Emporia

Favorite Houses: 614 Union, Emporia, Kansas

This post is about one of the finest homes in Emporia.

It was designed by a prolific, brilliant, and delightfully impish architect.

It was built with high-quality materials.

The quality of the craftsmanship is dazzling.

The house is gorgeous.

Yet, for many decades, the house has not been treated very well.

This causes me immense pain. I simply cannot understand, and will never understand, how architectural works of art can be treated as such.

Will. Never. Understand.

It also pains me that I am not a zillionaire and cannot snap up such such beautiful creations, across the land, and lovingly, reverently restore them.

It pains me, too, that the most powerful nation on Earth is so disrespectful about its architectural heritage.

This just ain’t right.

We will never build homes like this again. Never. Therefore, should we not treasure every one remaining?

 

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Welcome to my neighborhood. This is a Sanborn Insurance Map from 1911. The #1 house (bottom, just left of center) is 614 Union, and the reason for this post. House #2 (bottom, right) is my Cross House (and adjacent carriage house). Both houses were designed by architect Charles W. Squires. Squires also designed house #3 and, I believe, #4. Squires designed and lived in house #5, and designed its twin, house #6. Next door is another Squires creation, house #7. Houses #8 and #9 are also by Squires. In short, this small area of Emporia, Kansas, is a Charles W. Squires treasure trove. This important and rich legacy should be recognized as such, and should be a mini-historic district.

 

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614 Union, Emporia, Kansas. The house was built between 1900 and 1904, and is currently for sale (as of 12/15). Tell-tale Squires signatures include the cut stone, the dentil trim, and eccentric detailing (like, why does the sill for the upper middle window extend WAY past the window?).

 

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The north facade. While the second floor is (mostly) a simple rectangle, the main level juts out eccentrically here and there and everywhere, and all delightfully so. Such exuberance is a Squires signature. Note also how the porch railings are not straight, as might be expected, but have a gentle curve. Squires! I dread that a new owner will pull down the old curved railings, and replace them with straight runs from Home Depot. Oh, the horror! The horror!

 

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Note the dramatic, thrilling roof overhang, and oval window at the very top. The green house to the left is more Squires.

 

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Dramatic. Overhangs. Oh. My.

 

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On the gable, all the shingles need replacing. STAT. But, importantly, all the original bits are in situ. Again, note how the window sill extends WAY past the actual window. Delicious.

 

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D E L I C I O U S.

 

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In order to create this stunning incredible fabulous detail, a solid block of stone was whittled down in order for this flourish to exist. I stand in awe before such work.

 

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Awe.

 

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Awestruck. Today, to create such a column would likely cost $20,000. And 614 Union has two such columns. I think they are GORGEOUS. They make me weak-kneed.

 

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Squires loved curves. And stone. I can appreciate why.

 

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I yearn to meticulously restore this window. And remove every scrap of paint on the gorgeous stone.

 

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Most porches have wood lattice to ventilate under. 614 has STONE lattice. Wow. Geez.

 

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Most people would not give this south window a thought. But note the stone sill, hand-carved. Note how the stone blocks on each side of the window have dressed margins at their corners. Note the lintel, also with a dressed margin. Amazing. Nobody does this today. It was not even that common a century ago.

 

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The north facade again. I love the IN and OUT of the wall plane. This is Squires having a lot of fun. The curve has a window seat inside…

 

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..and this bay has the dining room built-in sideboard inside.

 

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The north facade parlor bay.

 

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While the main level juts IN and OUT and all AROUND, the second level is, as noted, almost a perfect rectangle. But Squires just could not contain himself…entirely. The result make me smile. Gosh, I wish I could have met the man.

 

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The rear, east facade. It is almost entirely original, as is the L-shaped porch. I do not know if the curious second-floor door is original.

 

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The garage appears to be original. Wow.

 

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This shed is also very old. Original?

 

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First floor. NOT TO SCALE. See the X to the left side of the kitchen? This is where the stackable washer/dryer goes. But this WAS the lower steps for the service stair. The bottom few steps were removed, and the rest of the stair walled off leading up to the second floor. I would put it all back.

 

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Second floor. NOT TO SCALE.

