Life In An Antique House

WoodWise

Old homes tell stories. Even if the walls can’t talk, the creaking floorboards and clattering pipes get the point across. Our house was built in 1802 — over the years, it’s collected a fair share of funny fables.The stories begin as soon as you enter through the “Indian door.” This traditional feature was constructed with two layers of wide oak planks, cross-hatched for added protection from enemy arrows. Though we should probably call it the “Native American door,” a politically correct rewording wouldn’t quite capture the paranoia of the time. “Our poor neighbor Nathaniel was in his kitchen eating a johnnycake,” the conversation may have gone, “when an Indian arrow pierced their single panel door and landed in his buttock! If only they had doubled-up those panels!”

The perpetual fear of arrow attacks must have led the occupants of our house to drink because next to the original hearth is a small built-in storage area colloquially called the “Parson’s cupboard.” Rumor has it, when a member of the clergy popped in for a quick chat (or exorcism), the sneaky owners would hide their booze in this concealed cupboard. Once the Parson departed, it quickly devolved into a scene from MTV’s Spring Break. (Well, not quite. Instead of watching Eric Nies dance on a speaker shirtless, the family huddled by the fire, discussing a nearby typhus epidemic.)

Speaking of sickness, our house has a curiously morbid feature called a “coffin door.” Apparently, the bodies of the dead were once prepared and packed inside one’s house, so an extra-wide side door was installed in order to move the coffins outside. If you’ve ever got a coffin stuck in a door frame, trust me, it’s no fun. Besides, it’s more eco-friendly to be cremated — you’ll easily fit through any door, saving the need for additional renovations.

Sadly, most visitors to our house tend to only notice the beautiful red oak floors or the original hand-hewn beams. Don’t get me wrong, those are impressive and all, just not as fun to tell as stories.

Images: Johnny Williams

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