Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Forgotten Door


I always knew, of course, that the Nebraska Sod House would need a front door, but somehow both Will and I kept forgetting to build one. Now, the need for a door is definitely at hand, and it's high time to get busy making one. Some homesteaders, in a hurry to move into their soddy, simply hung a piece of canvas to cover the doorway, but Will wanted something sturdier than canvas for Ruby's door. By "borrowing" some boards from the wagon that had brought them across the prairie and using some scrap wood from packing crates that he had dismantled, Will managed to assemble enough wood to build a "real" door for the soddy.




This is my rough sketch of a segment of the door's interior side. The homemade latch was commonly used on the prairie. A short wooden bar was fastened loosely to the door at one end, and the other end dropped into a notched wooden block fastened to the wall or door frame. The door could be unlatched from the outside by pulling on a leather thong fastened to the bar and hanging out through a hole a few inches above the bar - thus, a latchstring hanging out became a symbol of prairie hospitality. If no company was wanted, the settler locked up by pulling in the latchstring. 



The simple door is made by using three boards and adding stabilizing cross pieces.



The wooden latch bar has been attached, and the notched block is fastened to a sturdy board.



The exterior of the door has a wooden handle that I cut from a scrap piece of window frame that I found in my stash. It was exactly what I was looking for!




I stained both sides of the door to achieve the look of old wagon wood. When the door was finished, Will applied a generous coating of oil.



 Will fashioned door hinges from pieces of leather that he keeps for mending harness. After he sells his corn crop, perhaps he'll be able to afford iron hinges. 



 For now, the stiff and sturdy leather works just fine. The latch bar and the latchstring have been attached, and the door is ready to hang in the door frame.



The latchstring is out on the exterior side of the door.




 The board with the notched wooden block is attached to the door frame. Because the door is set at the outside of the deep doorway, the notched block couldn't be attached to the interior wall of the house.



 The soddy has a working door!





Welcome! Come on in - the latchstring is always out!


At last, Will and Ruby have a strong door that will add to the coziness of their snug sod house. With the arrival of autumn and harvest time, they're starting to also look ahead to months of a harsh prairie winter. The door will be much appreciated when the north wind begins to howl across the plains.

31 comments:

  1. Me encanta la puerta y se ajusta perfecta al estilo de la casa!
    Besos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pilar. The door was a long time coming, but I'm glad that it's finished before winter sets in!
      Marjorie

      Delete
  2. Incredible! What an amazing door, historically accurate, educational and with the perfect look for this soddy! I love the leather hinges, and the latch and latchstring are absolutely charming! Hope Ruby's got coffee brewing - I just have to come over and try letting myself in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jodi - Come on over! The latchstring is out, and the coffee is fresh and hot. If Ruby is out gathering her daily quota of cow chips, just have a seat, pour a cup of coffee, and make yourself at home. Ruby won't be long.
      Marjorie

      Delete
  3. Perfecta, es lo que faltaba a la casa de césped. Besos:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Rosa Maria - I'm happy that the soddy finally has a door, especially with a prairie winter coming on. The house looks complete at last. (Except for the landscaping - that's next!)
      Marjorie

      Delete
  4. The door is amazing (both it's construction and the history lesson regarding the latch/hinges)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Lori - I was pretty much dreading having to build that door. (Maybe that's why I kept forgetting it?) But it went together with not much trouble, thanks to a very clear description and illustration in one of my "research" books. And, of course, thanks to the fact that Will had some scrap wood and leather on hand!
      Marjorie

      Delete
  5. Hi Marjorie! I am late again! But I love your door and hearing about the string thing! I learned about those kind of latches a long time ago because they were used in the early days in New England too. The Nursery Rhyme "Cross patch, draw the latch, sit by the fire and spin. Take a cup, (of tea) drink it up, then call the neighbors in." was about this kind of latch being used in an anti-social way! LOL!
    The early metal latches that go through the door and lift the little bar (common in Colonial times) also can be used by withdrawing the latch piece so no-one can enter!
    What an amazing project your Soddy is! It really looks so cozy and sweet sitting there! I am hoping you will be making a little bit of garden in the yard??? I don't want to see this project finished yet! LOL! As usual, your work is so wonderful to follow! :):)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI, Betsy - I enjoyed the nursery rhyme about the latch string; that's one that I've never heard before! I think the latch string and latch idea is simple but clever, probably because someone needed something very useful very quickly. Think fast! Yes, this project is almost finished, and I'm feeling sorry about that, but also excited to see the completed soddy. Ruby is busy harvesting her garden produce, but we may never see her large garden, because it's tucked away behind the house, closer to the spot where the well is going to be dug as soon as that corn can be sold. Carrying enough water from the creek to water the garden is a chore that Ruby won't miss!
      Marjorie

      Delete
  6. As a confirmed Introvert, I'm pretty sure my string would have been in more often than out! 🤭 But I'd always welcome you. 💕

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Trixie - I'm actually pretty much an introvert myself, so I'm not sure that I'd keep that latchstring out all the time; but on the other hand, those homesteaders were so isolated that an occasional visitor was probably very welcome, even to introverts like us! Thank you for making me welcome anytime!
      Marjorie

      Delete
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