Photography: J. Barclay
When I say I love period homes, I mean I really do. I see the whole thing. If it’s the exterior, I’m eyeing the frame, the color, the materials, windows, shutters, brackets, cornices, etc, etc, and if you haven’t seen this from the many photos I snap myself or share, you will as you follow my blogging! But the inside really makes me show my “house nerdiness”. Before I even cross the threshold to see the layout, the floors, the moldings – all things I love, I notice the front door and its hardware. Oh, the hardware. Not quite as exact as the rings inside a tree trunk, but also very telling, the hardware can be an indicator of maybe not the home’s age all the time, but definitely some indicator of the home’s legacy.
The Little Things
Now I am such a nerd about hardware that I even get into the keys for door locks. Something about a skeleton key just makes me feel like its lock is a treasure, and that lock usually is on a noteworthy door! Also, the craftsmanship of vintage locks is sometimes noted on the lock itself as well as the its key. I proudly photographed my own front door key that bears the Baldwin name. I really love this vintage key and I’m writing this with a big nerdy smile!
Styles of the Times
Locks, latches, hinges, lock mechanisms and doorknobs photographed here are various examples of craftsmanship that show meaning and purpose for the home or the room. These are some great examples in Boston’s Copley Square and Beacon Hill districts, and historic districts in the greater Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas – mostly pre-colonial to early turn of the century. Very heavy brass knobs and lock mechanisms are typically found at main entries for exterior doors and the knobs will have a smooth finish that will wear well over time, given their purpose for heavier usage. Lighter weight brass, sometimes with intricate designs and porcelain, glass and mirrored knobs are typically found on doors intended for less usage or simply to be ornamental. They are all a distinct part of the character of a period home or historic public building and are worth the effort to preserve or salvage and collect for renovation projects. These styles are often reproduced by major manufacturers but like anything else of true antiquity, the authentic craftsmanship is usually unmatched.
Part of the issue with restoring and maintaining period artifacts like hardware is the art of the craftsmanship is perceived as a dying art and there are few out there able to restore or repair these pieces. But definitely don’t let that deter you from restoring or hunting down these gems! Sometimes a little homework online or asking your local historical society for referrals for hardware expertise is all that is needed. There are also hardware salvage services throughout the country that specialize in historic hardware mechanisms.
If you are a hardware nerd like me, you would definitely enjoy perusing one of the most amazing hardware collections I’ve come across at Restoration Resources. This is as they call it, a “Decorator’s Dream, Renovator’s Paradise and Restorer’s Haven”, owned by acclaimed historic salvage collector/curator, Bill Raymer. There’s not only a huge collection of hardware – knobs, pulls, latches, locks, you name it – but also an amazing inventory of random artifacts and architectural salvage like stained glass, furniture and lighting. You can roam this place for hours and if you’re like me, have somewhat of a child in a candy store feeling! They’ve also moved their inventory to a showcase historic barn just outside of Boston which I hope to visit soon. It’s certainly worth the trip for an enthusiast like me but they also have a robust online shop and can be contacted by phone for advice and referrals.
Happy hunting, restoring, preserving and admiring!