1850s exterior door hardware?

jlc102482January 14, 2013

I have an 1857 Italianate-ish home that is missing its original exterior door hardware. All of the interior doors retain the original hardware, but the three exterior doors lost theirs somewhere along the way. I would like to locate appropriate 1850s hardware and replace the current 1940s-era exterior stuff with it, but I don't know what 1850s exterior door hardware looks like. I'm guessing it would have been fancier than the interior stuff, but who knows. Can anyone enlighten me, or have any photos to share?

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link to nice photos of what you're seeking.
I think s brass mortise lock or a brass rimlock with brass or black ceramic knobs is the most typical range.
Remember to filter out pics which are not precisely Italianate style; there are some much later ToC doorways included.

Here is a link that might be useful: google images Italianate Front Door results

This post was edited by sombreuil_mongrel on Mon, Jan 14, 13 at 14:06

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 2:02PM
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I would guess that the original exterior door hardware used locks with skeleton keys that are not very secure, and that's why they were replaced. This is one area where being faithful to the original is not desirable.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:17PM
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It wouldn't hurt to look at some of the books by Andrew Jackson Downing, a mid-19th century architect. He designed houses in Greek Revival, Gothic and Italianate styles and printed many illustrations. He also designed New York's Central Park.

The Architecture of Country Houses, and Victorian Cottage Residences will have many plates of illustrations. Both can be had from Dover Publications.

Here is a link that might be useful: Architecure of Country Houes

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 9:42PM
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What does your interior hardware look like? My 1858 late Greek Revival hardware is probably plainer than yours but the plan seemed to be that exterior rim locks were larger than the interior & the other hardware matched the status of the room in which the door was placed. Like today, personal preference & economic considerations probably dictated what was used.

My 3 exterior locks were 7" Carpenter rimlocks with the front door having a large teardrop shaped, brass (possibly with silver colored plating) escutcheon with a white porcelain keyhole cover. Unknown if the doorknob was white porcelain or brass or what the rose was made of (cast iron was the metal of choice throughout the interior of the house but brass seems more logical for outside). The tear drop key holes are about the only nod to Italianate that I have - & I didn't expect it on the front door - but the 'ghosts' on the doors & painted over bits & pieces in the formal rooms say that's what was there originally.

The bell (probably with a knob-type pull & some type of metal plate) was mounted through the jamb & a series of pulleys actived the spring mounted bell above the front door on the inside (& we think another in the basement) but I have none of the exterior hardware on this & it doesn't seem like much of it survived, at least, locally.

My other exterior doors had the same size Carpenter lock & large, probably brass, key hole surrounds. Hinges on every door in my house are cast iron, half butt.

I'll try to post pics when I have more time & can remember my photobucket password!

This post was edited by antiquesilver on Tue, Jan 15, 13 at 2:06

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 1:58AM
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antiquesilver - I'd love to see your photos if you've got time to post a link! :) My interior door hardware sounds like yours: cast iron rimlocks with white porcelain handles. I attached a photo (yes, they really need to be stripped!) The door hinges are cast iron with small steeples, but nothing really fancy. I couldn't find any ghosts on the outside of the exterior doors, but on the inside of one I did find ghosts of a large rosette and an escutcheon of this shape:


I do still have both of my brass doorbells in the middle of the door (I have the twist type.) After perusing sombreuil's link, I suspect that one plain brass doorknob on the inside of my front door may be original, although it's always been so shiny that it might be a lacquered repro. Sadly, the other side of that door sports a giant 1960s-era "Colonial"-looking thing with a thumblatch.

Here is a link that might be useful: my interior door hardware

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 2:27PM
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I remembered how to get into Photobucket & these are the photos I have on hand. If you need something specific, let me know & I'll try to get a decent shot. After looking at what you have, my hardware is severely plain, & probably only the teardrops will be of any use.

Original interior rosette, original brass, antique porcelain cover purchased in Atlanta

An ebay purchase after cleaning & painting

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 6:50PM
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I was interrupted during my post & didn't mention that the teardrops are almost 3" tall - they're huge.

