The Cross House

The Mystery of the Missing House

When I first considered buying the Cross House in March of 2013, I stood on the sidewalk and looked just to the south, to 524 Union Street. This house was very close to the Cross House, and it was also, oddly, set WAY back on the lot. I also knew that the 524 lot had once been attached to the Cross lots.

In addition, 524 looked like the Cross House, just a smaller version.

So naturally I assumed that 524 was the original carriage house to the Cross House but that it had been sold off many decades previously.

However, “no” was the answer I received about my assumption. I was told that 524 had been built twenty years after the Cross House.

“But why”, I asked, “does it look like the Cross House?”

“The guy who built it loved the Cross House, so he hired the same builder to create a smaller version.”

Well, I guess that was possible.

“But why”, I asked, “is it set so far back?”

“There was a historic tree on the front portion of the lot, the Centennial Tree.”

Well, I guess that was possible.

So, I shook my head, and stopped thinking about the mysteries of 524.

In December, after I reached an agreement to buy the Cross House, I realized that I had to buy 524, too, which I needed like eighteen holes in my head. But, it was sooooooo close to the Cross House, and many interior rooms of the Cross House overlooked 524. It seemed that if I was going to undertake a titanic-scaled restoration of the Cross House that it might be prudent to also control what happened RIGHT NEXT DOOR.

It was also significant that the owner of the Cross House, Bob Rodak, also owned 524. He had purchased it about ten years previously, reuniting two properties which had been separated for almost a century. It seemed, I dunno, cruel to separate them again.

So, I purchased a HUGE house needing a ton of work and a LARGE house needing a lot of work.

Yep, pretty insane.

524 is really cool, though. The main level interior has a subtle Mission-style thing going on. The living room is unexpectedly large and has a drop-dead gorgeous tile fireplace.

Going upstairs though offered an expected phenomenon. At the top of the steps it seemed as if a fracture existed in the time/space continuum, because I always had the oddest sensation that I had just walked through…a time portal. I am not kidding. The upstairs felt older than the main level.

I could never explain this odd sensation but others commented on the same thing. “It feels older up here.”

See, it was not just me.

One day, I was walking down those crazy time/space steps when a thought popped into my head: The reason the upstairs feels older than the downstairs is because it IS older.

In a flash I understod.

Number 524 was the missing carriage house.

Number 524 was built in 1894, and not twenty years later.

 

THE PUZZLE REVEALED

The Cross House was built on three lots. The house straddles two of the lots. The third lot, to the south, was the location of the garden, and right against the alley was the carriage house.

The carriage house sat right on the ground, and the main level likely had a dirt floor (it was used for the Cross family carriages and horses). The main structure was two-stories and with a one-story wing to the north. Upstairs would have been rooms for a groom (and his family?), perhaps male servants to the Cross House, and perhaps a gardener.

About 1915, a basement was built right in front of the carriage house. The one-story north wing was separated, the two-story block was lifted up, and moved a bit west and onto the new basement. The main (west) facade received a massive full-width one-story L-shaped porch. The interior of the main level, originally barn-like, was finished to a high standard and in the then fashionable Mission-style. Upstairs, all was pretty much left as it was save the original tongue & groove boards which were removed and replaced by proper plaster on lath.

Then the lot was separated from the two Cross House lots and the “new” house sold off. As such, 524 showed up as a legal entity for the first time, and thus its seeming creation twenty years after the Cross House was built.

 

THE PUZZLE NOT QUITE REVEALED

But what happened to the one-story north wing?

It crossed the lot line so it could not have remained in place.

I assumed it had been moved a bit north, to become the garage to the Cross House. But research disproved this.

I then assumed it had been moved to a nearby property to became a garage. I drove up/down numerous alleys but could find no conclusive evidence to support this theory.

Because people back then did not routinely discard stuff, including structures but a few decades old, I deeply believed that the missing north wing was somewhere.

But where? Maybe it had been moved, and I could not find it, or it had been moved and demolished decades later.

