In a previous post entitled Roots and Wings, I spoke of Henry Ward Beecher’s beautiful quote, “there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots…the other wings”. The roots of my childhood made me who I am today. This post addresses those roots and how they are reflected in my current home.
I have many tangible examples of those roots throughout my home. I really did not realize how much my home was filled with these items until I began to list and take note of them. Some have been updated to fit in my personal style. Others are displayed as sentimental reminders of special family members on both sides of our families.
As I chronicle the expression of my personal roots through items in my home, I will be revealing them categorically by the room in which they are found. In this post, I am sharing general items that reflect my (and sometimes my husband’s) roots, which include doors, items in hallway and porch posts.
Welcome to me and
my home as you enter
through the front door.
Welcome to me and my home as you enter through the front door. Even as a child, I thought the exterior doors of our home were especially beautiful. They were finished with an almost black tar-like substance, which also covered many of the pieces of furniture. I did not realize how pervasive this finish was until I began to refinish the doors.
The front door of my current home was also the front door of my childhood home. From what I know about my grandparents and when they were married, I assume my childhood home was built in the early 1900s. Therefore, I imagine this door was made prior to 1920.
I love the detail and design of the door. The outside has raised carvings and a small ledge just below the glass. I wish I could remember when I refinished it, but I’m sure it was long before we built my current home. My guess is that would be approximately 50 years ago, probably just before or soon after my wedding.
I do remember it took hours of scraping off the tar-like finish. It took many coats of paint remover and hour upon hour of sanding, which was all done by hand. The wood turned out to be a reddish-brown color, most likely permanently stained by the original finish that had been applied to it. So, I left it the color that emerged and simply applied some type of oil to protect the wood. I’m not sure what I originally used, but now I occasionally wipe it down with Danish or teak oil.
This door became the front door of my home in the mid-’90s during the first remodel of our home. I commissioned a local artist who created stained glass items to design, create and install a new glass insert. We also installed a lock. None of the doors in my childhood home had locks. We never even thought about locking a door. The porch doors had a simple latch that was used mainly to keep the screen doors from blowing open by the wind. But we seldom secured them.
When we built our home, our front door was a double door. When we changed to this single front door, we installed sidelights to fill the remaining space. The local artist also created matching glass inserts for the sidelights.
I love the imperfection
in those doors…
a reminder of the
imperfection in all
These double doors are the entrance to the study. In my childhood home, they were exterior doors near my parent’s bedroom, opening onto the left side of the large wrap-around porch. They also were finished with the black tar-like substance on the exterior side of the doors.
However, unlike the front door, I paid a furniture refinisher to remove the original finishes. An interesting fact I discovered afterward was that one of the doors was originally installed backward. If you look closely in the picture, you can see that the molding on the panels of one of the doors is raised and it is inset on the other door. Apparently, when they were first hung, one of them was installed backward! I don’t think my parents or grandparents ever recognized that fact. And I don’t think I would have recognized it had it not been for the removal of the original finish, exposing the wood in its natural state. But I love the imperfection in those doors, making them all the more dear to me – a reminder of the imperfection in all of us.
I commissioned the same artist who created the glass insert for the front door to create matching glass inserts for these doors to replace the original plain glass.
You had to go
through this door
onto the porch
to get to the kitchen.
The above door was an interior door in my childhood home. It opened from the hallway that connected the front entrance with the back porch. You had to go through this door onto the porch to get to the kitchen. In the wintertime, it was a very cold trek through this door onto the porch and to the kitchen. But the hallways were also unheated, so there was a lot of rushing to get from one heated room to another!
This door needed a lot less work to refinish. Since it was an interior door, it did not have the tar-like finish on either side. However, it was not tall enough to fit the exterior door opening in my home (from study to the side of the wrap-around porch). So, my contractor, who was my next-door neighbor, added about 6 inches of wood to the bottom, which I stained to match the door and had covered with a brass kickplate on both sides. Unless you examined the door very closely, you would never know it had been altered from its original state.
I requested that
particular post be
placed at the front
entrance and the
words of its origin
The above picture illustrates something I really treasure. When my childhood home was torn down, my father saved the front porch posts. When we remodeled the exterior of my home in the mid-’90s, we added a wrap-around porch and used those original posts. As we examined the posts to pick out the least damaged ones, we found an inscription on one of them where the paint had worn off. It read “Lilley Bros. Williamston, NC”. Those porch posts and I assume all the lumber and doors in my childhood home, had been cut at a sawmill owned and operated by three brothers, one of which was my great-grandfather! What an exciting find!
When the posts were added to my new front porch, I requested that particular post be placed at the front entrance and the words of its origin kept unpainted.
Also, the porch posts were too short for my porch, so we had to add a block of wood at the bottom, which we hid with molding. As with the side exterior door, you would never know the entire post was not original.
The shelves were
originally one long
board that was
13.5″ wide and
almost 2″ thick.
The above bookshelf needs a detailed explanation, partly because I want to record what I can remember about its origin and partly because I want my children and grandchildren to know the story.
There were many barns on our farm, and they were named according to their use. The Mule Barn, of course, was home to our mules. I can remember having seven mules. I can only remember the names of two of them, Molly and Big Red. During the day, they roamed and grazed in the “lot”, which was fenced off behind the house and barns. There was no fence on the back side of the lot, because it was naturally fenced by a creek.
In the evening, my grandfather would open the gate to allow the mules to go into their stalls in the barn. They would first stop at the water trough, which was the front of the pump house (this housed the water pump for the entire home). My grandfather and I would stand between the water trough and the road to direct the mules into their stalls. But each mule knew where to go, and they would obediently enter their assigned stall after a long drink of water.
My grandfather and I would then lock the doors of the stalls and climb the stairs to the upper loft of the barn where peanut hay was stored in bales. We opened the bales and dropped the hay into holes in the floor. The mules then ate it from triangular-shaped, slatted bins in their own stalls. In the morning, we would reverse the process by opening the gate and then the stall doors and the mules stopped by the water trough on the way to the lot for the day.
Now, to get back to the bookshelf in the picture. In the first stall on the left side of the barn was a long trough at the front of the stall. Although the details are a bit fuzzy in my mind, I think we put additional hay in it for the mules.
So, many years later, my husband and I removed the thick heavy board that was the front of that mule trough. It was so thick and heavy that we needed a chainsaw to cut it out.
We made this bookshelf from that piece of wood. The shelves were originally one long board that was 13.5 inches wide and almost 2 inches thick. Although I sanded and sanded the board, it never got completely smooth, because I assume it was rough-hewn. So, I’m guessing that particular piece of lumber was cut in the early days of the brother’s sawmill.
We used black industrial pipe and flange fittings to create the unit. Although we are happy with the results, especially being able to save that historic piece of lumber, it was not as easy as we thought it might be!
It was originally
the stair railing
of the home
in which my
father-in-law grew up.
When we built our home, we had this special stair railing installed. It was originally the stair railing of the home in which my father-in-law grew up. I love how smooth it feels to run my hand down it as I descend the stairs. And it means a lot to know our home has historic roots for my husband as well as me.
I realize this was a long post, but I wrote it for myself and my children and grandchildren. The My Home page of my blog is where I chronicle my story starting with my historical roots and going through the planning and building of my home and the many changes I’ve made to it to its current status.