The Cross House

Window Therapy

I have not posted anything in five days. This is the longest stretch of time with no new posts since I started this blog 2-1/2-years ago.

For, the events of the week have totally stunned, overwhelmed, depressed, and powerfully angered me.

So, I mostly just shut down.

Today though I knew that I could not live like this. I had to do something positive, something which uplifted me. Something which, in my own very tiny way, made the world just a bit better.

I thus called forth all my willpower, and demanded that we get something done, dammit.

My willpower came out of hiding after sucking its thumb for three days, while being curled up in a fetal position, and graciously, courageously obliged.

And Willpower is pleased to present:


The tower of the Cross House. Oh, how I love this tower. Now, look up. To the top level. See the windows? See the window on the left…the missing one? See the plexiglass which has been covering the opening for a very long time?


Now, look again! ZOUNDS! After much much much ado, I finally got the remaining tower sashes installed after a full restoration.


The other tower windows were restored and installed two years ago. But the sashes to the fifth window were nowhere to be found. Then, in the Aladdin’s Cave of the Cross House basement, I found the lower sash. Where though was the upper sash? Many months later I found three pieces of wood, which were obviously from a window sash, and could only be the missing upper sash to the missing #5 window of the tower. The three pieces appeared to all go together, but where was the fourth piece? Many months later I found it! Many months later I had the sash reglued/doweled, and many months later the glazing had finally dried enough to paint the sashes. And today, Willpower said: Install the sashes! And Ross did as commanded.


This was the intact lower sash, after an initial scraping. The sash retained its original THICK glass. Looks pretty bad, right?


But after a quick pass with the grinder, presto! It looks brand new! This is the outer face; the inner face was much much much worse.


After I installed the sashes, I stood back in the canavorous third floor and was struck by something. ALL the west windows are now restored. ALL of them. And this awareness generated, from somewhere buried under the immense weight of depression and shock and anger, a thin stream, gurgling up, of…happiness. And pride. This stream was nourished by the sudden remembrance of how terrible all these windows had been when I purchased the house in April, 2014, and the realization that ALL were now gloriously reborn. And, to my amazement, as I stood staring at this view, with the emotional stream bubbling up ever more quickly, I felt…good.


The octagon tower windows. The ceiling here is just under a height allowing me to stand. It is delightful to the extreme. This assumes I don’t smash my head into the low edge.


The west dormer windows. The lower sashes are original. The uppers I had made to match the destroyed originals. Luckily, I had one remaining (lower left). It proved very costly to EXACTLY match the original, but if I could deal with a subtle change to the profile of the cross bars, the price could drop by 60%. So, I ordered three new ones, and will store away the not-exactly-matching original. Who knows, it may be required again.


The tower windows. They look brand new. They SO did not when I purchased the house, and I previously wrote about these five Windows From Hell:
The tower windows. They look brand new. They SO did not when I purchased the house, and I previously wrote about these five Windows From Hell:


I set to work on yet another window sash from the upper-most reaches of the round tower. There are five windows way up there, comprising ten sashes total. Never in all recorded history have there ever been sashes which looked SO bad as these ten miserable specimens did. My God. Because the sashes are WAY up in the air, they, not surprisingly, received little attention during the last 120-years. Well, I should clarify that. While they received little EXTERIOR attention they did receive a great deal of INTERIOR attention. And none of this attention was good. The windows obviously allowed air to blow freely into the top level, and it is also obvious that decades and decades of freezing top-level residents tried anything and everything to seal the damn windows. So, I encountered copious amount of caulk dating back to before I was born, massive amounts of glue (now petrified), old rags interspersed with glue/caulk, old toilet paper interspersed with glue/caulk, and some sort of rock-hard reddish resin wholly unidentifiable but likely from the planet Krypton (as no such substance could possibly be of Earth), which had to be chiseled off (I kid you not). Then, there were also layers and layers of paint globbed on all this. Oh, and the glass was impressively dirty.

My God.

The sashes seemed certain candidates for the dumpster, but….but…when you own a house on the National Register of Historic Places you cannot be casual about tossing original bits away. Plus, well, I, ah, umm, get…excited about this kind of challenge. And what a challenge! I mean, what a thrill if these horrible, disgusting, and disturbing bits could be returned to their original condition. The satisfaction would be great indeed.

So, after the wood was coaxed into a condition which could, no doubt, be presented to The Queen without even a hint of embarrassment or social faux pax, I was able to reset the old glass and commence with glazing. 

And today, the five windows of the 1894 tower of the Cross House, are officially reborn.

As I drove home, I could not recall what had been previously troubling me so much.




47 Responses to Window Therapy

  1. Wow! Cavernous is right! I’m impressed by your willpower. The crocheted afghan I’ve been working on has gone from a lap blanket to queen size or so in the last few days. I’m not sure how practical that is, but it’s been therapeutic, I suppose.

    • I have a similar project and after years of crocheting, this week I have discovered incorporating breathwork into my hook and yarn. Inhale=sc exhale=sc inhale/exhale=dc ?

  2. We all are in shock…at least you have your beautiful project.

    Keep working on your house, she is looking great! Like a “lady”.

  3. “I felt…good!” (Cue the James Brown Band brass)

    You live Robert Browning’s “Epilogue”:

    “One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
    Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
    Sleep to wake”

    Three cheers, Ross!

