My Grandmothers Door.


Grandmothers House built 1910, torn down 2008. Arlington VA

For the record, if you think this is some sort of Metaphor story, it’s not. it’s litterally about my Grandmothers door. Now, to have this make sense we need to go back in time. Like over 50 years ago. I was born into a family that lived all over the world, and home was where ones family was. Moscow, Paris and Munich, but real home was were my Grandparents lived in Arlington Virginia. In this case, my fathers Mother and Father, he was the Admiral I have done a story on, HERE and she, Sylvia was a very smart active woman of the day, having graduated from University of Michigan and raising a family while in tents and such surveying around the world themselves. Later settling in Arlington before WWII.

Restored and named after my Grandmother. Sylvia She gave me copyright usage.

But for me, they were stead fast in the house I would always know as home. I lived there for weeks at a time in the summers and worked on the house, painting, repairing etc,  as I grew and in the yard. Man did I work in the yard. Those weeds! Grandmother was the Azalea Queen in Arlington back in the day when such titles were given out. So, to the door. When Grandmother died back in 2006 ish at age106, the house was sold to the County for a fire house or some park, not sure. 2.5 acres in North Arlington overlooking DC. It actually, was an amazing house. My vision of a perfect house design. Anyway, the house was going to be torn down. NOT happy about it, but it is what it is and I requested permission to salvage the house. Heck I wanted to move the house. But impossible. Bridges and all sorts of issues. The beltway! Yikes!

I couldn’t salvage the mural art nouveau wall paper mural from France. But the molding and lights. Yes!

And man did I salvage it. Molding, doors, lights everything that even hinted at character. Funny thing when all the details are stripped from a home. It’s just 4 walls. And as I was leaving with my trailer full of stuff, I glanced at the front door and thought. Mmmmmm, Grabbed a crow bar and took the entire thing out. I am sure some of my never ending back issues are related to that last Mmmmmmm. Well, that was in 2007 and the stuff sat in my barn in Reedville VA and slowly has been installed in the house there. Built in 1925.  Except that dang front door. And this past weekend, in it went into the barn. Now, you may ask what inspired the final push.

The entire door structure installed. Grandmother had covered the glass sides at some point.

Well, our new sponsor who makes Vintage Doors. Called… Vintage Doors. They are amazing and the more I thought about doing a story on doors and how they are a first impression and how a beautiful Vintage Door is like hinging a Classic Boat to the front of your house, I was motivated. I had the door, the entire set up and the burning knowledge that a family member has walked through this door for close to 100 years, no matter where the door is located, it’s a transition into my world, my door way to life. My mother met my fathers parents going through that door, My father went off to War through that door, cousins, friends, famous people, not famous people, maybe even a President, ( Eisenhower, and Truman ) went through that door.

And so you see, this story was in deed about a door, but not just any door, my family door, my Grandmothers Door….. Just think, you could replace that lame ass Home Depot builder grade door with an amazing custom Vintage Door and start a family tradition of your own! You can drool all over their website HERE

Amazing door sets

Nice pet doors that dont look like white prison bars!

Custom round top doors!

Solid wood, not the cheap crap! Like your boat, its all real!

Also visit there facebook page and get some better photos than on there website. BUT the website is loaded with options and ways to make your four walls your home!


36 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I’m glad you finally put that door back into use. Your Grandmother would be proud of you. She would want it to be a “user”. Nice story!

  2. Ranger
    Ranger says:

    I missed the original story on your grandfather, thanks for the link. It is so cool you went and salvaged your families home and are using those materials in yours. Loved this story, Matt.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    A vintage door would be perfect for a boat house holding classic boats. If we could only convince the code/zoning people that boat houses are a treasure not a blight so I could build one.

  4. Roger Arkwright
    Roger Arkwright says:

    Love the story, the historic and personal perspective…it is another example of why keeping history alive is so important. Door, molding, older boats they are all related and of high value.
    Thanks Matt.

  5. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    The house where I lived as a child on Cathedral Ave. in Washington, D.C. is still there…The current owners painted the front door red..Not sure why but I go there every now and then on Google earth just to relive my mispent childhood.

  6. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I have made a career of saving doors, and the buildings attached to them….I must have hundreds of doors of that era and before.
    Powhatan Va. ain’t Dee Cee…..but we have lots of original fabric to work with and I am still at it!
    Great story Matt…one of your best!
    I like it so much I wrote this response AGAIN after doing the math captcha CORRECTLY and being told otherwise….? what is with that ????
    John in Va.

    • floyd r turbo
      floyd r turbo says:

      I thought I was the only one who had trouble with “math”. Actually, I got a perfect score on my Boolean Algebra final exam in college. Apparently, that doesn’t count with “captcha”.

  7. mark edmonson
    mark edmonson says:

    Grandma is a U of M grad, You got a good gene pool. Same here, My Grandfather was the Dean of Education, When she must of attended.

  8. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    Front Doors can hold a lot of family history, as well as historical value. My Mom (who turned 89 yesterday} still lives in the house I grew up in. It was bought by my Great Grandpa over 100 years ago. I know how much front value front doors can hold to a family. Just like an old boat that has been in the family for years. Someone said once, our hobby is about people as much as it is about boats. People give doors and boats memories! Great Article.

  9. Wudzgud
    Wudzgud says:

    M GO BLUE. My Great-Grandfather was the dean of engineering. Actually started the engineering dept. at U of M. And the FI
    GAM fraternity. Most of my family went there Nice article. Old front doors are great. Can’the buy the old doors anymore, even at my 94 year old lumberyard. Hence the moniker Wudzgud. And it also works for a wooden boat!! Love the alligatoring paint. And if you have an old mortise lock that is the icing on the cake. We live in a throw away world. Use it for a while then throw it away.

