper-sensitivity to brutality. This even extends to inanimate things, like this brick opening to the workroom. It had been brutalized, and many bricks were missing. Both vertical sides were jagged, causing the opening to look more the result of a bomb blast than a deliberate opening. So I had the brickwork restored, and a little bit of brutality was mitigated. My pleasure was, and is, great, and I often smile when passing through this portal.

 

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The workroom has this fabulous eyebrow window, even with ground level. I love love love it. When I purchased the house the window was, I thought, frosted glass. You could not see through it. RIGHT after buying the house I went outside, placed myself flat down in the snow, and tried to see if I could clean it a bit. To my amazement it proved to be CLEAR glass! It took a sharp straight-edge razor to SCRAP off decades of dirt. When the window is restored, I will have the interior paint analyzed to confirm the original color (or varnish) and recreate this finish. The basement may be a basement but the windows, at least, will be GORGEOUS, dahlink!

 

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The wiring I inherited. I call this spaghetti wiring. ALL of it will be redone so it looks like…

 

...Ross wiring.
…Ross wiring.

 

 

ROOM #8 Storage

 

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This is the Aladdin’s Cave of house bits. A lot of what is missing UPSTAIRS can be found here, DOWNSTAIRS. This room makes me tingle.

 

 

ROOM #11 Motel Bathroom

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There were at least eight pink bathroom added to the house when it was converted to a motel. Only this one remains, the ONLY Mouse Palace Motel bathroom remaining in the whole universe. Wow. I am going to meticulously restore this treasure. It retains its original sink and tub, and I have another motel toilet. The flooring is original and it, too, will be restored. The original light fixture is in situ. The mirror is missing; I will find one on eBay. The pink tiles will be replaced (but in ceramic rather than plastic), and when all is done and shiny I will add the perfect final touch: fluffy pink towels. The room will be a delight to pee in.

 

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Original tub. All the fittings will be re-chromed. I like the green racing stripe in the floor.

 

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The original built-in toilet holder, the very acme of deluxe. I polished this.

 

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When the bathroom is completed, I will hang this framed image (click to enlarge) which will include an explanatory text about Mouse’s Palace Motel and the meaning of a luscious pink bathroom in a basement.

 

 

ROOM #12 Storage

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The basement is fully heated with the original radiators. Which are, surreally, on the ceiling. Huh? This perplexed me to no end and NOBODY knew the answer. Not even the burly radiator guys. But then I discovered why! When radiators were first introduced, they were gravity fed. Today, the hot water is pumped. But with a gravity-fed system, the radiators need to be ABOVE the boiler. Oh!!!!!!!! Today, I could lower the radiators to more sensible locations but they are just SO cool hovering overhead like cast-iron UFOs.

 

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When I removed the motel bathrooms I had the non-original openings infilled with concrete block. I did this rather than use red brick because I did not want to confuse the historical narrative. Fifty years from now anybody looking at this will know that SOMETHING was changed here.

 

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Many of the original wood basement windows were replaced during the motel conversion with steel casement windows. These kinda charm me, and I am going to retain them. I am desperate to restore them but cannot figure out how the detach the sashes from the frames.

 

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I did though find a source for new crank levers!!!!!!!! They now open/close again!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

19 Responses to Wanna Meet My Basement?

  1. You are my HERO! Thank you so much for the detailed basement descriptions, maps, and photos! You have the coolest basement around, as I suspected. I also think it is really great that you recognize the value of the 50’s changes and are preserving a sampling of those. I would love to come use your pink bathroom in your basement when it’s done!

  2. I love this post. I am SO EXCITED about the restored motel bathroom. Also, your laundry room will be so much cooler than mine (though I appreciate the compliment). Have you SEEN THOSE WINDOWS?!?! I am so jealous.

  3. Hi Ross:
    After this week, reading about your basement has been soothing. In fact, you inspired me to start working on my kitchen again.

    When you get a chance, can you give use a tour of the staff staircase? I’m so glad it was never turned into an elevator.