 

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When you enter the house, you first step into a small vestibule. Then you directly enter the parlor. The stair is to your left, as is the dining room entry. A second parlor is via the entry to the right. Well, all this is quite extraordinary. I have never seen a home of this scale, and of this era, where one did not enter a proper foyer/stairhall. Then there would have been sliding doors opening to the parlor. To walk DIRECTLY into the parlor was simply not done! An explanation might be that Squires was a decidedly asymmetrical kind of guy, but the highly symmetrical facade of 614 (unusual in his oeuvre) perhaps forced such unorthodoxy.

 

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When I first entered the house, I was so flabbergasted by directly entering the main parlor that I wondered if an early renovation had been done? Was THIS the original plan? Having the door centered on the facade would have forced a very large entry, and created a rather small parlor. With a second parlor directly to the east, a small front parlor may not have been an issue. However, the more I studied the house, the more I realized that the current plan, unusual as it may be, is actually original.

 

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The ceiling in the vestibule is gorgeous, luscious wood. As are the ceilings in the main parlor and dining room.

 

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With the front door behind you, and looking to the right, this is the view of the main parlor, and looking into the second parlor.

 

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Turning more to the right, this is the SW corner of the main parlor. More how the upper leaded-glass window patterns do not match. This is typical of Squires. Most architects would have had matching patterns. The unpainted wall section is where writing was found under wallpaper layers.

 

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The very yummy wood ceiling of the main parlor.

 

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Directly across from the front door is a fireplace. A year ago the extraordinary mantle and overmantel were in place. The house is now foreclosed and the mantle has gone missing. This makes me very very VERY sad. The mantle was, incongruously, a mission-style mantle, and wholly at odds with everything around it. I just assumed it was a replacement, but then recalled another Squires-designed home (627 Exchange, and built in 1905) which has two mission-style mantles, and these are also wholly at odds with the rest of the home. So, huh? Well, Squires was quite up-to-date on current trends, and the mission style became popular following the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. While Squires would eventually design entire mission-style homes, when 614 Union was built it seems that he worked to be current by having, at the very least, a stylish mantle. The man! (Tomorrow, I am going to begin the hunt for the missing mantle. Stay tuned!)

 

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To the left of the front door (north side of room) is the staircase.

 

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I can picture a cat happily lying in the oval window.

 

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Love the little balcony. Love such details. Love all the wood.

 

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Also love the spindles.

 

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Back to the south end of the main parlor is the entry to the second parlor. This room has a 1970s plywood ceiling. Curious. The door is obviously new, and leads to the L-shaped rear porch. The door cries out to be replaced by a vintage door with a glass panel.

 

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The wide, south-facing bay in the second parlor, overlooking what I believe is another Squires-designed home.

 

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The second parlor has a surprisingly plain brick mantle. Can it be original????

 

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The dining room. Ooh là là! Toooooo gorgeous! Toooooo yummy!

 

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Cabinet on bottom. Beveled mirrors above. And leaded-glass windows on top. I am salivating.

 

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Delicious.

 

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The four small lighting fixtures are likely original but they cry out for period-correct carbon filament bulbs.

 

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Dining room, looking to stair.

WARNING!

The next few images are going to be a shock.

Are you sitting down?

Are you wearing a seat belt?

Can you pop in a few Dramamine pills?

If so, please scroll way down…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The kitchen. No, you have NOT just stepped into a mid-century modern ranch house. This really IS the kitchen in 614 Union. Really. AND I LOVE IT! Once the shock is over, I hope a new buyer will treasure this mind-warping period kitchen. It is almost entirely original, although all the cabinet pulls have recently been removed. Well, they are easily replaced. There are some missing aqua tiles; I would scour the internet to find matching replacements. I would restore the flooring, which appears to be original. The new pendant light would be INSTANTLY replaced with a 1950s pull-down. Note the hidden lighting at the soffit. New LED strips would be perfect there. Also note the clock above where the stove was. All the windows overlook the L-shaped rear porch.

 

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Most buyers would tear all this out without a second thought. I would carefully restore it to 1950s glory. The gold-specked counters are also original. Gold specked!!!!!!!!

 

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If I could purchase 614, getting this soffit clock working again would be Priority #1.

 

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Tucked into the corner of the kitchen is a 1950s full bathroom!

 

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With a wonderful medicine cabinet. I would restore the bath to its 1950s glory, too. I enjoy when old houses have time stories to tell.

 

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Well, up the stairs now!

 

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The is a landing with a gorgeous leaded-glass window, and inviting curvaceous seat.

 

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Love, love, love.

 

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Looking back downstairs, is a stunning, sweeping arch.