Quite vexing!

 

THE PUZZLE REVEALED. REALLY.

One day, while not at all thinking about The Missing Wing, a thought popped into my head. This happens often to me.

I suddenly got a shiver of excitement though my whole body when I realized that the north wing HAD been moved. Just a tiny bit. And it had been right in front of me — and everybody else — the whole time.

After the two-story block of the carriage house had been moved a bit west and upon a proper basement, the basement had then been extended to the east, and a kitchen wing constructed on it.

Not quite. Yes, the new basement had been immediately extended east. But, no, a kitchen wing had not been built on top. Instead, the new kitchen wing WAS the original north wing. Zounds!

After the carriage house had been moved onto its new basement, the north wing was turned ninety degrees, lifted up, pushed a bit to the south, and atop its new basement.

I would kill for images of this adventure.

 

This is a 1905 Sanborn map, showing the Cross House to the left (north) and its carriage house to the right (south). The carriage house has a one-story wing to the left, and the main block is two-stories. The dotted lines in one corner represent a porch.
This is a 1905 Sanborn map, showing the Cross House to the left (north) and its carriage house to the right (south). The carriage house has a one-story wing to the left (north), and the main block is two-stories. The dotted lines in one corner represent a porch.

 

The Cross House. Thrillingly, to the right is the one-story wing of the carriage house. It is topped by a large cupola/ventilator.
The Cross House. Thrillingly, to the far right is the one-story north wing of the carriage house. It is topped by a large cupola/ventilator.

 

The carriage house, around 2002, shortly after Bob Rodak purchased it. The house looks grim, grim, grim.  The over-powering circa-1915 front porch is obvious. The remarkable thing about the porch is that SOME of its railing are from the 1894 carriage house porches. These railing are to the right. These rails are extant, and I will be reusing them.
2002. This is the 1894 carriage house by Charles W. Squires. The image was taken shortly after Bob Rodak purchased it. The house looks grim, grim, grim. The over-powering circa-1915 front porch is obvious. The remarkable thing about the porch is that SOME of its railings are from the 1894 carriage house porches. These railing are to the lower right.

 

2007. Bob has much improved the carriage house. Note the two new porch columns. Note also the front railings; these date from the 1894 carriage house porches.
2007. Bob has much improved the carriage house. Note the two new porch columns. Note also the lower front railings; these date from the 1894 carriage house porches.

 

524 Union, 1894, by Charles W. Squires. This is the carriage house to the adjacent Cross House. 524 is looking a bit tattered as the decaying circa-1915 front porch was shorn off by me a few months ago. The whole second floor in the image (save the rectangular dormer middle in about the middle) ir from 1894. All that you see on the first floor is from the circa-1915 renovation, when the carriage house was moved a bit to the west, placed on a full basement, and its barn-like main level rebuilt as  a proper home.
2014. The circa-1915 porch, even after all Bob’s work, was a termite- and water-damaged structural disaster. I ruthlessly smashed the whole to the ground. The original carriage house porch filled in the corner to the left, as seen in the Sanborn map image, above. The whole second floor in the image (save the rectangular dormer, in about the middle) is from 1894. All that you see on the first floor is from the circa-1915 renovation, when the carriage house was moved a bit to the west, placed on a full basement, and its barn-like main level rebuilt as a proper home. NOTE: 524 should look a LOT better next year. I plan to build a small porch directly under the tower, and no wider than the tower. The porch will not have a roof, as this will compete with the tower, which hovers overhead today as it originally did in 1894. I like the hover. The railings on the new porch will be the original 1894 railings, now safely tucked away. The finished facade of the carriage house will be a slightly odd (but quite charming) mix of 1894 and 1915. The exterior will be painted to match the original colors on the Cross House.