  10. Matt
    Matt says:

    What a small world, My grandfather graduated with a degree in Engineering. 1926, not sure what my Grandmothers degree was. Also 1926.

  11. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    Two doors like this in the house on the Island. I was told the family that owned the house in the early 1900’s had a tugboat company on the Hudson, the doors are supposed to be from the tugs.

      • Matt
        Matt says:

        NO SHIP! I can tell you I have been working with the molding and details from this house built in 1910 and the wood is like a stone. No rot and holds a nail or screw better than a new piece of wood. Amazing stuff. Some of the nails I pulled out as well, are like modern day Brick nails.

  12. Bob B
    Bob B says:

    Wilson—origin of red doors from my wife and from Google:

    “During the civil war, “safe homes” that were part of the Underground Railroad supposedly painted their doors red to guide escaped slaves to places of refuge and safety. Scottish tradition holds that homeowners paint their front door red to signify that they had paid off their mortgage.”

    Matt—Superb story today!

  13. Matt
    Matt says:

    We had a house down the street from this one where the fireplace was a safe place on the undeground railroad. And I thought this front door was just a thing for me? According to my Grandmother, back in the day she told me much of the detail and moldings on the house were made on the spot according to the original owners. I made a special headboard from the Bed room doors on my Grandparents Bedroom and fireplace detail.

  14. Darthtrader
    Darthtrader says:

    Matt, your story resonates with me. Our home was a small plantation on the lower James River. The lower panel and bottom frame of the front door had to be replaced because it had been damaged by a British cannon ball which I have heard is still lodged in the foundation. The door never closed correctly after that. It would creak and rattle during the hurricanes, but never gave up. Front doors define part of our history and are somewhat like the signature of a house.

  15. Steve L
    Steve L says:

    History… Everyone’s got some. Good or bad, you can’t change it. It’s part of all of us and we have to learn what we can from it. You just have to search it out!

    Matt, I love your passion and respect for all things old. I love old machinery and tools that made other old stuff and I think its so cool when we can continue to use that old stuff!

  16. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    You never fail to surprise me. You rescue beutiful things others would see as scrap, you store them forever and eventually put them to use in the perfect way. Bravo!

  17. Rich Marschner
    Rich Marschner says:

    Matt, what a sweet story. All these comments show that you don’t have to struggle to find a boat-centered story every day.
    Tomorrow, we put Talaria (nee you-know-who) in here at Taughannock Park on Lake Cayuga. She’ll be with us at the same house we had last year, when we were in Ithaca for our last daughter’s wedding, just this coming month. I’ll send along a picture when she’s a-floatin’….

  18. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    M go Blue. I went there too. I also have the connection to Hammond. They must have a boat down in Chippewa Bay. See you on The River.

  19. Richard Daley
    Richard Daley says:

    Matt how I know your story of salvage
    I own a church which was built in 1911 in a small village here in Alberta about 10 miles from my cottage property. I intend to move it to the lake and turn it into a cottage for my children.
    The church is all original still has the church pews. I want to do it as Peroid correct as possible ( like restoring a boat) so I needed a lot of Peroid correct material. I went looking and found a 2 1/2 story house from same time frame that was in the middle of a field about to be pushed into a hole and burnt.
    The house was in good condition just in the middle of a feedlot operation and had to go .i bought salvage rights but only had 2 days to take it apart. I gather up some hired help ( young lads )and went at it . I got 12 doors 3 glass built in bookcases all the 12 inch baseboards all the door and window trim. On the second day I brought my old English carpenter out with portable generator (no power on site) and he helped us take the entire staircase out of the house. Ie reverse build take it apart in reserve order in which it was put together. As we were leaving he said aren’t you going to take the front door. It was pretty rough the glass had been smashed out. So we stooped looked at it got the saws all out fired up the generator and cut the whole thing out door frame and all still with door attached. That’s also the way we took the book cases out. Next day they bulldozed the rest of the house into a hole and burned it. I would liked to have had more time but we got what we could and it will live to see another day

  20. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    On of our Tidewater ACBS members, Jimmy Kastleberg is the owner of one of the great salvage and restoration material business on the east coast (nothing is really old on the west coast anyhow). ” Caravatti’s “…..look it up….pay them a visit.
    There are warehouse rooms full of doors like that….and other special things. Plus he is ONE OF US!!!

    John in Va.

  21. jim g
    jim g says:

    $20,000.00 hand craved door on a lake house next door to a boat I work on.

    The backside of the door and the bear is just as impressive as the front.

  22. Gene Porter
    Gene Porter says:

    Great story, but you missed an obvious connection to wooden boats; VARNISH!!
    in the mid 90s We became the third owners of Nashua NH’s Beason House that was built by the then mayor in 1912. It is a solid center foyer colonial that was ripe for new wallpaper and a kitchen upgrade – with a side lot big enough for a big boat shop (oops, a Carriage House, to meet the Historic District rule).

    The front door was a weathered fir eyesore that had long ago lost any luster, but whose intricate internal brass s lever latches all worked fine. It clearly needed to be refinished so, as I geared up to redo the ceiling boards on my Lyman, I dismounted the Mayor’s door and prepared it to become respectable.

    The result of 8 coats of Captains 2015 has held up well for a dozen years and complements the small boat transom house number sign at the end of the driveway.


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