One of my passions is studying architecture. I have been known to be somewhat of a Nancy Drew of old homes as I drive through old neighborhoods. I was thrilled when I discovered these two almost identical homes in the same neighborhood one day and just had to snap some photos.
This day all started as a quest to find old homes with what is known as a
My fascination comes from my genes---my Great Grandfather was a real life grave digger. He even is buried in the same grave yard where he buried so many others!
My great Grandfather
Let me pull the pieces of the puzzle together for you. In doing genealogy research about my great grandfather I learned about grave digging and that turned into learning about funerals or more specifically wakes held in the home -in the parlour. Without modern medicine and technology there were many unfortunate (sometimes early) deaths that our ancestor's families had to deal with.
Before there were funeral parlours (funeral homes) there was a time of visitation-they were called wakes- held in the home of the deceased. Window drapes would be drawn closed and mourning wreaths were hung on the doors. Family members could pay their respects during a short enough time before nature made things unpleasant to the nose (before embalming became the norm) and long enough to make sure they would not wake... thus making sure that sicknesses that were mistaken as death would not cause a person to be buried alive. Really and truly.
Some people were so afraid of mistakenly being buried alive they even planned to have complicated rope contraptions rigged up going from inside the buried coffin through a pipe for air to above ground with a bell at the end. Really and truly.
Anyway....back to the coffin door. When you see a very old home with a small narrow side door off a side parlour area, it is probably a coffin door. Sometimes now they are bricked or sided over and there is no longer a working door. Sometimes there are vines covering the door that has long been unused. It is just exactly what it sounds like....it was a door to allow a coffin to be easily brought in and out of the house to allow a family wake in the parlour. This eliminated having to possibly maneuver through the rest of the house and make tight turns in narrow halls, around staircases or around other furniture. This side small parlour room was usually only used when the minister or priest came to call and for wakes.
I think it is probably unusual to find two houses with this feature still intact within blocks of one another like I found. Keep your eyes peeled as you travel and you may find one too!
These houses will be referred to as house A and house B.
House A has a coffin door on the right with the darker stone cornice above it. You can also see the ghost of a removed front porch= see the dark stripe at the base of the second story windows?
Here is another angle of House A showing the coffin door and the ghost porch line.
This is House B located just a few short blocks away. This one has the porch still intact and you can see the coffin door ( back in the shadows of the porch) in the same position as on House A!!
And then House A from a similar angle.
Pretty cool , huh?!