A cool way to turn a window into a door

Last weekend, I visited St. Louis and got to catch up with some friends who live in an old brick house in that city's South Grand/Tower Grove neighborhood. (Which is awesome, by the way. After hearing nothing but bad news about St. Louis for years, I was pleasantly surprised by great, thriving neighborhoods like this one.)

There's a little porch off one of the upstairs windows, facing the street. But, at first, it's not entirely clear how you get out onto it. But, whoever built this old house had a clever trick up their sleeve — and it's one I'd never seen in action before. That's a picture of the closed window above.

That window is actually a pocket door. A vertical pocket door. Here, my friend Josh pulls it up.

And here's the door open all the way. You have to duck to get through, but still. Damn, that's nifty.


  1. I live in that neighborhood too!  Added to seeing Cory at the library yesterday, I coulda had a BoingBoing twofer going on this month.  Then all I’d need is to run into Xeni and I’m pretty sure I get a free sub.

  2. They had these in New Orleans; I lived in a “shotgun double” near St. Charles Ave with these on the second floor.  I had heard that they did this because houses in the 1800’s were taxed by the number of doors to the outside; dunno if that’s true.

    1. Houses in my home town (New Orleans) were taxed by the number of chimneys, which is why there were so many rooms that were back-to-back with fireplaces and shared one chimney. This includes houses with side-by-side duplexes shared between two related families.

    2. It’s true that during the colonial era houses were taxed by the windows. I toured a home from that era in Wilmington, NC and had an excellent docent, and she said that the home was taxed by the number of windows. In fact, she showed us all the items that were taxed in the home – no wonder we revolted. 

  3. This reminds me of a phrase that’s sometimes used to let someone know that they’re blocking your view.

    I think it goes “you are too opaque to see through.”

  4. Its just a big Sash window, common in Georgian houses, we have a lot of them in Scotland.

    1. No, it’s a bit different. We’ve got sash windows in the US, too. I have them in my house. But in my sash windows, when I pull up the bottom half, it just slides up behind the top half. 

      I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but this window actually slides into the wall itself. It’s probably the same counterweight mechanism, but it works more like a pocket door. 

  5. It’s commonly called a Jefferson Window.  No, Thomas Jefferson didn’t invent them (a common myth), but he did use triple sash windows in his Monticello home.

    They’re not uncommon in St. Louis.

  6. Jefferson Windows are a relic of a property taxation methodology. At one point in the City of St. Louis, property taxes were figured on the number of doors on your home – It made figuring taxes easy, as the assessors could just count the number of doors from the outside and move down the street. Jefferson windows are visibly windows, not doors, and a way to cheat this system. We still have part of this methodology in place – a good 3/4ths (at least) of the city doesn’t have metered water bills, it’s figured by a formula involving number of rooms, toilets, & shower/bathtubs. These are things that usually don’t change without the city being aware of it from the plumbing/building permits.

    1. You know, mansard roofs were invented to give Parisians an extra story of house without adding any taxes, Charleston houses have their long side facing the inside lot and the narrow side facing the front for tax reasons too. Someone needs to write a book on architectural conventions designed to cheat the taxman. (Geoff M. @ BLDGBLOG, I’m looking at you)

      1.  Some French farmers had small houses, but if youi were a trusted friend they would pull the rug aside, lift the hatch, and take you down into the much larger, much more nicely furnished real house.  All done to hide signs of visible wealth from the tax man.

    2.  “Oh my god!!!  Did you *SHIT* in the kitchen sink???” she cried.  “Honey, we’re saving on taxes this way,” he replied nonchalantly.

    3. You beat me to it. :)
      In Newfoundland they have what is refered to as “Mother-in-law” doors, which a full door, usually on the front of the house above the actual front door, but it opens onto nothing, if you stepped through it from the inside you’d fall down to the ground. Tax levels for “incomplete” construction was different than completed houses. So having a door to a non-existant balcony or stair case kept the houses at the lower level. http://www.pbase.com/image/83903014

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