Keeping a B&B in ship shape means there’s always maintenance work. I had recently just begun to repair and paint the interior side of the Troy-Bumpas Inn’s front door, when news came over NPR that Andy Rooney, of CBS’ 60 Minutes fame, had died. Highlights of his obituary included Rooney describing how he had convinced folks at 60 Minutes to allow him to write and read an essay each week. “What would you write about?” he was asked. Looking around the room, he said something like, “Well, anything. I could write about doors.” And indeed doors were the subject of his first essay.
Rooney probably started that essay with, “Did you ever notice that doors…” I thought about that as I studied the door I was sanding. I noticed that it was put together with wooden pegs, making it very likely the original door to the house. If so, the door is now 164 years old. The Rev. Sidney M. Bumpass, who had the house built, must have proudly walked through this door back in 1847.
I thought about all the other people who must have passed through this door in the ensuing years. The Rev. Bumpass only lived in the house a few years before typhoid killed him. His young wife Frances must have rushed out that door to be at her dying husband’s bedside. After his death, Frances Bumpass taught elementary school at the house to make ends meet. Countless children must have come and gone to school through this portal. The house also served as the Western Greensboro Union Headquarters at the end of the Civil War. Did General Jacob D. Cox come and go through this door as he commanded Union forces that occupied post-Civil War Greensboro? Ah, such scope for the imagination!
Would any of the past residents have resented the fact that I was refinishing this original door? I hoped not, but I had little alternative. Flaking paint (as you can see in the photo) had come to the attention of the health inspector who said we had to fix it. I thought of all those Antiques Road Show episodes where they tell you you’ve cut the value of an antique in half by refinishing it, even if the old item looks worn and weathered. But when the health inspector tells you to do something to your facility, you do it.
As I sanded away the old finish, I realized the door had at one time been a tan color and originally was green. At least I wasn’t the first to repaint the door. I realized the original green echoed the tones in the tiles around the fireplace and decided it would be a perfect color to bring back to the door. Before I could apply the paint, I used wood putty fill in dozens of tiny holes that appeared to be from thumb tacks. Did Frances post notes to the students on the door? It’s probably more likely those holes dated back to the 1980s when the house was divided into student apartments. Maybe the front door doubled as a bulletin board with “rent due” notices.
Yes. There’s a lot you can notice about a door. We invite you to visit the Troy-Bumpas Inn and see for yourself how nice the front door now looks. (To be honest, my photos don’t do it justice!) And the front door is only the beginning. We’re pretty proud of the whole inn and love sharing it and our historic city with others.