This is a very old house
The Captain Morse House was built in 1840, before the automobile, airplane, anesthesia, oil, and electricity were put to use. There were no building codes back then. You are renting a little bit of history and if you are expecting doors to close perfectly, stairs to be shallow, and built to modern building codes then this home will disappoint. However, if you want to live in a historic structure then you will not be disappointed. Here are some of the considerations for children and people with disabilities of any kind including difficulty with stairs.
Handicapped and Disabled Accessible properties are few and far between, particularly when it comes to historic homes. The Captain Morse House was built in 1834 so you can imagine that it has a few challenges for handicapped- accessible, physically challenged, elderly, and those with disabilities. Over the years we have hosted several guests with disabilities but it, of course, depends on the level. Although we’ve made many accommodations over the years, the house is NOT ADA compliant. There are also several areas where current building codes would not allow the feature. None of our stairs, for example, are too code and are steep. The thresholds on the first floor have been removed or replaced with lower thresholds to make movement in a wheelchair easier.
The East Wing has a large entry door to the kitchen of about 30″ width with wooden handholds. A person in a wheelchair will need assistance here. If you require a ramp please ask us before arrival or rent the West Wing. We would need to customize a ramp for the East #1 kitchen. The East Wing has a large bedroom with an ensuite bath. The bed is a queen-sized pull-out with an air-dream mattress; quite comfortable. The ensuite first-floor shower is large and easy to access with handholds. The curb height is about 4″. Most of the toilets are “comfort height” models. Accessory handles for the toilet are available on request.
The West Wing entry from the patio is 34.5″ wide and has a long plywood ramp of about six feet installed on request. The 1st-floor bedroom door is 29 1/4″ wide with a usable space of 28″. Wheelchairs will need to be narrower than this. The bath door is 30.5″ wide and the shower is a zero curb entry so wheel chairs can be rolled right into it. It also has handholds. Most of the toilets are “comfort height” models. Accessory handles for the toilet are available on request.
Access from the west wing to the town is down the ramp and then down two shallow exterior steps to the sidewalk. You can also go down the driveway without any stairs but the cars will need to be parked to allow this.
To make sure that the house is appropriate for your purposes you should discuss your particular needs and requirements before renting the home.
Ms. Clara Dinsmore owned the home for many years while she was confined to a wheelchair. During her ownership, she installed a handicapped-accessible hand-operated elevator that is still in operation today. I have kept it in the house because all of the staircases in the house are steep and quite difficult for an older person to manage. The elevator is, therefore, the safest way to access the second floor. Handicapped people and small children are discouraged from going to the third floor where the stairs are even steeper.
Unlike modern elevators, this Handicapped-Accessible model requires an adult to operate it. You can’t just press a button. Doors do not automatically close and lock. You will manually operate it following the directions below.
- Use of the elevator is entirely at your own risk and your own responsibility.
- It is manually operated and not up to modern codes however it was used by Ms. Dinsmore and my family for over 60 years.
- To access the 1st Floor elevator door unplug the lamp and coil the cord on the top of the white sideboard. Carefully roll away the sideboard while protecting the walls with your hands over the sides of the sideboard. The sideboard tends to wander around and not roll out straight.
- Enter the elevator and close the door and hook it. Never operate the elevator without both doors (1st and 2nd floor) hooked closed.
- Locate the two ropes. One will make the elevator go up and one will make it go down down. Pull the proper rope downwards as evenly and smoothly as you can. Quick jerky pulls can make the rope come off the top bull wheel. To fix it you need to go up into the front attic and into the north eves to put the rope back on the wheel. This has only happened once in the past and was the result of very fast movement. If a caretaker is needed there will be a charge.
- Ascend in the elevator to the 2nd floor. At the upper door unhook it and exit the elevator.
- When descending from the 2nd-floor be sure to hook the 2nd-floor door from the inside.
- With a light load, it will be harder to go down than up.
- Do not ever play in the elevator. Do not allow children in it.
- There are no locks on the elevator except for the inside hooks.
The stairs in the house are steep and narrow. None of them are built to modern building codes. My mother lived in the house until 87. My father lived in the house until 89. They were able to use the stairs without assistance but perhaps they were well used to them. Some of our guests live entirely on one level at home so these stairs will pose a challenge. Also, guests over a certain weight should be housed on the first floor. Please discuss your group’s needs with the owner prior to renting the home.
The easiest stairs to use are the 1st floor to 2nf floor East Wing and the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor West Wing.