  4. As I worked the polls and saw turnout like never before, I did wonder if you’d have something to read to take me away. Then I realized you, too, felt what I felt and I’m so glad you could muster up posting and with pics too.

    May we plan on seeing your house in person, when you can entertain guests! We need to imagine, think of something so great to witness in the future. I need to think and plan for joy and beauty that I’ve witnessed progress in action.

    Thank you for coming back to us now. I needed to see your house, your windows, and your hope for the future.

    Thank you Ross

    • Carole, I am always happy to entertain at the Cross House! It’s condition seems not to terrify people too badly! Splendor among the ruins!

  5. Don’t mind me as I plop a giant beanbag chair down in the octagon tower and recline in front of those beautiful windows with a good book.

    This here Canadian has been watching the goings-on down south and well… umm… hmm. Change is scary and sure can hurt. Hopefully things work out for the better. We will still be your friendly neighbour to the north. But please, don’t everyone up and abandon your beloved country simply because you didn’t get your way. Pull together and work it out, things could be worse.

  6. I’m glad you’re back and productive. I checked this page looking for solace amongst the stress. Thank you for this little haven!

  7. Dear Ross, in my city we have a new mayor who appears to be genuinely ready come January to be more than a figurehead, to hold the dept heads accountable. My district elected a council rep who proved while on the school board that she works and brings concrete ideas to the negotiating table. No more delay through yet another costly study.

    So we do have reasons to believe that we can improve our own Ross-house of a city.

    We have to dream and do or we cease to live.

    Thank you, Ross, for sharing yours with us.

  8. Hello Ross, it’s so very nice to see you back! I was truely getting a bit concerned. It’s rather ironic that you call the substance from Krypton “rock hard resin” because the name of it is actually Rock Hard Putty. It came in a round cardboard container with a tin bottom and top. It had a picture of a cartoon muscle man holding a set of dumb bells. My in laws had some in their “wash room stash” and they talked me into using it to patch a hole in my bathroom many years ago. It did become ROCK hard and was virtually impossible to sand.

    I want to tell you how happy I was to meet you last Monday. It was very much one of the top highlights of my trip!!! As I said on Monday, I wish I lived closer as I would be more than happy to help you!

    Keep a positive attitude and everything will work out. Immerse yourself in your wonderful home as it will be good for your mind, body, and soul!

    Yours Truely ~ Penny

  9. Glad to see you at it again, Ross, the windows look great! It almost makes me sad that I’m done with all of ours. Almost; there are PLENTY of other projects that need attention now, haha!

  10. I can not tell you how much I appreciated this post. I too have been in the dumps, missing what might have been, nervous about what might be. But your determination to “keep on trucking” made me smile this morning. Thanks for the upbeat post and the completed tower windows are a thing of beauty.

    • Thank you Brendan,

      I had not planned to state all the text above the first image. But a friend kinda scolded me. She said I should put the work I did into the proper context of how I was feeling; the WHY of the work. “Express yourself!”

      Based on the many supportive comments, I am grateful that I have smart friends!

  11. Joining all of the other voices thanking you for this post, each of us are waking and realizing the nightmares we endured Tuesday night are very real.

    But if with work and perseverance The Cross House can once again shine, so can we. Keep the faith, work hard and find joy where we can-like following you on your journey!


  12. You are doing such a wonderful job, taking care of that fantastic piece of history! Keep up the good work and please, keep us all posted with photos of your progress.

  13. I am glad to see you posting again because it means that even in light of the awfulness of Tuesday, you march forward. The week has been something that I’ve never experienced and I found myself taking up knot work again to calm myself. I’m glad the Cross House is there for you.

  14. Oh, this is absolutely delightful! The pictures of the tower windows from the inside are AMAZING! Thank you so much for this, I also needed something good after this terrible, awful, week.

  15. Hi Ross. I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been relying on it hungrily to keep myself steady in what felt like an increasingly scary time — only to discover that I had had no idea how scary the time would get.

    I love your beautiful house, and the work you’ve put into making it what it ought to be. I truly appreciate all I’ve learned about Victorian architecture and furnishings by reading through it. I was meaning to leave a comment telling you that you’ve enriched my daily life — I’m renting a room in a Victorian right now, and spotting the tin decorative details, the porch structure, even the black window sashes on other houses in the neighborhood has been really wonderful. But I wanted to leave a comment now saying that you’ve also given me a lot of strength in a very, very dark time. I hope things get brighter for you, and for all of us.

  16. Hello Ross,

    My first post to your wonderful project blog.

    As I love and collect old things there was a recommended Youtube video that landed me here.

    I can relate to your background in building as my father was also a Master carpenter, who didn’t like his fathers Plumbing business in Freeport Ill. I can remember his skill with a hand saw, and all hand tools for that matter. These tools were kept like new in his carpenters tool box, which he probably made himself.

    His level of pride in his work was the same kind that built the Amazing Cross House.

    Keep up your spirit and great work. The wife and I can relate to your feelings over the last week.

    Send me a link to your web site or your eBay store please.

    Best Regards, Bob…..So Cal Sierras

    • Thanks, Eric!

      [Hey everybody, Eric has a new blog where he comments on architecture and preservation. As Eric is a world-class curmudgeon, his observations are fun to read!

  17. Please, someday, allow a couple little girls to bring their books, dolls, and ponies up to play in the light of the octagon tower. Make sure they have their twirling dresses on, too. What a magical day that will be!

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