Victorian Call Box Still Answering Bells 122 Years Later

Sometimes it’s comforting when things don’t change; solid things, built to last, patiently doing their duty while fleeting trends come and disappear. The call box in our Fargo home is like that.

Queen Victoria was on the throne when the brand new house’s call box, primly known as an “annunciator,” was installed in 1895 with a new invention called electricity. It answered the house’s bells during World War I, the Great Depression and a Second World War. The solid oak box rang it’s bell during the 1950’s rock-n-roll days and when soldiers headed for Vietnam. It’s lived through more history than any of us.

And like the house in which it was installed 122 years ago, it remains, still working, still unchanged. Quaint? Probably. I wonder if it ever feared being replaced by a younger, perkier model. The modern “doorbell” just doesn’t have the same ring as an “annunciator.”

Although the house and its call box have escaped change, long gone are the servants who answered its bell. The annunciator, also know as the servants’ bell box, is located in the kitchen. The box has 4 arrows. When a bell rings, one of four arrows points toward its label indicating Front Door, Side Door, Dining Room, Second Floor. The servant, upon hearing the bell, would know which location to respond. Pressing a lever on the box’s lower side resets the arrows to original positions, ready for the next bell.

Arrow indicates Front Door bell is ringing.
Pushing the lever on the box’s underside resets arrows.
Arrows reset to original position.
Arrows indicate if bell is being rung at Front Door, Side Door, Dining Room or Second Floor.

Although the servants are gone, the annunciator still points to the appropriate location when buzzers are pushed. At the sound of a bell and arrow pointing to Front Door, a maid or butler no longer responds; that’s our job as homeowners. I hope the annunciator understands that times are different now. The Victorian way of life might have passed, but the call box perseveres. And that’s nice.


2 Responses

  1. Teri Smith

    The call box is so cool. We are so used to throwing things and buying new. There are many things old, usable and attractive. Although I have to say the new lilacs have really caught my eye!
    Thanks for sharing.

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