The Cross House

Wanna Meet My Third Floor?

The Cross House has five levels:

  1. Basement.
  2. First floor.
  3. Second floor.
  4. Third floor.
  5. Attic.

The first three levels are heated by radiators and have a 2-zone central AC system (and one zone can also heat the first two levels if the radiator system fails for any reason).

The third floor has forced-air heating/cooling.

The third floor is locally known as the Ballroom. While it may have been used as such during its long history it was not designed as such. This is confirmed by an 1895 newspaper article on the house:

“On the third floor are servant’s bed rooms which are nicely fitted with bath room and closets — and there are, also, two large store rooms.”

In short, the third floor was the domain of servants and storage. I suspect laundry was hung up to dry on the third floor during the winter, too.

 

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The third floor of the Cross House. The top is south. All the images enlarge if you click them.

 

  1. This dormer was never built.
  2. This area does not have full head room and is under-the-eave space.
  3. This area was built as two rooms. Over to the left was a full bathroom and, I think, a walk-in closet, and over to the right is what I call the Plaster Room, as it was originally plastered. As was the bath and suspected closet.
  4. This wall was never built.

 

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The big room of the third floor is all beadboard, “in southern yellow pine” (from 1895 article). Including the ceiling, which is now covered by sheetrock. The wood was originally varnished before some ding-dong painted it all white. Argh! ARGH!!!!!!!!

 

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So, this is what my third floor would have looked like originally. This is the astounding Armour-Stiner House, which I did a post on. Image Joseph Pell Lombardi.

 

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Looking west. The image does not covey the enormity of the space. It makes each visitor gasp. Hexagon tower to the left; round tower to the right. Much of what sits in the middle of the room are five dismantled armoires which were installed in 1929 on the second floor to house murphy beds for the newly created apartments. When the house was converted into a motel in 1950 the beds were removed and the armoires used as closets. I plan to reinstall most of them. Now, if you start to turn clockwise…

 

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…you see the north wall.

 

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And more north wall.

 

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A bit more north wall.

 

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The north niche. Which I enjoy saying. It has full headroom. The hand print is from a 1980s tenant.

 

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East wall.

 

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On the south wall are doors to the only separate rooms on the third floor. The left door went into a full bathroom. The right door went into, I surmise, what was either a housekeeper’s room or servant’s hall.

 

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The left side has two floor levels. The high level is because of the porch below and its high ceiling. The lower level was the 1894 bathroom, which had plaster walls. The upper level was also plastered, and had a single window. Its purpose is unknown (closet?). The toilet on the upper floor dates 1926. I will most certainly be reusing it. There be nothing better than peeing in a historic loo.

 

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The wall between the rooms. This is typical of the whole house, and while the angled braces are a good construction technique they make it a bitch to rewire. These rooms were stripped to the studs before I purchased the house and it pains me to think how much encoded information was thrown into the dumpster. Sigh.

 

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The tell-tale trace of plaster walls is evident.

 

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Speaking tube!!!!!!!! This goes down to the sewing room below. And last year I purchased the missing mouthpiece on eBay! I cannot wait for the moment to restore Speak!

 

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The south gable originally had a triple set of windows. Only the one on the left remains. The other two were replaced by a door, and a fixed-glass panel. The door was to access a massive L-shaped metal fire-escape, which I had removed as it blighted the house and dominated the fabulous porte-cochère. One of my great joys is de-blighting the house in every possible way.

 

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The original triple window set. Only the one on the right remains, sorta…

 

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…and the sashes have been reversed. I will have this window restored. The poor dear.

 

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The Plaster Room door opens to a non-original landing, which led to the now removed fire-escape. As it is quite pleasant stepping outside, I plan to keep the landing and install a very discreet railing. That is the carriage house you are looking at.

 

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This is my plan for the south rooms. Full bath to the left and with two original doors in their original locations. You will be able to stand at the sink and look out the window. The Plaster Room will be a guest bedroom.

 

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Today Justin and I, because we are quite manly, hauled the heavy tub into place. I am uncertain if this is the original tub, or from the 1920s.

 

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Justin felt an urgent need for a bath.

 

I would love love love to restore the Big Room. But it will be used as storage for the kazillion vintage lights I have. As will most of the basement. This huge storage capability is why I can justify the house.

At some point I hope to sell the lighting business. Or marry well. Then, I could restore the third floor. And a glory it will be. It is painful to me that, at least for a while, its beauty must remain muffled.

 

 

22 Responses to Wanna Meet My Third Floor?

  1. De-blighting…I like that word. Why did people slop white paint on everything? Our woodwork retained the original finish clear up to the mid-80s, when my dad’s cousin owned the house. His wife wanted to “lighten up” the interior so they painted nearly everything, only the staircase escaped…

    • Sadly, it still happens today. Watch the remuddling disasters they foist upon viewers of HGTV. Actually, don’t watch them; you’ll feel less angry.