I love the shape of your escutcheons but if you have them (or the ghost) on the inside of the exterior door, the lock couldn't have been a rimlock, right, since the keyhole is part of the rimlock? Maybe early mortise locks? That's what I found on the interior doors of my 'formal' rooms that also had the teardrops. It's been a while since I did research on all this but I think mortise locks were just coming into fashion about the time our houses were built. In my house, they only put the fancy stuff where it would be seen - everything else was bare bones - but apparently they decided to forego fashion & stick with the heft of a large Carpenter lock for the front door.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Wow, antique, those keyhole covers are awesome! I've never seen ones with porcelain covers before. They are just beautiful. You're right about the exterior door not having a rim lock since it's got a keyhole - it must have been a mortise lock. My front door doesn't have a keyhole at all (nor a patch where someone might have filled one in) so that probably had a different lock as well. The plot thickens! Thank you so much for sharing your photos - they are a huge help to me.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 10:13AM
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I'd never seen the porcelain keyhole covers either until I saw them at a restored house in a neighboring city; then the lumpy, broken off pieces at the top of my paint encrusted brasses made sense. At that point I was still light years away from dealing with hardware & door restoration but when I found some in an antique shop, I snapped them up although my front door is still the only one I've installed.

Wow - I can't imagine a door without a keyhole - how did they lock the door when they left home? I've seen old rimlocks that operated solely with a key & didn't have a knob & they left a small hole that could be mistaken for the spindle boring. Judging by the ghost, I had one of those on an interior door in my basement that locked a small room from the hall side only with a key through the door - & what (or whom)ever was on the inside probably had no way to exit once the door closed. I've never found a replacement that was exactly the right size, or correct hand, or in my price range! Oh well, the room is now a bath so an authentic lock would be very strange, if not downright kinky &/or scary.

Beware - research on antique hardware is fascinating & you'll find yourself sucked in before you know it.

This post was edited by antiquesilver on Thu, Jan 17, 13 at 1:20

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 9:54PM
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I am 56 years old and never lived in a locked house. I grew up on a farm where gram had to do a head count to make dinner. We never had to ask to bring someone home for dinner. Gramp said better to come home in winter to a robbed house with the door closed than to a house robbed and a broken door to. my last 2 houses have not had doors that lock. I have come home to a nephew cooking supper who said Mom and dad won't be back till tomorrow so I am crashing here. He was back from Paris Island.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 1:46PM
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Raven, I'm a little older than you & grew up in rural VA where no one locked the doors, either. And I don't remember ever seeing a key but I'm fairly sure that the hardware that was initially installed had included a lock that could/> be activated with a key had we desired.

I totally understand your Gramps attitude; I have a large window in my basement that I don't bother to lock because if someone really wants to get in, I prefer they just open it & walk through rather than break it & rob me anyway.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 9:55PM
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LOL.............reminds me of the little red convertible I had buried under the snow left by the road crew. When I finally got it dug out, I found the radio missing. When I called the police to report it, they sent a brand, spanking newly commissioned officer who started to give me a speech on locking cars. I informed her that a new radio was much cheaper to buy than a new convertible roof, and if somebody wanted that radio bad enough, they'd have just knifed the roof to get it.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Those keyhole covers are amazing! I love small details like that... Our house was built in 1890, (so, not helpful to you,) but the front door hardware was literally the first thing I fell in love with. Very ornate... We walked in, and I was like-- I must have that! A good reason to buy a house? Probably not.

Link is to a photo of the hinges. (you have to scroll down to third pic) The front door's hinges are about two inches larger than the rest of the house's interior doors... they have a smaller version of the same floral work.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front door hinges

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Ooh, those are gorgeous hinges, Victoria. You're lucky to have a house full of them! I have two like that downstairs, which were obviously later replacements. Last week I tried to remove them to clean the many, many layers of paint accumulation, and unfortunately one of them broke right in half when I tried to take it off the doorframe. I felt horrible! The ghost in our house wasn't too happy about it, either - I got poked in the back pretty hard when I was examining the two pieces. Oops. :(

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:56AM
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Ugh... so disappointing! When you try to fix something and make it worse. Also further proof that no one should be allowed to paint hinges!!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:53AM
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For hardware that is so gorgeous you will want to buy a house to go with it, search "lockset" under "antiques" on ebay.

For reproductions, I would look at Baldwin or Emtek to see whether any models they offer resonate with your interior hardware or the look of your house.

The style I needed was arts and crafts, and Emtek had it, complete with keyhole cover. And the double cylinder deadbolt is well suited a period urban neighborhood.

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:48PM
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    Bookmark   February 15, 2015 at 1:47PM
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