Traditional for 1885 house

norar_ilAugust 20, 2010

I know someone who lives in a house built in 1885 and he wants everything as traditional to that period as possible. His wife says he wants a tile floor in the kitchen because that is what would have been there in the beginning. I say the floor would have been either wood or linoleum. Can someone tell me what is period correct?

The same guy wants his wife to cook with only cast iron!

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I didn't do any research, but I'm not sure linoleum would have been in use in 1885? I think tile would be appropriate - stone or glazed. Painted, oil cloth rugs over that was common I believe.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:18PM
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From what I've read, linoleum has been in use since the 1860's. My opinion is from the old houses I've been in -- I'm talking at least 100 years old or more -- and have not seen a tile floor unless the kitchen is below grade or has been re-done. If this is not so, I'll be happy to find out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:45PM
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Well, I vote for wood because that's what my ca.1870 schoolhouse has; and I tore up the linoleum my Uncle had put down in 1943 in the kitchen to expose the wood. Not everyone would like it, but I do.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 8:02PM
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What kind of floor an 1885 kitchen would have likely had is going to depend on whether it was rural or urban, belonged to a rich merchant or family of modest means, the geographical area, the style of the home, how close they were to manufacturers or raw materials of flooring material. (our area was home to a very famous tile factory, every home older than 1935 had that tile in it somewhere). I have a house in town where the whole basement is tiled in it. Prolly worth a fortune.

Every one of the homes in America I've lived in of that era had wooden floors. The city ones with linoleum lain over it at some point and the farmhouses just wooden planks. I did live in one in Europe (prolly predating 1835) with beautiful tiled floors from entry hall through kitchen in all rooms except the bedrooms and salon.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 10:24PM
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The house is in a small, oil rich town in the midwest, built by the owner of the local lumber yard. It's a large three story with wrap around porch. All the floors are beautiful, laid with a differnet pattern in each room with 1 1/2 inch wide oak.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 12:43PM
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Of course, that should be "different".

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 12:45PM
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I'm guessing the kitchen had nice wooden floors. The original owner certainly had access to the cream of the crop of timber.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 2:44PM
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Ours is midwest, 1888 and the floors are wood throughout. We had to replace a few planks because they were badly damaged and we found newspapers layered underneath dating 1905 so that tells me either the floors were added then OR they were taken up and relaid/re insulated.

I like period appropriate too, but I'm not such a stickler that I'd fuss about something added 15 or so years later. I feel as long as it's "period appropriate" not necessarily museum accurate, I'm good.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 6:43PM
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Probably wooden floors. I just received a book in the mail that was originally published in 1880 and 1890 (couple different sections), I believe, with old house plans and elevations. Most of them called for "pine" for all floors.

A few of the higher-cost ones called for tile, but not many.

Don't take it as gospel, that was just my experience in my most recent book.

Do tell him to keep in mind that kitchens from 1885 were much, much different than ours now, depending on how "original to the house" he wants to be.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 9:02PM
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And for god's sake, do NOT use cabinets with toe kicks if you are serious about achieving the look of an old kitchen!!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 12:22AM
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I would definitely recommend this book to your friends:

"Victorian Interior Decoration" by Moss and Winkler. It will tell him everything they need to know about appropriate flooring and then some! I imagine that many if not most of the folks here at this forum have this book. ;)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:08PM
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I have toe kicks, never even thought about it. Oops. But then again, we used reclaimed cabinets for a HUGE cost savings so I'm not sure that finding some without would have been an option. Had I a huge budget for all new, I'm sure I would have ordered a slightly different style (uppers that went all the way to the ceiling with glass fronts).

Oh well, ya learn something new everyday. Maybe on the next old house redo (yeah, right).

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 2:24PM
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Probably depends on where the house was built and the materials available. We have a 1893 home that has cedar stairs and bois d' arc (pronounced "Bo Dark" wood floors as well as foundation timbers.
The kitchen was not attached to the main house, but in a stucco/plaster building (rock with a coating of plaster on the exterior). This floor had a stone floor. All from materials off the land.
In the 1960's, the PO added on a kitchen and indoor bath.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 11:02AM
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It's nice to try and stick to the period your home was built in HOWEVER it is a house meant to be lived in and it needs to function well for the people living there NOW.
I think the Mr. of this house needs an attitude adjustment.......badly!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Wood, linoleum or even stone could have been used, just depended on the budget and availability of materials. I applaud him for wanting to keep to the period--a kitchen does not need a different appliance for every task. I have a mixer and bread maker, and a blender--I almost never use anything but the mixer.
And there is nothing wrong with cast iron cookware--properly seasoned it will last generations, and has a great heat distribution record and will last far longer than your space-inspired non-stick (ns only if it isn't worn, or scratched, etc.)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 1:12PM
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There is an amazing museum house in Pgh. that has a brick kitchen floor - its severely worn from the work done there. But keep in mind that this kitchen was only for working - a servants area. The staff had to maintain that floor, it was purely practical.

And I am still wondering about whether period 1885 cabinets should have toe kicks or not ... wait ... wait ... oh, yeah - there were no cabinets (as we know them) in 1885 period kitchens. Use a table and a few storage pieces (like sugar chests and open shelving) for truly period

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 4:47PM
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That poor wife having to cook with cast iron. Her wrists are gonna snap!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 7:15PM
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A hoosier-type cabinet is appropriate for the period--and toe kicks are a modern invention to allow you to lean against the counter as you do stuff--they hinder cleaning and are generally worthless.
I built my own kitchen cabinets because I was lucky enough to find the original doors in my garage--so I researched what was common for turn 0f the century kitchens; and here's a general gripe of mine--cabinets do NOT need to be 36" high--people are taller these days, and you can get a sore back working at counters that height, or even shaving at a sink that high--my kitchen cabinets are 40" due to the original doors and the flush framing at top and bottom--and many people say they are a great height to work at. I can roll out cookies or pastry with no problem which goes against what a lot of books say about pastry counters should be lower than a normal cabinet. :)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 1:02AM
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I can't answer the flooring question but I do most of my cooking with cast iron. It's the original non-stick and no problem to maintain. But it's my choice, no one else's.

Does the husband want her to utilize a washboard and clothesline, too?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 5:12AM
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I suppose the area in which the house is located, and the customs of the homeland the original owners, in addition to their "rank" could lead to how the cooking was to be done and the recipes used. People in the "upper ranks of society" in New York cooked, served, and entertained vastly differently than those out on the oregon trail.
Here is a link to a neat little book I found online dated 1876. Every page is scanned and makes for an interesting read. Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving
Click the link to view the PDF. Makes scrolling much easier.

Another neat link was foot timeline:

The Women's Sufferage Cookbook is also a great read. Click on the link for the PDF. Some long ago recipes. Some gross. Some long forgotten and worth a try. I believe this one is 1886 or 1887. Not far off from 1885.

Here is a link that might be useful: Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 9:02AM
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