Why were these door casings slanted?
July 25, 2016 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday I visited the Isaac Royall House in Medford, MA, a Georgian home built in 1692 and extensively remodeled in the 1730s. We noticed that several of the closet doors had casings that were clearly slanted at the top (unfortunately I can't find those particular doors in pictures). It looked intentional, not like a result of the house sagging. What would be the purpose of this type of design?
posted by this, of course, alludes to sex to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
The front door of Orchard House in Concord, MA (where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women) has a slant at the bottom, as seen here.

I remember being told when I visited that it was slanted to help the door automatically close. Unfortunately, after a quick search, I can't find any confirmation of this online.
posted by slipthought at 8:24 AM on July 25, 2016

Slanting the top or bottom of a door will not have any effect on how it swings. If you want a door to naturally self-close, you angle the hinge side a little bit.

Slanting the bottom might help it clear a rug.
posted by yesster at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've spent a good portion of my career in historic houses, and most rationales you hear for idiosyncrasies like this are BS, as is, I think, the Orchard House story. In general, the two things that account for architectural idiosyncrasies are (1) house settling - which indeed can really skew a room into almost organic shapes sometimes, especially over three centuries in a northern climate with extreme variations of temperature. It is such a common problem with older houses in the New England region that you can Google "square up old door frame" and see plenty of examples. Then there is (2), individual modification, often done not at the time of construction but for later residents. People sometimes cut doors at the bottom or top after the house started to settle and the door became harder to close. I'd bet that's the case with the Orchard House door. They also cut doors later on to accommodate the passage of an electric wire over the top.

I'm sorry the Orchard House website includes that story. That particular house has a legacy of very romantic interpretation and unfortunately, it seems to be continuing here. If Bronson Alcott's genius figured out a way to make a self-closing door by cutting it at an angle, I'd expect the strategy to have spread around the area - but it hasn't. Slanted doors abound, but they weren't created for this reason. I don't think it has a thing to do with automatically closing, I think it's probably a nice Colonial-Revival-era story from the 1920s that has been passed down until no one recalls that it wasn't ever fact.
posted by Miko at 9:49 AM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

Having owned and lived in one of the earliest First Period homes still extant, I can tell you that everything slanted. There was no reason to most of it - it was catch as catch can over almost 400 years. House settling, different types of uses, remaking an entrance to fit the delivery of something large, adapting to every decade of mod cons, etc. Some of it was utterly meshugganah.

A doorway would have been changed so much over intervening years as to make a slant something probably introduced in the last 50.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:57 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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