Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Window Wondering

One big historical renovation question on my mind the past year or more has been, How did the piano windows in my living room, dining room, and front hall originally operate? The metal replacement windows the POs-1 put in in the early 1990s just have the usual doublehung sash. They work well enough, but I know the originals would have been some kind of three-light single sash. And my wild, crazy, extravagant dream is to replace all the windows in the Sow's Ear eventually with double-glazed wood sash to match what would have been there in 1916.

(My practical justification is that some of the windows have seals that are leaking, metal pieces are falling off other windows, and I was left with no record of what brand they are or who installed them. Can't repair 'em. So replace 'em! Replace 'em all!

But I digress.)

For seven years I lived in a pre-War (I mean, World War I) apartment in Kansas City; it was the same Craftsman style as my house. One room, my study, had three-light windows on three walls, and they were single-hung. I don't mean two sashes where only one operates. I mean one single sash where when you raise it it disappears up into the wall above.

Gosh, I wish that's what was originally here. I wish it intensely.

But I consider my brick walls (the room in Kansas City was a frame annex to the brick building), and I perceive where the framing for the second floor must start, and I think no, there wouldn't be room above my piano windows.

Well, last night, early this morning, I was stripping the window sill from the piano window next to the fireplace, and I discovered this:

Does that look like the footprint of a hinge to you? Sure does to me.

And yes, there's two of them. And I've inspected all the other piano window stools, and they have the same paint residue in the same places, where I couldn't chip it off.

Hopper windows. That's what the house had. Inward-swinging hopper windows. You can even see the hole in the header where the bolt of the latch used to go.

And I've been checking the Van Dyke's Restorers' catalog, and I think I've located the type of surface-mounted hinge that might have been used.

I still need to get someone stronger than I to pop out the metal windows so I can look at the sill and jambs and figure out what I'd need to design in the way of stops and weatherstripping and things.

And I guess I need to decide how authentic and historical I want to be. Hopper windows make it hard to display anything on the window stools in the summer. Or on the bookcases sitting under them. Would I be willing to compromise on a three-over-one doublehung unit, for convenience' sake?

Happily, I don't need to worry about that right now. Too much else to do first.

Like go on stripping woodwork. Last night and this evening I disposed of nine more pieces, hooray, living room window and baseboard trim. If my count is right, that brings me to 62 out of 330, or 18.8%.

Noticed something on the baseboards while I was at it: Looks like somebody for some reason had the idea of shortening them. Two of the living room pieces I've done so far have this kerf in them. Whatever was behind it, they thought better of the plan.


We are in said...

I didn't know they were called piano windows but I think I have the same kind of windows on either side of a now bricked up fireplace. Ours are on hinges and swing open towards the wall(like little doors). They are held closed by brass window latches on the face frame. Am I describing this right? Let me know if you'd rather have a picture.

Kate H. said...

Oh, yes, a picture would be nice! I learned they were called piano windows, because they often occur in dining rooms, set high so you can put a piano against the wall under them.

purejuice said...

hi, started at the beginning and am reading all the way through. here your stack of refinished trim is starting to get exciting, and the archaeology of the windows is too. i'm excited!!!!