The Cross House

Wanna Meet My Servant’s Stair?

A few months ago Meg asked about the servant’s stair in the Cross House.

The stair serves all four levels of the house, and is my primary up/down route.

The previous owner gutted the stair as he planned to install an elevator. While I am grieved at the loss of all the original plaster I am grateful that an elevator was never installed. I love the servant’s stair.

Each section of stair is U-shaped. You go up half a flight, sweep around a landing, and go up another half flight. I plan to install U-shaped railings which will make running up/down rather a thrill!

 

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Looking from the kitchen down to the basement. Not. Much. Left.

 

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From kitchen up to landing. There are two such windows. I love them.

 

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When the stair was gutted all the trim was, blessedly, carefully removed, and companion bits tied together and stored in the basement. While marked as to where they went, it still proved a bit daunting to find their correct positions.

 

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It will be enormously satisfying, one day, to untie the blue twine and return each bit to its intended position. A stair party will certainly be called for!

 

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Looking up to the second floor. A small area of plaster remains on the brick chimney. The missing trim half-way up the way is curious. What was it there for? Did it go around all the walls? The trim might still be in basement, unidentified.

 

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This is the “fancy” trim as seen in the main rooms of the house. WHAT is some doing in the servant’s stair?

 

The stairs are now painted gray. Were they originally? Or were they varnished? I will have this tested to confirm the original finish, and will recreate the results. Same for the remaining plaster and trim.

I plan to install very simple gas/electric pendants on the ceilings of the landings. The last U, from the second floor to the third, will receive gas/electric sconces as the landing ceiling is too low. Same for the first floor to basement. There is no longer any evidence as to where the original lighting was, and none is shown on the original drawings. Big sigh.

 

10 Responses to Wanna Meet My Servant’s Stair?

  1. Do you think there were railings originally? I’m glad you are putting them in but wondered if the original servants had them.

  2. I do not see evidence of a railing on the bit of plaster left by the chimney but of course there may have only been railing on one side. Although I’d bet there was no railing since there were solid walls on either side. Perhaps we need a historian to tell us whether hand railings were common on servant stairs in 1894! VERY NICE stairs still, thank you for the formal introduction!

    • I would google “historic paint analysis”.

      There are a number of companies, and I have used Welsh in the past.

      Prices will vary between companies, and on what you need done.

      I believe they can date the paint.

  3. Wouldn’t a railing have been screwed or nailed to the studs, leaving telltale marks at the appropriate height? I can’t possibly imagine them screwing a railing only into the lath.

  4. If you have it, perhaps the second floor doorway’s trim will show the profile of the mystery trim that was installed halfway up the wall.

  5. I find that there is something so mysterious and fascinating about servants stairs. I’m thinking of Downton Abbey and all the scurrying that servants did behind the scenes of the family’s life. I think it’s such a treat that you have them still and can recreate them. Imagine the stories they have to tell!

  6. Do you know how many servants lived in the Cross House at its prime? Obviously a housekeeper (from her room!), but surely also a butler, cook, and probably at least one kitchen maid right? Also Harrison and Susan probably had a valet and ladies maid. That’s six already! I wonder who else?!

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