Apr 22, 2022

A New Old Sink

April 22, 2022

Last week I had a new sink installed in my laundry. It’s a new sink, but I call it my “new old sink” because it’s a vintage style. It’s styled like an old-fashioned kitchen sink with a high back and one long basin. A sink like this has been on my wish list for a long time.


You may wonder what a sink has to do with genealogy. My new old sink is very similar to one that was in my grandparents’ house for over a hundred years. My grandfather built the house in 1911 after saving $100 a year for ten years. When it was built, the four-room craftsman style cottage was the height of fashion. Most of the furniture was mission-style oak with black leather seats.


The kitchen was simple. It contained a wood-burning range for cooking as well as heating. The sink was a wall-mounted, high backed single basin style – much like my new old sink. There was also a small cabinet for storage and an oil cloth covered kitchen table. A refrigerator didn’t make its entrance until several decades later.


How do I know so much about what my grandparents’ house would have been like when it was new? That’s simple. In the mid-1950s when I was a child, the house looked pretty much as it had before World War I when it was built.


The old kitchen sink was still in place, and I remember standing on a stool to get a drink of water when I was small. It was also the place my grandmother used to wash my hair when I stayed over at their house.


After my grandparents died, my parents took over their house. Although it was the 1960s, the house still looked pretty much as it had in 1911. After fifty plus years it was worn and needed an update. My folks had the whole thing gutted and made the house into a typical 1960s ranch with harvest gold appliances and shag carpets.


Of course, the old high-backed kitchen sink had to go. Unlike most of the old 1911 fixtures, which ended up in the dump, the sink was hung in the laundry room. For the next fifty years my dad used it to wash the vegetables he brought in from the garden, and Mom filled buckets in it to mop the floors. I still washed my hair in that old sink whenever I was staying with my folks.


Eventually, my parents passed away, and my siblings and I decided to sell the old house. It was worn out, and none of wanted to undertake the huge project of restoring it. My siblings and I picked through the leftovers of my grandparents’ and parents’ lives. Most of their stuff was tattered and hardly worth keeping. The one thing I wanted was the old sink. Sadly, by this time, it was cracked, and not worth repairing.


I’ve always wanted a sink like the one in that old house, but the opportunity just never arose. This fall we decided to do some refreshing in the kitchen and laundry room of our 1990s house. Our kitchen wouldn’t have suited a high-backed sink, but the laundry room was another story. I tried to find an antique with no success, so we turned to a vintage-look new sink – my “new old” sink.


Now that it’s installed, I find myself going to the laundry room just to admire my sink. It always brings a smile to my face. It feels like I have a little of my childhood and youth back again. Plus, it’s a great place to wash my hair!


Carol Stetser