Front Door Inspiration in Marblehead

Over the past few weeks I’ve been searching through the Historical Commission’s archive to locate an old photograph of the front door of my house so we can’t potential restore it. The molding was removed sometime between 1900-1980. I’ve heard a drunk driver hit the house and took out the whole left corner. Above a photograph from the early 1900’s and today.

The photo I found in the archive shows the original molding around the front door. I took a stroll around my neighborhood trying to find something similar. The closest example I found was on a Front Street home built in 1760 with a very similar exterior and simple molding around the front door. And fyi it’s also for sale, see here.

In the old photo above you’ll notice glass. But the glass can’t be above the door because we don’t have enough room. To me the door looks more Victorian rather then Georgian. The most common door style I’ve spotted in my town has 6 panels. But I’ve fallen in love with 8 panels (see examples below)! I need to do more research and figure out which style is most appropriate for my house. Below photos from front doors seen in Marblehead for inspiration.

Similar exterior style to my house on Front Street.

A detail shot of the front door.

8 panel door on Washington Street.

6 panel door with center exterior light above on Franklin Street.

I eye the door’s hardware every time I pass.

6 panels with my favorite exterior style light on Norman Street.

I love the painted house number that reminds me of 10 Downing Street.

A gorgeous 8 panel panel green door on Orne Street.

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Painted House Number
Pumpkins Above The Front Door in Marblehead
Beacon Hill Exteriors and a Rock Path

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  1. I certainly understand budget restraints Katy. At any rate, the proper TRANSOMED front doorway would be my first priority anyway.

    Kudos for doing all that work on the OVER-THE-TOP wookwork! It’s just breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve done the same here and probably shortened my life by five years or so from so my ingestion of lead…

    I have the only Quaker Style House (so-called) still remaining in New Bedford. It was common practice to prefabricate houses on Nantucket during the slower months and then barge them to the mainland (in my case what was then only beginning to be called “Bedford”. This was a known phenomenon and Russell Lovell who wrote “The History of Sandwich, Massachusetts” refers to it several times in his wonderful town history. All the house parts would be readied on the Island by ship’s carpenters right down to the woodwork.its destination. As far as we can conjecture, the date of the house is just around 1800 when New Bedford was still called “Dartmouth” and Nantucket was still the Whaling Capital of the world. What’s tremendous is that by 1998, when we first discovered it, rather than random redos it had been entirely left alone. Everything was simply covered over. The house is set high up on its foundation as they are in Nantucket and has both front and back staircase. If you want to (somehow) provide me with an email, I’d be happy to send you some before and after photos. You have a tremendous house Katy. Take all the time you need to get it right. Obviously you’re not afraid of the endless work involved!

    If you’re familiar with The Maria Mitchell House on Vestal Street in Nantucket Town then that’s what known as “Quaker Style”. It has an “on shipboard” feel to the interior.

    Best, Richard


  2. Richard,

    We plan to copy the front door from the photo. We just haven’t gotten to it yet. In a dream world I would love to return to the original dormer but it’s way over budget and the rest of the house requires extensive renovations.


  3. The house in the top photo dates to somewhere between 1760 and 1810. It’s very difficult to date houses of this period since there are many things to take into consideration. It can be called a Georgian House in the broadest sense. Certainly the dog house dormers were more attractive than that vast thing along the attic roof now that must cut into all but two rafters on either side of it. The Georgian raised paneling inside is original to the house. The horizontal wainscot with it’s multi-glyph design (charming) is a first quarter of the nineteenth century update but melds beautifully with what’s already there.

    Though the original front door would have been shorter in height (and hardly “to code”), I can assure you without equivocation that the house had a five light transom (or a fanlight transom) over a raised panel front door and a rather dressy front doorway surround akin to the original Federal one (with the number “7” on the black front door in the photo shown ninth from the top with its fanlight demi-lune transom). The application of a reproduction of just that sort of entry would improve the appearance of the house markedly. In the ideal the dormers, should they be essential, ought to be returned to the dog house variety so apparent in the old black and white photo. The present dormer across the attic roofline literally destroys the period look of the house.


  4. I’m interested to know why you didn’t copy the original exterior front door and surround since you had very good 19th century photographs of it.

    Certainly the transom, reinstalled, would have brought much-needed light into the entry hallway. Plus the architectural improvement to the exterior front would have been remarkable.

    I love the house. The photos of the interior and that Federal wainscot and chair rail decoration are superlative. I know what you’ve been trough removing that much interior paint to, once again, see the detail of that “multi-glyph” element. It’s a superb house. It’s fortunate in that the main chimney mas was never removed.

    Again: Why didn’t you restore the exterior door and doorway surround to its original appearance? I’m simply curious to know since you had the photos from which to copy detail.



