The Cross House
When the Cross House was built in 1894 it was state of the art.
Today, it would be like having a home built wholly wireless and with LEED green certification.
In 1894 this meant:
1) Both gas and electric lighting. The former was a proven technology; the latter was new and unproven. Hence, being modern in 1894 meant having both. The Cross House? Check!
2) Not just a telephone (oh, the wonder!) but having a telephone closet. The Cross House? Check!
3) Speaking tubes, the very acme of in-home communication modernity! The Cross House? Check!
4) Not just fireplaces (sooooo old-fashioned) but new-fangled radiators! The Cross House? Check!
5) A dumbwaiter. The Cross House? Check!
6) A laundry chute. The Cross House? Check!
7) A built-in ice chest. The Cross House? Check!
The miracle of the Cross House is that considering all it has been through (private residence, tea house, sorority, apartments, motel, several fraternities, boarding house, and private residence again) it is so wondrously intact.
All seven state-of-the-art systems which were installed in 1894 are still (mostly) extant in 2014.
1) Sadly, all the original gas/electric lighting was removed decades ago (sigh) but all the gas pipes remain. Kinda cool. I would not dream of tearing them out although I am ripping out every single other redundant pipe.
2) The telephone closet (with a stained-glass widow!) is extant. Not only will I keep this delightful feature but I will install a land-line telephone, a small chair, and a small shelf for a glass of wine. When you go inside the closet and close the door the acoustics are great.
3) The speaking tubes are mostly extant, and I will be restoring the system.
4) All eight(!) coal-burning fireplaces are extant, and their mantles, and over-mantles. Truly a miracle. The radiator system is intact and has four new high-effeciency pulse boilers (and I love love love them).
5) The dumbwaiter is partially extant. I will fully restore this cool feature.
6) The laundry chute is partially extant. I will fully restore this cool feature.
7) The ice-chest is fully intact.
I have never seen a fully intact 19th-century ice chest, and have no idea how the Cross House ice chest managed to get through 120-years without being fully removed or partially torn apart.
ABOVE: On the back porch of the Cross House is the outer door to the ice chest. It is up kinda high. I have NO idea of how the ice man would have gotten heavy blocks of ice up to the door. As you can see, the door is fully intact, including all its hardware. I cannot wait to get this all painted, and the hardware burnished. The door is currently surrounded by an array of electric boxes; these are all going to be removed and dropped into the basement. Why? Well, they distract from the beauty of The Door.
ABOVE: Inside the pantry is the main ice chest door. It is about five-foot in height. Again, it is fully intact. I am uncertain if it was painted originally or finished bright. The bits of what look like wood are brown paint under the white paint.
ABOVE: When you open the door there is this incredible stepped edge. Wow. And the door is THICK! I imagine the inside is stuffed with sawdust, right?
ABOVE: The inner stepped edge. Geez.
ABOVE: The whole interior is lined with galvanized metal, and with built-in shelves. I have no idea of how to clean the metal but am determined to have the interior gleaming one day.
ABOVE: The drain from the upper compartment (where the ice would be stored) to the basement, where it connects with a main drain pipe.
ABOVE: Looking at the top of the main compartment. Until I saw this image I had no idea that the top was wood! You can see the drain. I have never looked inside the ice compartment itself (and did not even realize this until writing these words. So, a new adventure this week! Update to follow!).
A part of me would love to have some sort of modern refrigerant thingy (a compressor?) installed so that the ice chest could act as a refrigerator.
Another part of me does not want to alter this time-capsule in even the tiniest way.
Another part of me longs for a state-of-the-art refrigerator in the kitchen. Thus the ice chest, even though fully restored, would likely be regulated to a broom closet.
As the renovation of the kitchen is a while away I have plenty of time to ponder options.
Your thoughts are invited!