We are in the process of deciding whether to purchase a 1886 Victorian home.  It had a large addition completed somewhere around 1900-1910. In addition, at some point it was divided into small apartments, then "restored" back to a single family home in 1966. Since that point it has seen 12 owners.  There are no blueprints, not much in the way of documentation of any sort, and despite me spending countless hours pining over books, I have not been able to locate any building plan or pictures that seem to come close to this house.  

Regardless, one thing perplexes me.  I have attached pictures below.  There is a bricked over window on the front of the house on the porch that I can't figure for the life of me why its bricked over.  The staircase was blocked off from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor to allow for a bathroom enlargement. But, by all counts, the staircase from floor 1 to 2  is still in the original position.  The rear staircase has not been altered.  There is a small space (Butler's Pantry?) under the staircase that has the same shape window (original wood, not painted) , but is half blocked by the stairs.  

The realtor thinks it could have been intentionally bricked over (Never a window) to be used as an alcove for a gas light for the porch.  

I can fill in more blanks if needed, but I would appreciate it if anyone had any thoughts on the matter. Its driving me crazy. 

In Image 1, the bricked out window is the same size as the one next to the front door, at the same height off the ground.  As you can see, this would put the stairs running thru the middle of it, similar to the one in the butlers pantry.  Could this have been an original design? 

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Do you have a good photo of the bricked over window?  I'm not sure I follow you train of thought regarding photo 1 and how it relates to the exterior. The stair looks well done and likely original given the landing window alignment.  The partially covered window situation is not unusual.  

You can send me additional photos directly if you wish: ken@oakewooddesign.com


Ken-sent additional pics. Thanks!

Attached are the pictures of the blocked off window. The bricked window is the same size and shape as the ones in the above picture of the staircase interior.  It is the same height from the ground as the window nearest in the 1st picture. it appears that the base of it would begin on the 4th step, thus covering at least 1/2 of the window. I just have not been able to find any examples of staircases partially covering windows. My thought was that the staircase was modified at some point. There is a section walled off between the 2nd and 3rd floor, but the angle of descent is the same. The positioning is the same....the stairway was originally open to the 3rd floor, but a bathroom addition closed it off. We are planning on re opening it to original, but this dang window, and the one in the butlers pantry are bugging the heck out of me. Any input is greatly appreciated.


Open it back up. Windows behind staircases is very common.

Very awesome stick/Eastlake trim in your house.

It is common? I have scoured the internet looking for a picture or example that would show one to no avail. I had a friend tell me that it’s possible it was blocked due to code. That windows at the bottom of stairs not 36” away are not allowed?

I have worked on two structures with this feature in the same village. (Waterford, VA.)

For sure would not meet code today. For hat reason would code-compliance compelled them to do this to your place? Was it made into a B&B or apartments recently?

It was converted to apartments sometime in the 50’s from what I can gather.  When the apartments were tore out and returned back to single family by the next owners in 1964, there is a picture with the family on the porch with the window still bricked over.  Like I said, the same window size and shape is 1/2 blocked off by the stairs in the butlers pantry (I posted the pic) 

Would that code been in effect in the 50’s? 

For whatever reason, it just bugs the hell out of me. 

Wonderful house!  Back in those days a blue print was rare.  You would hire a carpenter that you liked their work on other homes.  Without plans the house plans were in the contractors head and the building would start.  When the owner would visit they would like things and if they didn't things would be changed. Like the owners saying I don't want a window there and it would be bricked up. Could you make this pantry a little larger and the wall would move but not the window.  building back then was very different from today.  I read a book about building a home where it took 2 years to ship all the lumber to Denver to build a home.  

This is an incredible house - and it still has a lot of original details. We were lucky to get a copy of the architect's plans for our house when we purchased it, but we also found information on the original floor plan of our house and how it changed over the years by accessing local tax assessment files which, if you're lucky, include plot information and scaled plans of the house. Contact the offices of the local government jurisdictions where the house is to find out what they have - you should be able to get copies of any docs in the file. You may also find, if you do purchase the property, that there may be additional information provided with the deed and related documents. We even got a copy of the first owner's will with the deed to our 1880 Victorian.

I also agree that you should remove the bricks from the window.  Best of luck.


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