The Room With Nine Doors

I was proud of my grandparents’ living room. It seemed huge, and it had nine doors. How could I not brag about a room with so many ways in and so many ways out?

For the first year of my life the living room was where my extended family rocked and cuddled and cared for me. As I grew older, my brother and cousins joined me there to play hide-and-seek, watch television, and listen to the aunts and uncles chat over Sunday afternoon tea.

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

My grandmother let my mother and her siblings and friends push aside the carpet for roller skating, parties, and dancing. This was only possible because in the 1920’s my grandparents tore down walls and turned what had been two or three rooms into this one large space.

First Floor - Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

First Floor – Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

My great-grandmother wrote in her journals about the parlor, the sitting room, the front room, the west room and the downstairs “chambers.” She never mentioned a living room. I don’t know what the old footprint of the rooms was, but there was originally a large central chimney with a fireplace on each side, one for the parlor and one for the sitting room. These fireplaces were removed during the expansion and a new chimney and fireplace built at the west end.

Fireplace and window, 1951

Fireplace and window, 1951

The two windows at the west end of the room that looked out onto Muddy River and the orchards were the inspiration for my “Window” series of monoprints, and the memory of the many doors in the living room fueled my ongoing fascination with views into and out of rooms. A door at my grandma and grandpa Crump’s house in downtown Wallingford is the subject of a 1990 painting.

"Door to Grandma Crump's Sleeping Porch," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

“Door to Grandma and Grandpa Crump’s Sleeping Porch,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

Here’s a list of the nine doors in the farmhouse living room:

  • The door into the dining room.
  • The door behind the desk (an unused door into the bathroom.)
  • The door to the back staircase.
  • The door to the back bedroom
  • The door to the side yard.
  • The west door to the parlor
  • The east door to the parlor.
  • The front hallway door
  • The door to the closet under the stairs

Some doors, like the door to the bathroom, remained closed. Others, like the door into the dining room, stayed open. But with so many doors there was always the sense of life going on inside and out and the feeling of endless places to explore. In a room whose function was never strictly defined, there was always something to do. The possibilities felt endless.

"Interior," (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

“Interior,” (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

On Wednesday:  Baked Beans

12 thoughts on “The Room With Nine Doors

  1. Michael Foster

    What an interesting room and, after the kitchen, sounds like the very center of family life in the farmhouse. I can imagine the games of hide and seek that you describe with so many doors to come in and out of. As usual, we were are impressed with your art. Can you explain how the last linoprint was done? We debated how you get such detail and so many colors.

    1. Carol Post author

      It was done using five 8″ x 10″ blocks, one for each color. It involved alot of carving and careful registration so the patterns would match up in the end. Then I inked each block and placed the paper on top and rubbed the back with a wooden spoon. Then when that layer dried I would ink the next color block and repeat. It’s interesting – I have looked for the blocks everywhere because I’m not sure if they were wood or linoleum – and haven’t been able to find them. And I didn’t make very many prints because the process was so very complicated.

  2. Pete Foster

    It sure is interesting to have your help in looking back at Whirlwind Hill. I can only remember visiting the front entrance to the kitchen so the rest of your plot plan is welcome news to me. We went by so often, frequently having to stop for the cows crossing the road with your grandma waving her cow stick. Most of my down-the-hill memories centered on the firehouse and regular meetings there.
    Thanks for the memories,
    Pete Foster

    1. Carol Post author

      And now the firehouse is gone too. I think everyone came to the house through the kitchen, so it’s not surprising not to have gotten any farther than that room. Glad the plan makes sense to you.
      We loved helping to chase (guide) the cows into and out of the barn. It was such a great opportunity to use a stick almost like a magic wand to control those big animals.

  3. Kurt Zwick

    Several weeks ago, I was doing a little research on the Wallingford tornado and wondered if “whirlwind” hill got it’s name from that event. My search led me to your blog which I must confess I am thoroughly enjoying. ( I hope you don’t mind my stalking!) I grew up on a farm in Woodbridge and lived in a house that my Great-Grandfather had built in 1882. Our Living room only had six doorways! But it did have a beautiful three bay window where we watched our garden grow and the seasons change. One of my earliest memories is standing on my tiptoes looking out the window and seeing a 1950’s Woody station wagon drive by every morning.
    My father sold his cows when I was 5 or 6 but I still got the full farm experience as I raised heifers, mowed, crushed,raked, baled and picked up hay, picked apples, tomatoes, peaches, peppers, corn… LOTs of corn, and hoed, weeded, cut chop and split wood, fixed fence, had picnics in the hay fields, or in our grove of trees and soft moss, etc. etc.

    My family and I live in Northford between Woods hill and Reeds Gap roads and my commute takes me past the reservoir twice a day. I enjoy seeing the clouds over the water in the fall when all the trees have changed. I like to imagine the farms as they used to be sometimes. In an interesting coincidence I was telling my mother-in-law about your column and she told me that she was related to Glenna! And recalled having met many of your family. It’s funny how small the world is at some times!

    Anyways I look forward to your next posting, and hope you don’t mind that I peek in once in awhile.

    1. Carol Post author

      Isn’t it a small world? So glad you stumbled on the blog. And please let me know what you find out about the tornado. I have an old book about that tornado and plan to do a blog post on it one of these days. And please do keep reading and commenting. I love to hear stories from other people, and to imagine – your mother-in-law related to Glenna.
      Six doors is still alot! Please don’t feel that you’re stalking – this is a public blog. Anyone can read. So glad you have joined us!

  4. Katy Gilmore

    This post seems to explain so many of your wonderful paintings over the years – doors and windows near and far! Just reading about nine doors, I think too many goings and comings – but in your pictures there are always resting spots, places to cozy up and read a book and watch the scene with much pleasure.

  5. Patti Burkett

    I would have missed a door or two if I had been asked to count. (I certainly didn’t remember the one behind the desk). Your floor plan helps me make sense of my many disconnected memories. I count myself very fortunate to have your print hanging at my house along with the two rockers portrayed in it. Both rockers made their way to me and are used on a daily basis. People love seeing them in the print, and I love having the chance to tell about them!

  6. Carol Post author

    How neat that you have the rockers! I love hearing about these things that live on. I am not sure if my plan is exactly right, especially in the proportions, but I think it’s pretty close. After doing alot of thinking about it, I think the living room was divided into two rooms, the “west room” and the “sitting room.” But I’m not sure exactly where that wall would have been. I do love mysteries.


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