The Cross House
Like most every room in the Cross House, the kitchen looks like a bomb has gone off in it. The entire ceiling is missing. The walls are missing large areas of plaster. Flooring is missing. Trim and wainscoting are missing.
But what remains is…good. The original yellow pine flooring is under later linoleum. Much of the wood wainscoting remains, as does almost all the trim. The original colors/finishes are hidden under many later layers of paint.
My plan is to restore the room to its 1894 appearance:
- Unearth the pine floor and refinish.
- All the wainscoting and trim are heavily over-painted. The original colors/finishes will be scientifically determined. The wood will be stripped bare and repainted in the original colors or finishes.
- As will the plaster walls, which will be repaired.
- The lost dumbwaiter and laundry chute (extant only on the second floor) will be recreated.
- The lost speaking tube (extent in the rest of the house) will be recreated.
- Period-correct gas/electric lighting will be installed. VERY simple fixtures.
- The red brick chimney breast will be stripped of paint.
- The missing cabinets in the main pantry will be recreated.
Once the room itself is restored, then what?
This be a question I often ponder.
While the kitchen is a good size there is almost no room for base cabinets. There are an incredible six doors in the room; one double window, and one single. There is no wall for an upper cabinet. I know, amazing.
The saving grace of the kitchen are the two adjacent pantries. A butler’s pantry, and main pantry. There is also a servant’s hall, which will be the breakfast room. These additional rooms offer enough extra counters and shelving for the kitchen to function well.
Of great interest is that the kitchen may not have had any built-in cabinets in 1894. The sink would have been up on legs. And tables may have sufficed for counters. Indeed, there is no evidence that there were any built-in cabinets in the kitchen.
It is possible though that a long sink cabinet could be installed under the south-facing double window, and a small cabinet under the single window. That is it. But what should these cabinets look like?
- The original cabinets, if any, would have almost certainly matched the very plain cabinets in the main pantry. Do I recreate this look?
- Or do I go for a 1920s style kitchen? This way I could have a useable gas range, and a refrigerator. One of those cool monitor-topped ones. If I went this route I would do 1920s lighting.
- Do I go for a 1950s kitchen? This way I could have an even better gas range, and even better refrigerator. If I went this route I would do 1950s lighting.
- Do I go modern and install very simple but obviously 2016 style cabinets, and modern appliances? If so, I would, perversely, do 1894 gas/electric lighting.
By choosing Option #1 or #2 or #3, I will — EEK! — be confusing the historical narrative. I AM LOATHE TO DO THIS.
If I recreate the 1894 main pantry cabinets for the kitchen people will walk in and say: “Oh! You have the original cabinets!”
If I do a 1920s style kitchen most people will react the same: “Oh! Your kitchen is so original!”
If I do a 1950s style kitchen most people will say: “Ugh! When are you going to redo the kitchen?”
The house is remarkably intact, and I have a strong disinclination to confuse what is original with what is not. Thus, my instinct is to go with Option #4: Very simple base cabinets (again, there can only be two cabinets), modern in design, and with white Carrara marble tops. Modern appliances. Period-correct gas/electric lighting.
This way, the room itself will radiate 1894, but the cabinets/appliances will be obviously contemporary. And the historical narrative will not be fucked with.
Well, these are my thoughts for today. They may be different tomorrow.
Now, wanna meet the kitchen?
- Butler’s pantry. Its north wall (separating the pantry from the dining room) is not shown.
- Main pantry.
- Servant’s hall.
- This was originally a closet (left) and laundry chute and dumbwaiter (right). I have already recreated the closet, and will be recreating the lost dumbwaiter and laundry chute.
- Back covered porch.
- Servant’s stair.
NOTE: The full bath shown will be returned to its original half-bath configuration.
AND IN THE 1890s….