13 January 2008

Front Door Story

Curious about the last two posts? Well, maybe I'd better start at the beginning.

This is the front entry to Oliver's bungalow. The door that is currently there came with the house, but is definitely not original to the house. It is old-ish, but it is not original. There was some damage to the door jamb (maybe they had a break-in?), and I suspect that was when they replaced the original with this one. It is similar to the other exterior doors, on the side and the back of the house, but the lights on those doors are vertical, just like the windows. The lights on this replacement door are horizontal. Plus the panels aren't quite the same as all the other original doors in the house.
Now, we got very lucky with all the other doors inside the house. Anything that was taken down over the years was tucked away in the attic or basement. As a matter of fact those doors were in better condition than the ones still hanging. I think they were removed very early because some of them had not ever been painted. I suspect the only reason the original front door is no longer here is because it was damaged beyond repair. Perhaps the glass was broken?
In any case, the door on the left is the future door, and I think it is much like what was once there. I can't say for certain, but judging by all the other bungalows and four-squares in my town that still sport their original front doors, mine should look like this one.
The exterior side had been painted, hence the need for this box:
I had hoped to not need this stuff for a long, long time, but here we are again...

There is a story behind how I acquired this door. We always knew the front door was wrong, not a big deal, nothing urgent, but it is one of the first things one sees. Sort of a first impression for the house. And my impression is that it looks like a quick fix. Which it probably was.

So for over two years we searched all the salvage shops and antiques stores in the area. Idly, casually at first, then more intensely as we got closer to finishing the major projects. The problem was that, although this door is extremely common on older houses in this area, they are really hard to come by as second hand. We only found two doors in this style in two years of searching. The problem with those was that they were too narrow- around 31" wide. That is not an uncommon width for a house built around 1930, but Oliver's bungalow has an uncommonly wide door for a house of its age: 34 1/4".

We priced a new wood door made in the same style: around $1800. Not really in the budget at this point! So we kind of dropped the search for a while.

Then one sunny summer morning, as mom and I were leaving town, late for work as always, we spotted a door. Not exactly what we were looking for, but it was propped against someone's porch with a big "free" sign on it. And it was old. It was full-view, it just didn't have the grill work- we figured maybe we could fake it. But like I said, we were already running late for work. So I called my dad, who works in town, and asked him if he would check it out. It was about a block from where he works, he should pass it on his way there. I asked him to see if it would fit my house, and if it did, could he and grandpa just leave it on the front porch?

I was really excited. I thought, oh, we've finally found something that might work- and it is free! I got to work, and thought about it all morning, boring all my co-workers with my magnificent find, crossing my fingers. At lunch I called to see if the door was a good fit. My dad was out on a job, but grandma knew about it. (My dad works for his dad, and grandma keeps the books- it is a small family business.)

Grandma tells me that the door was too narrow, and that it must have been cut to fit the spot it was in because it was not square anymore. Disappointed, I asked grandma to thank dad for me. She says she will, then she asks "What sort of door do you want?"

So I asked her to turn around and look at the front door of the shop. "Just like that one, grandma. That's the kind of door that should be on my house." It is a lot easier to show someone this kind of door than try to describe it.

"Oh," she says, "I think we've got one of those in the barn at home."

WHAT! Really? Just like that, after searching for two years, my grandparents have just the door I'm looking for, right there in their barn? Of course they do. My grandfather saves everything, and the barn is packed full.

"Yeah, it used to be on the house." It used to be the front door of my grandparent's house, which they built sometime around 1950. I never really paid much attention to it, we almost never use the formal entry, we always come in through the kitchen. Grandma wanted one of those new, fancy front doors. You know the kind, oval glass with lots of faux gold leading holding the textured glass design in place.

I tried not to get too excited this time, it might not be wide enough, the door might have been given away, or any of a number of other things could go wrong. I patiently waited, tried not to pester my grandfather, but I was anxious to see if the door would work.

Then one day in August, my dad calls and asks me if I looked in my basement today. No. Why? So I go down to the basement, and there it is. The most perfect door! Oh I was so happy. They had measured it before they dragged it out of the barn, and it is actually about 1/4" wider than needed. Perfect.

So there you have it. My front door story. Now, if we can just get it stripped, repaired, and stained to match...


Jennifer said...

How exciting!
That is the door I want for OUR house, too! Of course, I need a 32" wide one... no luck yet!

Sandy said...

What a lovely door! Good find!! Gotta love us packrats! LOL