Front door opening lever

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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Front door opening lever

Postby miffytoki on Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:08 pm

I'm not sure if this is the proper era for this question as it may have been added after it was built, but I figured I'd try here first just in case it was original!

I have just purchased a top floor unit built in the 1890s and there is a lever at the top of the stairs coming out of the wall. I know it's meant to open the front door, which is at the very bottom of the stairs, and I can hear the mechanism working near the front door when the lever is pulled but it doesn't unlock the door anymore.

I'd like to fix this, but I don't know what it's called! Can anyone help?

This is a very poor photo of the lever, as I didn't think to take a photo of it the last time I was in the unit.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby raymanretro on Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:26 pm

Wow, thats cool! I would call it a remote door lock. It seems that it would be pertty simple, and it may be that the doors lock has been changed at one time. I would definitely have to get it to work. :D
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby khwils on Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:19 am


How cool is that, I've never seen one before. I am guessing you have an original two flat with a seperate front door from the other unit/units?? Does the front door look original, I'm guessing that is going to be important. I am also guessing that the front door is a big thick door? Does this lever unlock the door or open it? Can you see the other end in the door jamb? Cam operated?

I like your wainscoating and window dressings also. The waintcoating is a very simple idea that really dresses up your stairway. It looks like a simple chair rail with baseboard and wood strip in between. How thick are the vertical wood strips?

You have several neat details for that simple picture - what else does she have?

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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby Josiecat on Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:21 am

Wow. That is really cool. :)
The Wellcome House
1892 Queen Anne Victorian
Topeka, Kansas
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby miffytoki on Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:32 pm

We're having a few local handymen come and look at it that we worked with on our previous home, hopefully they will know how to work it.

It's a 3 unit building with separate doors for each unit, very common in San Francisco. I don't have any of the measurements yet, but we'll have the keys on Friday so I'll be sure to take more pictures! The unit is VERY well kept, original flooring, windows have been replaced in a style that fits the period, but with double pane glass. The bathroom is an atrocity, but we're remodeling before we move in. For some reason the sink is at chest height for me, and I'd have to get a step stool to use it.

We took a couple of photos here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/skim-milk/ ... 737188579/

The door opens from a hinge on the right and the mechanism sound comes from the right, so I'm not sure if that's the way it used to hold the door in place, or if the door used to open the other way. The door is heavy, but as is standard, it has glass panes rather than being solid.

I'll take more appropriate photos over the weekend, both of the door and the lever.
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby S Melissa on Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:07 pm

Very cool - I've never seen anything like that. Perhaps BrooklynRowHouse will be familiar with that? Overall the house looks great - enough to do to make your mark - not so much to put you in the poor house/funny farm. Congratulations - and we'd love to see lots more pictures! Please keep us informed on the door handle thingie - that's just great!
Canton, MI
1860 Italianate - Reuben Huston Home
S Melissa
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby mgb1234 on Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:45 pm

That is really cool,probably so one would not have to keep going up and down the steps to open the door.
In your pics #055 that looks like a speaking tube next to a closed off dumbwaiter? looking at the trim work that was a grand house before it was split up,looks like it is in good shape.
1915 Dormitory
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby miffytoki on Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:25 pm

it IS a speaking tube, we have one in our current place. The speaker no longer works, but amazingly, the buzzer that is part of the speaker box works!

I think the door level thingy is a possibility, but the speaker box may not be as I think the outside box is gone.

The place is in beautiful condition, some poor aesthetic choices were made, but nothing some love and work can't restore. Every wall is solid, the doors are solid, it's just going to take some work. I have over 100 years worth of paint to remove. I love the box ceiling in the living room, don't ask me why the paint is like that, it wasn't me:

I'll keep you informed, and when I have a definite answer on the door lever I'll report back! Hopefully with good news of being about to fix it!
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby Daniel Meyer on Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:28 pm

I think you've just got to hook that up to a trap door instead of the front door!
Daniel Meyer
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Re: Front door opening lever

Postby miffytoki on Wed Jul 08, 2009 10:50 am

Daniel Meyer wrote:I think you've just got to hook that up to a trap door instead of the front door!

I agree wholeheartedly.
Along with a pull chain to dump a bucket of water on solicitors! I think we're on to something.
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