The first thing every visitor to our 1895 Hanscom Park home says is, “What a cool door!” The second thing they say is, “What’s that?” as they point to a metal tab that sticks right of the door’s center. It looks a lot like the key on a wind-up toy surrounded by a brass Art Nouveau plate.
Now, the fun starts – “Go ahead and turn it!” At this point, they either refuse (why?) or gingerly give it a little half-hearted goose. Then…nothing happens. It doesn’t budge. “Stand aside,” I say, and I give it a good, clockwise crank.
Buuurrriiiinggg! There is something both gratifying and festive about announcing your presence with miniature fire alarm, don’t you think? The bell is startlingly loud and satisfyingly mechanical. There’s an echo and resonance to the sound it makes. If you get a giddy smile on your face and immediately ring it again, I’ll know you’re my kind of person and that you’ll fit in just fine here. If not, well…we’ll work with you.
Mechanical doorbells are available from online sellers of reproduction hardware in varying degrees of fanciness, ranging from utilitarian to full-on Victorian whackadoodle splendor. Some are operated with a twisty key (like mine) and some are operated with levers. I’m most partial to the ones that have instructions, like ‘Turn’, cast into the outside plate for the operator. Best of all, you don’t need wiring or mad skillz to install this type of bell – just the guts to drill a hole right through the middle of your antique door.
For about the same cost as a modern doorbell kit, you can add an air of delight and authenticity to your entry. You also get the added satisfaction of confounding rivals and strangers who drop by unannounced! Win-win-win!
Do you have one of these on your Old Omaha home? Or, do you have a mysterious hole or screw where one used to be? Are your guests able to figure it out, or do they stand outside looking helpless until you open the door?
Tag us on Facebook with photos of your cool door, confused guests, or any other mysterious or unique part of your vintage home. We’ll be listening for the bell!