Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Learning More About HL Hinges

Posted on | June 27, 2011 | 15 Comments

We’re our moving along with our den renovation. The room is nearly painted and Greg has been working on stripping and sanding the four doors we found for the room. On Saturday, we headed up to Nor’East Architectural Salvage in Hampton Falls, NH to search for hardware.

On one of the doors we have the original HL hinge. HL hinges were used to help support the weight of a heavy wooden door and were common in the late 18th century. I found tales the HL stood for the Holy Lord and the hinges were installed to protect the homes from evil spirits. The tale was debunked by Colonial Williamsburg in an article I found from 2008 noted below:

HL hinges are a stronger version of simple symmetrical H hinges. They are useful for supporting the weight of a heavy wooden door. The key is the extra supporting arm that fastens to the door. This piece can be on top, in which case it would look like an HL, or on the bottom, where it resembles HG. Or it can be mounted on the other side as the mirror image of the two. Many colonists had little or no interest in religion, and no documentation supports the belief that their hardware or door panels had symbolic value.

We have one set of original HL hinges and we need three more. We found a few originals at Nor’East but they were $75 a set. Too steep for Greg so now we’re talking about weather to keep searching or replace with reproductions? Reproductions range in price from $15-$45.

One more dilemmia…each of the doors has holes drilled for knobs. I’ve found evidence that knobs did exist in the late 18th century but did they use knobs with HL hinges?

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15 Responses to “Learning More About HL Hinges”

  1. Olga
    June 27th, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    These doors look like they are in rough shape. I am amazed that you are putting the work into refinishing them. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to replace them with new 4 panel doors? How are you going to deal with those big holes (for the knobs)?


  2. Katy Elliott
    June 27th, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    We really want to keep the old doors that came with the house. Anything can be fixed. And how special to own over 200-year-old doors, right?

    I’m trying to figure out the knob situation, what’s appropriate and what will work.


  3. G
    June 27th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    50-70 seems to be the going rate for those ugly hinges. The 2 pairs I could find were in really rough shape.
    These aren’t to shabby but still need to be cleaned-up:
    The really fancy bronze hinges cost half as much as these?


  4. mopar
    June 27th, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Courage and bon chance. Of course you should keep your doors!

    If only we had any idea how to hang a door ourselves. We need to remove all of them, strip them, and put them back up. And also replace a few that are inappropriate. Still searching for the contractor who can make my door and molding dreams come true….


  5. G
    June 27th, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    The old jambs in this room make it very simple to rehang the door. Just find the door that fits in the hole and nail it up. It has character if it doesn’t open or close perfectly.


  6. Patsy
    June 28th, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    Any chance of a blacksmith copying them for less?


  7. Elaine Randall
    June 28th, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

    I looks like the holes in the door in the photo are for a latch set.


  8. Katy Elliott
    June 29th, 2011 @ 1:35 am

    We e-mailed about these reproductions: http://www.sevenpinesforge.com/h-l-hinges.html


  9. MatCoes
    June 30th, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    Hi-I’m really enjoying your renovation.
    You should come down here to New Bedford MA, home of NEDS-NE Demolition and Salvage. You’ll lose your mind and probably find your hinges.
    If you make the trip, stop by our letterpress shop-EM letterpress.
    Good luck!


  10. jonathan
    July 4th, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

    your doors almost definitely would have had suffolk latches, you can usually see the shadows and nail holes in the doors and jambs. this link shows a nice view of all of the parts



  11. Katy Elliott
    July 5th, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

    thanks jonathan for the link!


  12. Katie Vint
    July 5th, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

    Hi Katy! I can answer your door knob question. 18TH Century doors, especially ones that had expensive H and HL hinges on them would most certainly have had knobs. But you have a few to choose from. Your door probably had a thumb/knob latch combination. A great book on the subject (and many others) is “A Building History of Northern New England” By James L. Garvin. Also, as a (soon to be) fully fledged Architectural Historian, I can say you want the reproduction hinges. Over time for H and HL hinges the metal warps and the door then hangs at an angle, causing damage to the door, floor, and potentially wall; not to mention a now worthless hinge. Seeing as these hinges are pretty old to start with, their expiration date might be right around the corner. But if you really like the idea of having an original hinge in the house, put it on a door that you seldom use. Hope this helps!


  13. Katy Elliott
    July 5th, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

    Thanks Katie! For the book recommendation and the tips!


  14. Cass at That Old House
    July 8th, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

    I agree — Suffolk latches, bean latches too. Definitely keep your door, holes and all. Holes can be filled, or just left as the footprint of past hardware. New doors won’t speak to you.


  15. John Harrington
    July 26th, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    I’m glad to see you’re keeping the original doors. There is no substitute for the character. I have had to replace quite a few HL hinges in my 1784 saltbox in Connecticut. With some patient ebay watching, I have been able to find what I needed for around $50 a pair. I look for ones that are sound but look bad due to surface rust and paint. A soak in paint stripper, some scrubbing and a coat of boiled linseed oil and they look great. In my area at least, H and HL hinges were usually paired with bean thumb latches. Like the hinges, you can find them on ebay and clean them up the same way. Knobs really were found only in the fanciest of houses, and then frequently only in formal rooms. Good luck!


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