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This Old House of Steampunk

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There is no denying that the steampunk movement is one the rise, at least to judge from the attendees at Comicpalooza last weekend. We for one have absolutely no problem with the sub-cultures increased popularity at all. In fact, we recently chronicled the excellent work of Peter Balch and his handmade steampunk computer mice, complete with brain in a jar.

That was cool all right, but all it did was get us wishing that someone out there made steampunk computer stations to go with Balch's mouse. And wouldn't it be even sweeter if someone out there could make an entire steampunk house for u... oh, there is? Hey, thanks Internet!

Meet Bruce Rosenbaum of Modern Victorian, the man who has taken steampunk to a level so far beyond gluing gears on a top hat that we're not even really sure where to begin. However, we'll give it a shot. Once upon a time, Rosenbaum and his wife had a roof that leaked. Long story short, he got into home restoration in a big way. He eventually went to contractor's school and started a side business of restoring 100-plus-year-old homes.

Being in love with the elegance and beauty of the Victorian style, Rosenbaum nonetheless is a man who enjoys modern technologies and comforts. So, bit by bit, he's been combining those aspects of home life together. For instance, he acquired an antique cast iron stove, but had the top fitted for modern electric burners and other amenities you'd find in a regular stove.

"I wanted to combine the beauty of the Victorian era with the functionality of the modern," Rosenbaum says.

It didn't take many projects of that kind before acquaintances told Rosenbaum that what he was doing was steampunk, and that launched him into a career as a driving force in the sub-culture. He has shown his high-quality authentic antique pieces with modern adaptations at conventions and museums, and was even instrumental in turning an entire Massachusetts town into a recreation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for more than 10,000 delighted visitors.

What caught our eye was Rosenbaum's computer work station built from the shell of a Victorian pipe organ.

"You'd be surprised how cheap these treasures can be had," he tells us. "People find them in their grandmother's garage and sell them for $100."

Having worked in a sheet music store for 10 years, we can easily understand that. These small pipe organs had good bones, but the bellows system was murderously difficult to maintain and replacing one now is hard to impossible.

Rosenbaum was able to use the space from which he removed the bellows to house the CPU of a computer, with all the USB ports and other necessary inputs and outlets being easily mounted to the front to cut down any digging around in the underbelly. The monitor is featured in a real antique Victorian picture frame and Edison horns are used for speakers.

Most impressive to us was Rosebaum's web camera housed within an ancient bellows-style camera. We just assumed that the inside was hollow, but using a very small webcam he was able to snake the lens through the inner workings without damaging them.

That camera could be restored to its original form and function tomorrow if someone wanted to," said Rosenbaum. "That's what I'm striving for, to modernize without destroying."

As an added surrealistic touch, the original camera lens remains attached, giving images from the webcam a strange walleye feel.

Rosenbaum is using high-end authentic antiques in his work as well as expert restoration craftsmanship. These things do not come cheap. However, he finds a great deal of meaning in helping young fans who have the drive but not the financial security for similar steampunk projects learn how to follow in his footsteps.

"I am passionate about this," he tells us. "I'm trying to be a bridge for people who want to do things like, I want to inspire them for when they making the kind of money doing great steampunk projects require. I see steampunk as a creative design solution. It's a way for people to enjoy the beauty used in objects a century ago while still existing in the modern world.

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