The Devil is in the Details
Ah, old homes . . . gotta love them. Builders of bygone eras were craftsmen, painstakingly installing custom details such as inlayed 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.
A robust 110 years old, my previous home came crowned with a third floor walk-up attic, which the original owner thought was a brilliant place to put a pool table. How he ever got up there, I will never know. What I DO know is that this pool shark was unhappy with the limited shot potential on the staircase side of the table. The solution? He replaced one of the banisters with a fold-up floorboard. When lowered, 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 . . . they just happened to be up rather than down!
And what other feature did an upstairs man-cave need of 1910 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 her men up a little snack and deliver it to them even when the 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 in the floor under the dining room table kept the staff in your kitchen at your beck and call without, well having to beck and call.
While the Master and Mistress of the house appreciated their servants, they didn't want to actually see them performing their duties. Servants' Staircases solved this problem, keeping the staff off the 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, were 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!