 

2014. You are looking at the north wall of the kitchen wing. Except, this used to be the west wall of the north wing before the wing was moved to became the kitchen wing. I know, confusing! The original cupola/ventilator was removed (sigh) and a sun porch built (a great room actually).
2014. You are looking at the north wall of the kitchen wing. Except, this used to be the west wall of the north wing before the wing was moved to became the kitchen wing. I know, confusing! The original cupola/ventilator was removed (sigh) and a sun porch built (a great room actually).

 

2014. These two shabby windows light the basement of the carriage house. There are numerous such windows, and they THRILL me. Why? because these are the original first-floor windows of the 1894 structure, back when the first floor was a barn. When the structure was lifted onto a full basement, and the first floor rebuilt into a proper house, these window sashes were reused in the basement. Well, this just thrills me! In 2015 these sashes will be restored, and will be gorgeous rather than scary looking. NOTE: The basement is livable, so having these nice-sized windows is a wonderful thing.
2014. These two shabby windows light the basement of the carriage house. There are numerous such windows, and they THRILL me. Why? because these are the original first-floor windows of the 1894 structure, back when the first floor was a barn. When the structure was lifted onto a full basement, and the first floor rebuilt into a proper house, these window sashes were reused in the basement. Well, this just thrills me! In 2015 these sashes will be restored, and will be gorgeous rather than scary looking. NOTE: The basement is livable, so having nice-sized, attractive windows is a wonderful thing.

 

 

The living room has a stunning circa-1915 tiled fireplace. Who made the tiles?
The living room has a stunning circa-1915 tiled fireplace. Who made the tiles?

 

All the second-floor doors have transom windows. Yummy. Each will be restored to working order.
All the second-floor doors have transom windows. Yummy. Each will be restored to working order.

 

This delightful room will be the new master bath, and with a claw-foot tub sitting in the bay.
This delightful room will be the new master bath, and with a claw-foot tub sitting in the bay.

 

The upstairs still feels very much like a carriage house, and is rich with quirky details, odd angles, and charming rooms.
The upstairs still feels very much like a carriage house, and is rich with quirky details, odd angles, and charming rooms.

 

There are a lot of these under-the-eave storage closets, all original. I am dying to haul the paint stripper out...
There are a lot of these under-the-eave storage closets, all original. I am dying to haul the paint stripper out…

 

Inside the many closets are tounge & grove boards. These originally covered the whole second floor, but they were removed (save for the closets) and replaced with plaster on lath during the circa-1915 renovation. Sigh.
Inside the many closets are tongue & grove boards. These originally covered the whole second floor, but they were removed (save for the closets) and replaced with plaster on lath during the circa-1915 renovation. Sigh.

 

7 Responses to The Mystery of the Missing House

  1. Very interesting! I remember when we traveled HWY 50 in the ’40’s and ’50’s it was a “tourist” house. We didn’t have motels back then. Highway 50 was 6th Avenue at that time. I think it was the Chi Omega house in 1961. Good luck with the restoration. I am going to share your site with my “old friends”. We love to think back.

  2. Why was the carriage house moved at all?! Ross, is it possible to move to its original location? Have you thought about it? I know it costs boo coo $$$$ to move buildings/houses.

    • The carriage house originally sat on the ground. In order to transform the carriage house to a proper house, it needed a basement. So, a basement was created just in front of the structure, then the whole was lifted up and moved onto the new basement. Then the whole was sold off as a separate lot.

      The carriage house COULD be moved back, and I would love to do so. After winning the lottery!

      • Your passion for restoration is infectious! I’m raising my glass of wine now and toasting for both of us- Here’s to winning the lottery!!

  3. I’m loving this whole mystery-solving detective thing you’ve got going on! Wish you’d filmed it all. Would make a great HGTV Special.

  4. The 1904 house I grew up in is rumored to be the raised carriage house of the house next door. I always thought that sounded pretty unlikely but I guess it could be true, after reading your account!

  5. Love the carriage house. It’s so my style as I’m a big fan of the 20’s. Wish I could be there and partake in the work. What a thrill that would be!!

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