The Devil is in the Details





Ah, old homes . . . gotta love them. Builders of bygone eras were craftsmen, painstakingly installing custom details such as inlaying hardwood floors, wainscoting, and ornamental plaster work into the houses they built. However, it wasn't just architectural touches they added. No, indeed, a well-heeled home needed a few “extra” features to make it complete.


My own 110 year old home has a Fold-down Floor on the third floor. How they ever got a pool table up there, I will never know, but they did. However the U-shaped staircase did not allow for optimum aim for pool shots on one side. The solution? Replace one of the banisters with a folding floorboard. This floorboard covered the stairwell and provided an extra 36 square feet from which to shoot, not to mention keeping nagging wives and pestering kids from getting upstairs while you entertained the boys. See, they did have man caves back then . . . the just happened to be up rather than down!


And what other feature does an upstairs man-cave need? A Dumbwaiter of course!! This ingenious little tunnel in the wall allowed food to be hauled up and down several stories, using a series of pulleys. That way, the wife could cook you guys up a little snack get it to you even when your fold-down floor prevented her from bringing it up herself.


Wife won't bring you your food? No problem. A lot of homes at the turn of the 20th century had servants. A convenient little Foot Buzzer hidden under the dining room table kept the staff in your kitchen at your beck and call without, well having to beck and call.


You may have had servants, but you certainly didn't want to actually see them to think they had the run of your house! Servants' Staircases solved this problem, keeping the staff off your main stairwell and hidden in the back rooms where they could remain out of sight and out of mind.


Ditto for the Butler's Pantry. This area adjoined the kitchen, and provided storage for food, extra counterspace, and a place for cook to hang out if the lady of the house decided to try her hand at firing up the old cook stove.


Deliverymen apparently were also too inferior to meet eyes with the Master, because homes were built with Chutes for everything from coal and ice to milk and mail. Coal was shoveled through a door directly into the basement, mail was shoved directly through the door, and milk, eggs, and ice were left by deliverymen in convenient little storage boxes built into outside walls with pass through doors into the interior of the home.


The ultimate chutes however, was the Funeral Doors. Special doors were installed on the outside wall of the parlour at hearse level, so that coffins could be easily transported in and out of the home. Only the most lavish Victorian homes had them, and you knew you had really arrived when you had this way to depart!





Frederick Pollock

Frederick Pollock

CENTURY 21 Harbour Realty Ltd.
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