15 Mysterious Old Home Features That Aren’t Useful Anymore
Many old homes have perplexing features that baffle their modern-day owners. Here we’ve solved 15 of those mysteries!
Are you puzzled by the funny little door in your home’s pantry? This is an access door the ice man used to use. Homes had an area in the pantry or kitchen dedicated to the ice box. Access was created for this door on the exterior, allowing for delivery of fresh ice to the house without coming inside. Here’s why old homes have a tiny iron door leading to the basement.
Photo: Courtesy of Sears Modern Homes
Landlines used to be an essential part means of communication, but they weren’t always so compact. Because of their big, heavy stature, they required quite a bit of space. Homes used to have niches in walls for this purpose. Today, however, they’re a place to store things like mail or display a plant. If you have an old house with a random toilet in the basement, here’s why.
Photo: Courtesy of Phoenix Renovations
Landline Phone Jacks
Take a look around your dated apartment or home. How many unused phone jacks are there in the wall? Despite being essential for quite some time, today you’d be hard-pressed to find someone using up all those phone jacks thanks to the invention and advancement of cell phones! Ready to modernize? Here are 10 ways to take advantage of new technology in your old house.
Knob and Tube Wiring
This early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings came to be around 1880 and lasted until the 1930s. The system consisted of single-insulated copper conductors run within wall or ceiling cavities. They passed through joist and stud drill-holes by way of protective porcelain insulating tubes. For support along their length, porcelain knob insulators were nailed down. Knob and tube wiring was displaced from interior wiring systems as a result of the high cost of installation in comparison to power cables. Here’s how your old home can save big money with an HVAC update.
Photo: Courtesy of Laurascudder
Push-Button Light Switch
Push-button light switches came to be sometimes in the mid-19th century, but eventually fell to the toggle switch. Issues with push-button light switches are no secret, including the buttons easily getting stuck in one position. How inconvenient! Bored with your living space? Cove lighting can add an understated elegance and breathe life into the most uninspiring room.
Photo: Courtesy of Tim Barber Ltd Architecture
A Hoosier cabinet is a free-standing kitchen cabinet that doubles as a workstation. These cabinets were common in the first few decades of the 20th century. The main reason they’ve declined in popularity is because most houses now have built-in kitchen cabinetry. Check out these 10 simple kitchen cabinet repairs.
Photo: Courtesy of American Country Home Store
If you’ve ever walked up to someone’s front door and seen a strange ground-level cast-iron contraption, it’s a boot scraper! Known as a “decrottoir” in French, which refers to the need to remove excrement (yuck), boot scrapers popped up in the 18th and 19th centuries alongside the invention of walking paths. With modernism came less mud (as well as dog, human, horse and pig excrement) on the streets, and so the boot scraper declined in necessity and popularity. Build this handy boot scraper yourself in less than two hours.
Root cellars existed to store vegetables, fruits, nuts and more for long periods of time. Some were simply an unfinished room in the basement while others were built into the ground a short distance from the house. Present-day food distribution systems and refrigeration have rendered root cellars unnecessary for most people, but if you have one, you can certainly still put it to good use!
Razor Slit in Medicine Cabinet
Decades ago, medicine cabinets had a tiny slit to dispose of old razors. Where might those dirty razors go? Nowhere, really. They merely went into the wall. Out of sight, out of mind! This medicine cabinet is built from solid wood and quality hardware and it even has a hidden compartment!
Photo: Courtesy of Green Halo Systems
Dumbwaiters were most often used to move dishes and food when the kitchen and dining room were on different levels of the house. If you have one in your old house, you could use it as a clothes chute. Check out this tree house that comes with a dumbwaiter.
Photo: Courtesy of Between Naps of the Porch
Does your old home have a strange staircase? In old mansions, a large household staff was often required to stay out of sight. The solution was a separate staircase in the back just for the servants to use. This is why your kitchen or pantry might be able to be accessed by two staircases! Check out this hidden staircase drawer.
Servant Floor Button
Also known as a butler’s call or ring, a servant floor button was situated in the middle of the floor of the formal dining room. It was used to summon the butler by stepping on it. Today, if an old house has one, it’s likely hidden beneath a rug under the table. You may also want to check out 20 of the world’s most enchanting homes you can rent.
Photo: Courtesy of lalala/Houzz
You probably haven’t had milk delivered to your door in a very long time. However, it used to be a common occurrence, with a milk door standard in many homes. The small door was situated on the side of the house, and was used to leave bottles of milk between the walls. Here’s how to turn an empty milk jug into a watering can.
Those panels of glass you’ll still find on old homes are called transom doors. Their main purpose was to let in natural light in the front hallways and interior rooms before electricity came to be. Their use today still allows in natural light, while stained-glass is just beautiful, however they’re far less important to the home than when electricity didn’t exist! Who doesn’t love natural light? Check out this collection of ways to create new spaces with windows and doors.
Picture Hanging Molding
Picture rails or picture hanging molding became common in the 1840s as a means for hanging pictures from a movable hook that could hold a substantial amount of weight while not harming the wall surface. By the 1940s, the picture rail was outdated, and the invisible hook standard. You can still purchase molding and install a picture rail if you like the look. Picture rails in an old home are especially popular in parts of the South and New England.
Photo: Courtesy of Arciform