Old Homes Made New 1879

After I came across a little book named Old Homes made New. Being a Collection of Plans, Exterior and Interior Views, Illustrating the Alteration and Remodeling of Several Suburban Residences, published in 1879 by architect William M. Woollett, I really understand the “alterations” made to my 1827 house by its owners in the later nineteenth century. Like the simple colonial and Greek Revival houses used as Woollett’s “befores”, my own house must have been far too spare for the exuberant sensibilities of my Victorian predecessors, and so they added bay windows, French doors, arches, etched glass, a curved mahogany banister, and lots more space–up and out they went, into the attic and out back: I guess I should be thankful I don’t have a tower or a turret! The 1920s owners of the house attempted to restrain the house’s exuberance under their stewardship, but I bet they liked the light provided by the bay windows and I know they needed the space: they had 12 children!  And so what remains is an amalgamation, just like Stonehurst, and most houses, I suppose.

oldhomesmadenew cover


Old Homes made New 1812

oldhomesmadenew 1812 remodeled


oldhomesmadenew 4

oldhomesmadenew 5

oldhomesmadenew modernized hallway

“Modern” houses, a modernized hallway, and a modern man from William Woollett’s Old Homes Made New (1879).

6 responses to “Old Homes Made New 1879

  • Jane Griswold Radocchia

    Laughed and enjoyed the pictures. I have a similar book of actual houses altered/ improved/updated in Boxford and Topsfield, MA, c. 1910 – Colonial Revival: before and after photographs. The houses are still there, quite easy to spot. I think the book was produced by a group of architects as very gentile advertising.

    I’ll find the title, author, etc. for you. Another copy is surely available someplace.

    Of course, we see this kind of updating all over – houses need regular maintenance and repair. Modern plumbing, heating, lighting systems need to be added/ improved/repaired. All the new technology of the Industrial Revolution was/is dazzling.

    I tell clients that if we do not live in and love our houses, making them work for us, they will be abandoned, lost. Change is not bad. Just be aware of what you are changing and why. Of course then I have to explain why what they have is amazing and needn’t be updated at all!…. but perhaps, over here… a change might easily achieve their objective…

  • daseger

    Would love to see that book, Jane! Yes, not all change is bad…I suppose I can grant you that….

  • jane

    New Homes Under Old Roofs, Joseph Stowe Seabury, published by
    Frederick A. Stokes Company, NY, 1916.
    It seems to be available as a 2005 ‘facsimile’ – or perhaps as an e-book. I would try an old book seller like Steven Schuyler for the real thing.

  • MJG

    The French doors to your house were probably added in the 20s. Not during the late 19th century. French doors are actually more popular in the 20s than 19th century. In fact they are almost non existent in hardware catalogs of the period. Anyone who wanted glass doors had them custom made usually.

    • daseger

      Thanks–I do think you are right, as another architect told me that as well—I have some rolling glass-insert doors as well; I assume they’re a bit earlier?

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