It All Starts at the Front Door

The original 1879 front doors at Norris House may well be our favorite part of the whole building - and in this instance beauty is way more than skin deep.  So much of the history of Norris House was lost, but these doors and their original deep set entryway stood the test of time and survived the inexplicable whims of prior owners.  The fact that they are original is a major factor in our love for these doors, but they are gorgeous in their own right.  

You may recall that when we purchased Norris House, the front doors looked like this:

 

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Untold layers of paint were caked on these doors.  Perhaps you have an undying love for that shade of brown that goes past chocolate and heads right on down into flat out dirty, but we think most would agree that this shade does absolutely nothing for these beautiful doors.  To make matters worse, they had been cut at some point - maybe in an ill-advised attempt to account for the slope of the floor as the foundation settled over time, and then kept on settling in all the wrong places.  Notice how the glass panes are not sitting at the same level?  The doors were not the same size anymore when we arrived on the scene.  We loved them anyway, because we could see the potential.

The front doors were carefully removed, and transported to our friends at Fulford and Company in Wilson, NC.  (Incidentally, they have a veritable treasure trove of antiques and architectural pieces a short 45 minutes from Raleigh, so interested locals should follow them on Instagram: @fulfordandco ).  In a perfect world - i.e. one without budget constraints - we would have stripped the doors down to their original wood and stained them.  In the real world, we had to compromise.  In working on the doors, Fulford and Company noted that someone earlier in the life of the doors had attempted to strip them, and apparently arrived at a point where they just stopped.  We got to the same point, and the Fulford's team noted that no matter what they did, the last bit of paint would not budge.  So we ended up with smooth, clean and paint-ready doors with their original glass, dating to 1879:

 See that hinge at the bottom right?  Wait 'til you see it now, all cleaned up...

See that hinge at the bottom right?  Wait 'til you see it now, all cleaned up...

 

The original etched glass is intact, and safely made the return trip to Raleigh.  The wood trim framing that glass has some alligatoring/caked paint still visible, because we prioritized the glass above running the equipment or tools so close to the glass and risking breakage.  We were offered the opportunity to remove the glass from the doors, but we declined.  Our top priority was protecting against damage to the glass.

We would be remiss not to mention the gorgeous original brass hardware on these doors.  The hinges are ornate and so stunning in person.  The steeple finials are cast with floral motifs that match the decorations on the face of the hinges visible when you open the doors.  Our Sigmon Construction team gave the hardware a quick cleaning, and the results speak for themselves.  

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Hello Spring! + A Fresh, Original Front Elevation

We cannot believe it has been so very long since our last blog post.  Please forgive the lag - we've been so busy with all the details at Norris House that we've lost track of posting the updates here.  

The best place to start seems to be the front elevation - Norris House has really blossomed these last few months.  See what you think:

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You may recall that Norris House used to look like this:

 

 We still haven't figured out why the original elevation was destroyed in favor of...well, this.

We still haven't figured out why the original elevation was destroyed in favor of...well, this.

Quite a transformation, don't you think?!  We're downright giddy about the improvements.  We knew that the original footprint of the house included the single story bay windows and that deep front porch, based upon turn of the century Sanborn insurance fire maps of downtown Raleigh.  The accuracy of those maps was confirmed with a mini-archeological dig in the front yard post-demolition of the massive masonry 1930s era porch.  In the dirt, we found the original brick foundation that was within inches of the dimensions of our architectural drawings based on the Sanborn maps. We were not able to use the original foundation walls as they were found, but our mason was able to salvage original bricks in good condition, and work them in to the new foundation walls.  Our contractor sourced hand formed bricks - in 2017! - and those were set alongside the salvaged original bricks in our new foundation wall located in the exact same place as the original.

The brick foundation isn't the only beautiful element up front - check out the decorative gingerbread!  Those decorative brackets were carefully reproduced in different sizes to properly fit the different locations.  The original north porch brackets were unmolested in the 1930s purge of Norris House, and served as models for the new versions.  How did we know there were decorative brackets placed like this on the front porch?  The surviving local descendants of Matthew and Cornelia Norris were kind enough to share their only known photograph containing the front of the house.  We've posted it previously, but here's the 1913 photo of the front porch:

 

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The concrete steps are in the process of being recreated, and will be installed tomorrow!  We're getting awfully close!!