    Traci

  4. I LOVE seeing the bathrooms. Grandpa Mouse built his home on Mouse Lake in 1957 and must have liked that kind of toilet paper holder because they were in his new house too. Also, a guest bath had the pink tile. My parents house was built in 1963 and same kind of toilet paper holders. I’m sure they are common in those years, but it just tells me that Grandpa liked them 🙂 I like the fact that you are leaving some of the remodeled portions from the original 1894 home. You are right, otherwise, how would the history of the house be maintained? I like that.

    • I love that “respect” is being made to the remodeled portions of the house, as well. And to the Mouse Motel. I remember when my Aunt and Uncle (Frank and Esther Toms) bought the house and continued to run the motel for a time. Somewhere I still have one of the old room keys. (smile) I would definitely like to see some portion of the house maintained to show the history of my Aunt and Uncle living there as well. I believe they owned the house longer than anyone (1960 – 1993). Thirty-three years. I think it would be nice for that part of the history to be maintained as well, since they were part of it and maintained the house for one third of a century. I truly do love reading your blogs and seeing the great things you have done with the house. It brings back a lot of memories seeing all the rooms that I grew up in when my Aunt and Uncle owned it. Thanks so much!!

  5. Ross, if it wasn’t obvious in your proceeding posts, this one shows how much love and attention you are giving that “old lady”. I am in awe of what tasks lay before you but even more impressed with what you’ve accomplished. I know it’s “just a house”, but it’s part of our history and a hero was needed to preserve it. It just goes to show a hero can come complete with a carpenter’s belt and dream.

  6. The Cross House will have a Mamie pink bathroom! Well don’t that beat all.

    Thanks for taking us on a tour of your basement. I’d kill to be able to root around in the storage room and discover treasures.

  7. I admire your ambition and dedication. I can’t wait to see the “after” pics too. It’s going to be hard to beat Amy’s amazingly cheerful laundry, but I’m sure your attempt is going to blow us all away in a completely unique and stunning way.

  8. I’ve been a silent reader of your blog for quite sometime…

    I wanted to thank you for your dedication not only to your home, but also to your blog. It brightens up my day when I see you’ve posted something new. Your attention to detail, and ability to bring your home’s history to life never fails to enchant me. I look forward to reading about your future adventures in the Cross House. 🙂

  9. I think it is so cool to see your pink bathroom; the bath in the house I grew up in (parents built it in 1959) had that same pink plastic tile floor to ceiling, the same tub, and (gasp) THE SAME FLOOR TILE! I had forgotten about the tile, grey with black, white, and pink jagged stripes. BTW, I envy your boilers. Ours is from the mid 70s, it’s about the size of a chest-type freezer and takes up a lot of floor space. Nothing feels better on a cold winter night than a hot radiator!

  10. Oh my!! You want a spotless engine room? And you are still available!??

    Um our heater is covered in dust, any wood shavings from projects remain on the basement floor. Not many shelves so bins of tools all on the floor. It’s a total disaster down there. That’s my husband’s domain. 🙁

    I try not to go down as it gives me an attack every time I do. I have “my corner” of stuff on shelves. Neatness has to be a trait already in you. You cannot teach someone to be neat and organized if they were never taught as a kid and it doesn’t come naturally. Sigh. OK that’s enough of that.

    I admire how neat and organized your renovation is conducted. Amazing

    • Actually, when I was much much much younger I was a PIG when renovating! There would be dust everywhere and debris and tools all over the floor.

      But, over time, I learned that it was MUCH nicer, and SO much less draining, to be neat.

      I also know people who are military. They may have been slobs when they were kids, but post-military they are often paragons of OCD perfection!

  11. Ross you are a delight! The basement story was refreshing especially about being gleaming and no dust, cobwebs or debris. I just found your blog and will look forward to keeping up with continued improvements. Sometime when I am able I will to contribute to your funding efforts. You are very responsible.

    Sandra

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