  5. If the house truly is of the 1700 time frame (i.e. turn of that century) then the door most likely would have been solid, with 2 layers of planks. The exterior layer would be vertical planks and the interior layer would be horizontal. The planks would have been nailed together with nails going from the outside in and the ends of the nails on the inside would have been pounded over (“clenched”). There would have been a security bar on the inside, and most likely a wooden latch.

    And they would have been hung on big whackin’ strap hinges.


  6. Hi, Katy
    I started following your blog a while back, as a transplant from upstate NY, I adore all things New England, and your blog epitomizes all the things that I love and miss. I posted your site in my blog roll, to share it with my readers in Atlanta. Your blog is truly a highlight for me…


  7. Oh and I forgot to mention we have newer windows from the 1980’s. The old guys got ripped out. And just for reference: in the historic district you can only have single pane true divide windows.

    I love the look of the storms that hang on hinges over the top of the window but

    a) they are pain to take on and off
    b) we don’t have any place to store them
    c) they’re super expensive

    I think this will be a project we can work on down the road to come up with a better solution…


  8. P.S. — Believe it or not, I have more to say — and that is that I LOVE that the first floor shutters are closed in the first picture; we so seldom see that in a photo.

    We had most of our shutters sort of fall apart when painters took them down this spring. Sad. We reluctantly are going to have to have replacements made for all but 6 windows.



  9. Hi Katy,
    As the owner of an 1832 house, I love old house mysteries. It looks to me in the old picture of your house that the glass we see is part of the door — “windows” in the top. Our front door, which is original as far as we can tell, has lights at top. If the first photograph is an original incarnation of the door, then having not enough room for glass above the door isn’t an issue; it never was there.

    But since finding out just what was put in when is such a challenge with an old house, I’d be tempted to just do research into doors appropriate for the period, choose the one I liked, and go with that, just adding the lintel molding above the door as seen in photo 1.

    As for storms, we have the original 6 over 6 single pane windows, too — 37 of them I think, not counting the sunroom. Some have awful aluminum storms from the 60s that we plan to replace someday with wood frame storms and screens. Others still have their old wood frame storms that hook above the windows and latch on, and do a very good insulating job in winter — much better than modern storms. The downside is you have to take them off in summer, and replace them with wood framed screens attached the same way. A 2X a year chore, but attractive, historic, they work, and at least the screens are a simple DIY project.

    The previous owner of this house had insulation (some sort of recycled material) blown into the frame walls from the outside. Since our last old house was uninsulated, we have a comparison — and it is SO worth having the insulation. Much warmer. For this 3000 s.f. house 5 years ago, the cost was between 8 and 9 hundred dollars.

    Old houses are money pits, but so worth the sweat and tears.
    Good luck finding that PERFECT door!
    Can’t wait to see it.


  10. I love the scale, proportions, common tone of the “trim to house” in the first photo, whether it is historical or not. That’s not a very logical approach, is it? It looks more like a Nantucket house, beach house, perhaps.. which is cozy, plain, simple, elegant, in my mind. I’d try to copy that look. And it is fun and educational to see you make your choices. thanks for your blog.


  11. Oh, 1700s. Amazing! Wow! Then probably you want to restore to something like the oldest examples you have here, rather than the picture? Oh, maybe there is some expert somewhere on 18th century doors you can consult….museum? As for the glass, you would have room if you made the door frame bigger, as in the photo, but that wouldn’t be accurate to the 1700s. Right, it will be expensive… :) I am obviously no expert on storm windows because I don’t even notice them here, but I hear good storms + old windows = so much better than modern “replacement” windows. We have the latter and they are awful. Good luck!


  12. Yup, I would love to remove the modern storm windows but in our historic district we can only have single pane true divide windows. And we don’t have any insulation in our walls…brrr.

    So far now the storms stay…hopefully it’s something we can come up with a better solution for down the road.


  13. The thing I notice about the change in your house( in the photos) is the effect the Modern storm windows have on the feeling of the whole facade. I know you dont want to hear that. they are expensive… the alternative is expensive….One of the things I love about the original photo is the fact that the trim is the same colour as the house. and what a wonderful muted colour I wonder what the original colour was? the door frames are lovely with the lintel above. a very sweet detail. Your house has a really lovely simplicity to it.


  14. I would say the exterior is close to 1700’s.

    Not sure if it will be inexpensive. Everything is expensive with this house. But we’ll see…I still need to find something to help me with the work first…

    But I have to show the historic society images to for approval before moving forward…


  15. ‘Tis a mystery.

    What era did you say that front part of the house dates from?

    Love those really old doors on the houses from the 17th and 18th century.

    I will be very interested to follow your progress on this. Seems restoring the molding in the photograph would be pretty inexpensive, right? But I’d probably be wrong.


  16. I love the symbolism and story behind the cross-and-bible doors but those eight-panels are really elegant and just a little different. That house at 8 Washington is one of my most favorite color schemes in your lovely town. That dark green house on Franklin Street is another one of my favorites. I love the patinaed copper fish above the door.