      The saving grace is most bad white paint jobs are done over poorly-prepped shellac, so stripping it isn’t as impossible as it may seem. Still a massive pain, but often worth it.

        • (1) If Ross delights to de-blight, does Seth struggle to de-muddle?

          (2) Re peeing in an historic loo, I’ve got a toilet w/ gadrooned hopper and copper-lined oak tank, rescued from a wantonly demolished U.S. senator’s Edwardian home. I tell visitors that’s as close as I’ll get to a seat in the Senate.

      • The constant painting of wood elements on these shows just makes me crazy! Hate, hate, hate it! I hate painted trim anyhow. See it all the time on decorating and diy blogs, paint everything white and live in a supernova. Blech!

  2. Seeing that fabulous space sorta makes me wish our third floor wasn’t full of maids’ rooms, and the fact that all that beadboard isn’t rotted through is a testament to those indestructible shingles of yours given the neglect on the rest of the house.

    I think it’s unlikely the laundry would have been dried up there though – with a huge basement that was presumably fully finished with laundry facilities, and HEATED, I’m guessing they didn’t haul wet laundry up three floors (did the dumb waiter extend all the way up?)…Even my smaller big house had a dedicated laundry in the basement, with plenty of wire clothes lines that are still hanging about.

    • Hi Meg!

      The reason why I suspect that laundry may have bee dried on the third floor in the winter is because it would have been the warmest level in the house as the heat from the three floors below would have all risen to the third floor.

      But, again, this is just a suspicion of mine! You are likely correct though!

      [This is Meg’s house!]

  3. Yay! I’d been hoping for this tour for a while. I can only dream of the attic and what’s under the turret!

    Here’s an original-finish Doug Fir beadboard 3rd floor from my town. Toured it when for sale and the picture can’t do it justice.

  4. Why not use the basement for your lighting business and restore the third floor? I really enjoyed reading your progress with the Cross House, I showed the blog to my parents and they couldn’t believe what it looks like now. You are really are an inspiration, I too hope one day to own my very own old house. Finding Old House Dreams which lead me to your blog has been one of the best thing to have happened and your posts are the highlight of my day. Keep up the amazing work. Take care.

    • Hi Leo,

      Thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot to me.

      My business requires about 5,000 square feet of storage, so I need the basement and third floor. I will also likely have to make the attic more accessible and use it, too.

  5. I wonder how the door would look with a muntin grille to echo the upper sashes of the flanking windows? Perhaps the same pattern applied to the upper half of the glass, scaled up from the windows? There may be other designs that would look even better.

    • If I add a muntin grille on the door it will confuse the historical narrative.

      I am always loath to cause such confusion.

      As it is now, the door and adjacent fixed glad panel are obviously non-original and read as such. So, a person can tell at a glance what is original and what is not. I like this.

      Because the “balcony” is so nice to be on, I will leave the door. Normally, I would be itching to tear it out and recreate the lost original elements. Itching!

  6. “Deblighting wherever possible.” That belongs on your business card!

    I can’t wait to see your lights strung across that vast expanse. It will be dazzling. Then if you take on an apprentice, you also have a room to offer with the nominal or nonexistent stipend. Oh, wait, we’re not in the nineteenth century anymore. If Virginia has a board to regulate apprenticeship, surely Kansas does too. Check.

    I agree with Meg that it’s more likely that laundry was dried in the basement in the winter. But maybe third floor during extended summer rains when the furnace is off and the basement is damp.

    Thanks for treating us to the tour and the babe in the bathtub!

  7. I have had the privilege of visiting that floor. The space feels just glorious.

    It’s actually larger than the ballet studio where I attend classes on Monday nights.

    I tried to talk Ross into leaving the floor open so I could use it to practice my tour jetes, but he has a business to run.

  8. Justin in the bathtub sure gives perspective to the size of the wall framing!

    I can just see this third floor packed full of chandeliers and wall sconces, with Ross slowly stripping away all that ugly white paint, simply because it cannot be allowed to remain.

  9. Yeh! Yeh! Yeh! But where are the bubbles?? My home was nondescript. I’ve tried to make the accessories to the property Victorian. My house was part of a quick build housing project for a German company settling here to have housing close by for employees. That being said, it looks like a wedding cake in proportion on the outside but not much design inside except for the fireplace. Anyway, we had to build me a bathroom and my son found me the best clawfoot tub on the pedestal! I thank him often for the delight I get daily from my bubble-filled soaking tub. The best invention ever. My previous house had a claw footed and it was so hard to clean under.

    I’m babbling now…

  10. I love the openness of your third floor. I love the potential of the space. I bet it would be a perfect place for yoga and/or meditation practice, surrounded by all that open space and warm wood.

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