 

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The double doors leading to the two front bedrooms.

 

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I was crushed with bitter disappointment to realize that the west-facing Palladian-style window was bisected with a wall! This is bedroom #1…

 

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…and bedroom #2. I would make this bedroom a full bath, so the two front rooms could serve as a master suite.

 

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Bedroom #2 still retains its upper leaded-glass windows. They are missing in bedroom #1.

 

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The long hall, facing east to the sun porch. Stair to the left.

 

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South-facing bedroom #3 with its wonderful pointy bay.

 

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South-facing bedroom #4.

 

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North-facing bedroom #5.

 

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New bath. The tub may be original.

 

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The attic has a stair leading up to it but the attic is unfinished, and only has one window. I would create a cosy office here.

 

CONCLUSION

The house is in move-in condition.

It is currently for sale, a foreclosure, for $61.5K. My realtor is Lacie Hamlin.

Seems like a steal to me. I would love love love to buy it. I would love love love to lavish money and attention on meticulously restoring the original bits, restoring the 1950s glory of the kitchen and first-floor bath, and creating two new bathrooms on the second floor.

But, if a person/couple purchased the house, and had some experience and skills, it would not be too costly to really make the house shine.

614 Union is a jewel. It deserves to sparkle again.

And, hey, I am just two doors down the street!

 

UPDATE

New adventures regarding the house!

9 Responses to Favorite Houses: 614 Union, Emporia, Kansas

  1. While I had been aware of this house for the past 31 years due to its inclusion in Virgina and Lee McAlester’s “A Field Guide to American Houses”, I had no idea that the exterior was so exquisitely detailed – or that the interior was so beautiful and intriguing. A tiny b/w photo and brief description can only convey so much! Ross, you’ve done a great job at showing just how fantastic this house truly is. I absolutely love the mid-century kitchen and bath; those are keepers. I hope that this house will find a worthy and reverant custodian.

  2. I must smile a bit at the above comment.

    Why? Because the author, who I know, also sent me a private email.

    His PUBLIC comment is lovely and, well, sober. His PRIVATE comment though was wonderfully over-the-top.

    So, with his permission, I will out his private comment:

    You did an amazing job with this. Your previous descriptions of the house led me to believe that the house was nice inside, but I had no idea that is was this FUCKING FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I do love the kitchen. I want. I want. I want.

    It is my dream house: suitably eccentric turn-of-the-last-century architecture with a truly way-cool mid-century modern kitchen. What’s not to love?

    It really is an amazing house. I trust your tribute to it will reach the right person. I pray it will.

    Thank you for spotlighting it.

  3. So I know that one day, many a moon ago, when you talked to my husband and I on our front porch, you thought our house was a Squires house because the ones on either side of us are (831 and 819 Constitution). At the time I thought, nah, just a plain old foursquare with a few embellishments. But looking at this house is crazy! We are definitely not as elaborate, but pocket doors? Match. Window size and wood detail? Match staircase spindles and post? Match. Pretty much most of the woodwork match. Soooooo either we are just similar because of the popularity of the time or PERHAPS you were right ;). Who knows!

    • Hi Sarah!

      I did not think your house was by Squires because the neighboring houses were. I thought your house was by Squires because of all the tell-tale Squires signatures.

      Your house is, without question, by Squires! The man!!!!!

  4. Is that a lightbulb? In the STAIRCASE? Whose nutty/brilliant idea was that one, I wonder?

    Also, it looks like a few gallons of paint would go a long way in making the exterior look significantly better. Though with all of it chipping like it is, I can’t help but wonder whether or not it’s lead paint. If it is, the price of repainting just went up exponentially. At the same time, someone could easily use that to talk the price down a bit.

  5. Many newel posts held lamps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lamp on this staircase appears to be a modern replacement which is missing its shade. All houses built prior to the late 1960’s are likely to have lead paint both inside and outside – it has no impact on the cost of repainting and is not going to be a bargaining tool for a buyer.

  6. I see that there is a contract on this house.I pray that who ever bought it will treat it right. I am going to retire in 7 years and want to move back to Emporia. I wanted to buys this house so bad and make it shine again but could not swing to house payments. I am sure there is anoyher waiting for me.

  7. I’m building this house on a 50 by 100 lot in the village of manorhaven in Long Island New York I am very appreciative of this post. I Believe the frontage of this property is also 50 feet. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it in the field guide.

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