Doors of History

My wife has recently stripped the doors in our house and has begun to repaint them.  Like most turn of the century homes in the area, they have wooden doors.  These doors are substantial, hang poorly (in most cases) and preserve the history of the house in through the marks in the door.

The archaeology of the house is preserved in the house itself.

This door shows at least four different lock and works on the door preserved under multiple coats of paint.


The evidence for an earlier latch:


In this detail you can see the outline of the earlier doorplate, cylinder, and lock.


An upstairs door show another set of interesting marks preserving tiny bits of the houses history. The elegant doorplate and crystal doorknob probably date to the earliest years of the house. While the floors upstairs in our house are fir as opposed to the floors downstairs which are a more luxurious maple, the doorknob and plate show certain concessions to display in the more private quarters of the house.  Of course, a nice doorknob and plate is an easy addition to a house at some later date, but the floors on the second floor are more or less permanent.


Evidence for the use of a simple latch on the inside of the door.  The door must have been pushed open a few times because it’s clear that someone forced the door open, striping the simply threaded latch, and causing someone to drive the latch back into the door again in a slightly different place.


  1. September 1, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Here’s what I find interesting in the transition of locks. 1) The separation of the lock and handle, held in one piece into two different mechanisms and locations, 2) The shift from the presumably ornate composite to the “security” aesthetics of the newer bolt. Most likely what happened is that the original mechanism was too complicated to service and it had to be replaced, but no composites were available. The technology of the new pieces is 1950s. The 1950s/60s in-situ locks I’ve seen tend to have the color of the actual material, brushed aluminum. The fact that these have been faux-plated to look like bronze makes me think that the switch occurred after the 1980s, probably 1990s. Now if you’re really crazy, you can start hunting for the original 19th c. fixture. There are some crazy antique stores in Pennyslvania where you walk in and see literally thousands of locks. But I wouldn’t go there. KOSTIS

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