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1940s apartment in New York City. It has two of these junction boxes high up on the wall (just below ceiling level).

We're in the process of planning remodeling and I'd like to just understand what these were originally used for, if possible. We may well decide to entirely leave them alone, and there is no known electrical fault anywhere, so this is really just a question for research / understanding.

The first one is quite large given the small size of its door and internal opening.

At the moment if you look inside there seem just to be modern-looking wires (not cloth insulation as there are in other places) that are connected together (with wire nuts). So they appear to just be acting the way modern junction boxes would be used. I'm being careful not to disturb anything.

Were these always just j-boxes? Or might they have had some other purpose originally?

Unfortunately the labels are pretty well unreadable but maybe someone familiar with these can still identify them.

Box 1 (~12x8"):

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Box 2 (6x6"):

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    Good for revealing that the walls in this place have been repainted at least 7 times? Oct 10, 2022 at 14:30
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    … if you call that “painting”!
    – erickson
    Oct 12, 2022 at 14:58

1 Answer 1

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They appear to have been fuse boxes, which goes with the openable cover and diagram peeking out from under the paint. Presumably they were decommissioned as fuse boxes but retained as junction boxes.

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    Yes, in fact, i've done the exact thing. It's pretty convenient to install the new breaker panel, run cables to the old fuse panel, Get the PoCo to transfer power to the new panel, gut the old fuse box and make the connections in it. Code legal because the connections are in a box and permanently accessible.+ Oct 8, 2022 at 15:25
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    Sounds reasonable - I see a wire nut so there are definitely joints, and these must be accessible not buried in a wall hence the access panel. Shame about the paint drips covering the labels. I'd consider stripping the paint off, oiling or clearcoating the panels and put them back on as a feature not something hidden by dozens of layers of paint.
    – Criggie
    Oct 8, 2022 at 23:38
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    The second one appears to show at least 4 fuses and imply possibly 12 from what little of the label isn't slathered in paint. The other one reveals less about its fuse functions. Doesn't really matter now that they are junction boxes and presumably you have circuit breakers. If you are thinking "can't I just rip the old things out" "just" requires extensive and thus expensive rewiring to remove the junctions contained therein.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 9, 2022 at 2:07
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    @Ecnerwal: Would a junction box need to remain accessible if all connections therein were replaced with high-reliability splices?
    – supercat
    Oct 9, 2022 at 18:33
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    @supercat I'm not aware of any "high-reliability" (as in approved for concealed use) splices other than the ones for NM/B, and I'm fairly certain from what we can see the occupancy (apartment - multiple dwelling unit) and/or locale (yup - NYC) is conduit only. Likewise, unless the conduit is replaced with a different configuration with access points elsewhere, the access is virtually certain to be required so the conduit can be pulled, even if the wires in them had no junctions at all.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:56

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