Written by Kris Hartzell, Director of Facilities, Visitor Services and Collections, as well as our resident architectural historian.
The work on keeping up an historic house is never done and problems come in all sizes, great and small. The historic sink in the first floor bathroom is original to the house, the only sink that Dawes did not replace when he updated the house after purchasing it in 1909. The sink is marble with beautiful brass fixtures. The fixtures date from 1894 when Robert Sheppard built the house. One of the faucets has not worked for several years. Steve Brunger, our intrepid building engineer, has made every effort to restore the faucet to functioning order. Needless to say, however, parts are not easy to come by. Years of searching and calling plumbers came up dry. But we are a dedicated staff and we are always carrying the Dawes house with us in our hearts. This past weekend, while browsing a flea market in Wisconsin, Steve’s trained eye fell upon the identical faucet in a pile of plumbing fixtures. For $5 he came back with it. Upon presentation to the rest of the staff, we all began to speculate: was it exactly the same? There were differing viewpoints. No, the handle is longer. No, the spout is longer. No, it doesn’t have the finial on the top. Steve maintained that it was identical. So, we all trouped into the bathroom to compare. Bingo! Steve was right. Not only is the fixture identical in style, but it is the proper orientation as the one that is malfunctioning – with the handle on the right. Bravo!!! And now we even have an option. The ideal would be to swap out the inner parts so that the original fixture that was originally installed in the house remains in place. If that does not work, we can always swap it with the replacement fixture. Here is Steve in his moment of triumph.