Thursday, March 7, 2013

Downstairs, upstairs

Here is the next set of blueprints for 920 Cedar Brook Road.

As mentioned in the previous post, the original drawings don't completely match the house as it was built. There were once some very grand plans for a two-story porch at the rear, and an additional third-floor bedroom was supposed to open off a hallway at the top of the main staircase. For reasons we will never know, those ideas were not approved by the Huntsman family, and the design for the rear of the house was scaled back.

Original rear elevation for 920 Cedar Brook Road. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ.  

Rear elevation, April 2012. The final blueprints were modified to this much smaller porch design. The drawing above proposed a large two-story porch, as well as more elaborate windows on the upper floors.

Of course, the home's final layout is still abundantly spacious. It includes five bedrooms on the second floor, another huge family bedroom on the third floor, plus the two smaller "Servant's Rooms" on the third floor. And according to the drawings, there was once another servant's room on the first floor. This was adjacent to the kitchen, and included a built-in dresser. Was this room used by the cook? The chauffeur? We'll never know, but it's fun to wonder.

Detail from first floor plan for 920 Cedar Brook Road. Interesting that both a coal range and a gas stove were specified in the kitchen. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 
Kitchen view, November 2011. Most of the original cabinets and drawer fronts are still present, with some stripped and/or refinished.
The back porch, April  2012.
Regardless of who slept there, the room behind the kitchen is no longer a separate space. As you can see in the image above, the walls have been removed, courtesy of a remodeling project completed by my parents in the early 1980s. The kitchen itself is already a very large room (15'8" x 14'10")...with the extra 10'2" x 8'2" included, it's huge space, full of light and possibilities. And yes, it's due for an update. But it could be such a showplace! Note in the drawings that it includes two very large closets, one of which was used to keep foods cold before modern refrigeration. And just to update the status of the "Servant's Porch," as it's noted in the drawings, this is actually just a regular (but very nice) back porch. It's one of the two main access points to the back yard.

Butler's pantry, Nov. 2011.

The butler's pantry, just off the kitchen, still has its original built-in glass front cabinets and large copper sink. I imagine this was used to store china and silver, as well as to organize food before it was brought into the dining room. The Huntsman family, of course, would have summoned their next course via the buzzer plate on the floor, which was wired into the kitchen signal box. (Not quite Downton Abbey but still a lovely remnant of a forgotten American lifestyle...and lots of fun for children to play with in later decades.)

Moving up. As you explore the second floor, you'll see that the master bedroom is labeled "Owner's Room," and has adjoining rooms on either side that open directly to the main hall. It includes a very large dressing closet with a mirrored door and large bath. Down the hall is the other main bedroom, labeled "Mother's Room." According to the 1920 Census records, Mrs. Maud Huntsman's mother lived with the family during this period; I don't think it's a crazy guess to imagine that this room may have been built for her. It also has its own private bath.

What's missing, however, is the "Sleeping Porch," that would have opened off the back hall. There's just a normal window there now, but the sleeping porch seems like such a romantic idea. I imagine it would have been screened, and filled with the scent of flowers from the backyard below on warm summer evenings. 

Detail from second floor plan for 920 Cedar Brook Road. The sleeping porch was never built. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 

The back wing held the children's play area and sewing room. The playroom is actually a bright and cozy bedroom now, and the sewing room could easily be re-purposed into anything you imagine - an office, studio/crafts room, family room, or a sunny, spacious laundry room.

Third floor tub. 1970s yellow-orange paint (sorry).
From the top. Up on the third floor, there are three more rooms - the large "Guest Room" (mine, growing up) and two charming smaller ("Servant's") rooms. There's also a huge cedar closet (labeled "Storage Room,") and two full baths - each with an original deep soaking tub. As mentioned before, the "Boy's Room" at the back, does not exist. This would apparently have been built above the sleeping porch. There is also only one main hallway, right off the top of the stairs. A small closet was placed where the opening to that imaginary rear hallway would have been.

Detail from third floor plan for 920 Cedar Brook Road. The design for the rear boy's bedroom was eliminated prior to construction. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 
You should visit the house in person to see its final design! I can recommend an excellent local resource who knows the house well and would be happy to guide you.

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