Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Imagine About 100 years ago

Now I'm making things up, but here's what I imagine. To get you in the spirit here is a video slide show of appliances that go with the era.

Plaster is great stuff for walls, but it has its drawbacks. You don't want it to get wet when you are mopping those wood floors. I imagine this is why some still call base boards "mop boards". Those big wide boards protect the plaster from wet mops.

If you had a little extra money and you wanted to dress things up a bit you'd ad a "cap" moulding to that mopboard. The cap moulding by its self probably has more wood in it than the entire baseboard of some new homes.

If you have a little more money you have a servant stair from your kitchen to a room upstairs in the back of the house. The floors in that room were probably maple instead of oak. You may have gotten away with clear fir for the floors and trim for the servant's room. Definitly no cap moulding.

You don't want to pound nails into plaster or you might start a crack so you hang art from wires on hooks that attach to wood picture rails that run around every room near the ceiling.

If you want to display plates or other nick nacks in your dining room, then you have a plate rail. Since air conditioning hasn't been invented by the guy in Minneapolis yet and you have radiator heat, you might have transom windows above the door that crank open and closed to control air circulation.

The radiators have decorative covers and little pans hanging from them that you put water into for humidity in winter.

There are lots of big windows with wide trim "ganged" together sometimes in twos or threes or maybe a bay window with a window seat. Every window has a window sill. When did window sills become extras?

Little ropes go up from the window sash and over pulleys into the window casement. The pulley's squeak and you can hear the window weights clunk around when you open the window. If the rope breaks and the weight falls off you can remove the brass screws in the wood that holds the window sashes in. Then you can open the casement and reach in to replace the rope.

There is a room in the basement that is full of coal and in the winter someone has go to go down there and stoke the furnace.

They say folks were shorter back then and places were harder to heat. So I'd like someone to explain to me why more than a few homes had nine and ten foot ceilings.

Stairways railings and newel posts were catalog items back then, probably on the next page from the built in buffets and book cases. The beveled mirrors had thicker glass and wider bevels than the mirrors you buy today.

In late afternoon the sun sparkles through a leaded glass window in the living room.

Imagine, the front door had a window, maybe curved, full length with beveled glass with decorative, machine carved designs in the wood. In the middle of the heavy oak front door or perhaps in the wall next to the door is a brass door bell. A real bell with little clappers in it that spin round and round when a guest pushes on it.

You live in a new developement, you have indoor plumbing and a model "T" parked in the garage. Natural gas is piped in by the city for your lights and stove.

What will they think of next? -Try electricity for one.

Your refrigerator uses ice blocks and you get meat from the meat market right before you cook it. The butcher knows you're having a big roast this Sunday so he has it on hand. Everyone is taking the street car out to White Bear Lake this weekend.

I'm not a history guy, and I just figure things out I can imagine the technology. Telephones must have happened around then, airplanes? Imagine the machines and factories, new jobs.

This was a high tech world and people were amazed at themselves for living in it. This home was designed for beauty and comfort. This imaginary old home is still comfortable and pleasing.

OOps, sorry I've got to get off of the old house theme.

1 comment:

John Tittle said...

Every time I write I'm dogged by the idea there is no original thought. Everything you say, every idea you have springs from something someone before thought of. Someone even said that before me! My last post was such a great idea, I didn't even think about it, I just wrote. How clever I was to compare today with 100 years ago.

I don't read all that much, so it's not hard to track that idea down. Strange such a reminicent theme should come right after the new year when I might sit and read a magazine or something..

January issue of Smithsonian has an article by Jim Rasenberger which I read and really enjoyed over the holiday. It's not about houses, its called "1908- The Year that Changed Everything". He does a much better job than me in setting the scene for the time.