A COLORFUL INVENTORY. A DAZZLING INVENTORY.

The Cross House has 42 stained-glass windows.

This is extraordinary. I have never been in an old house that had so many.

The windows are the glory of the house, and were designed by Charles Squires, the architect of the Cross House. Yet, when I purchased the house in 2014, the windows were literally falling apart. There was no way I could ever afford to restore all the windows but, before buying the house, I had learned that Kansas was unique in offering grants to qualified historic properties. So, I crossed my fingers (and toes, and the toes on all the kitties) and applied for a grant to, in part, restore about half the stained-glass windows.

You can imagine my great elation (and great surprise) when I was awarded the grant. Ya’ talk about a squee moment!

Two years later, to my even greater astonishment, I was awarded a second grant which would allow, in part, for the remaining stained-glass windows to be restored.

Well…golly. Golly!

 

 

UPPER STAIR HALL

 

I began with the most pitiful windows: the triple set. The poor dears. I first saw them in 1999 when the previous owner, Bob Rodak, opened the house for a tour and my heart went out to this set. In a million years it would never have occurred to me that I would be the next owner. Now, see the window in the lower left?

 

AFTER. Incredible. In 1999, Bob had found the center medallion and its surrounding jewels in a heap of trash. He graciously gave me this treasure. “I kept meaning to give this to you.”

 

AFTER.

 

BEFORE.

 

AFTER. Note also the lost medallions under the windows. I found new ones!

 

 

RECEIVING ROOM

 

One day, I arrived at the house to find the wide curved stained-glass window from the Receiving Room lying on the ground. I felt punched in the stomach.

 

AFTER. I teared up upon first seeing this. I am tearing up while writing this.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. The two side windows.

 

AFTER. All the clear glass is beveled.

 

 

SERVANT’S STAIR TOWER

 

There are two such windows.

 

AFTER.

 

 

TELEPHONE CLOSET

 

The window does not look too bad in the image.

 

The image was deceiving. The window was a mess, and dangerously bowed, too.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. This is the smallest stained-glass window in the house but I take particular pleasure in its restoration. I thinks its diminutive size makes me feel extra protective. I often smile while looking at it.

 

 

OCTAGON BEDROOM

 

The room has this triple set. The missing window (right) fell apart in my hands when I removed it but nothing broke. Incredible. Although I did age ten years in an instant.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. The room also this half-round window. There are three such windows on the west facade.

 

 

NORTH VESTIBULE

 

BEFORE.

 

AFTER.

 

 

SEWING ROOM

 

The room has three stained-glass windows. These are the two south windows.

 

BEFORE.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

This is the west window, before. There was another stained-glass window across the room, facing east. This is the only window to have gone missing, meaning that the house had 43 stained-glass windows originally. Well, something had to be done about this! It seemed reasonable to assume that the lost window matched the west window, so I have had the latter copied and will soon have the “lost” window back. That will be a great day.

 

 

STAIRHALL NICHE

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. Note also the north vestibule window, and adjacent west dining room window.

 

AFTER. And…wow. Wow. Wow. Curiously, the lower three windows had, in 1894, been installed upside-down. Then I, unknowingly, installed them right-side up. A reader brought my attention to this.

 

 

LONG BEDROOM

 

BEFORE. The room has this triple set facing north, and a matched pair facing west and east. If you look close you can see the damage.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

BEFORE.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. I adore the blue jewels.

 

AFTER. The east widow.

 

AFTER. Note the beveling. All the clear glass, in all the stained-glass windows, is beveled.

 

AFTER. West.

 

 

LIBRARY

 

BEFORE. The long window.

 

AFTER. The library has, curiously, the least interesting stained-glass in the house.

 

 

DINING ROOM

 

BEFORE. The very VERY wide middle window out.

 

AFTER. And back in!

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER. Toooooooooo delicious!

 

BEFORE. The two curved side windows were also installed upside-down in 1894. I have to wonder: Were the installers drunk?

 

BEFORE. The east window. This window had been covered up on the inside for almost 60 years. I have no idea why.

 

AFTER. The sun shines through after a 60-year hiatus. This makes me so happy!

 

AFTER. The west window. Curiously, it does not match the east window.

 

AFTER. Glorious.

 

 

ROUND BEDROOM

 

The room has four windows, three of them curved. The west one was so fragile I taped it up to safeguard its transport.

 

And there is another half-round window. Note the bow.

 

AFTER.

 

 

MAIN VESTIBULE

 

AFTER. The main vestibule (facing west) has an inner and outer stained-glass window. Here they are, restored.

 

AFTER. Inner window.

 

AFTER. Outer.

 

 

PARLOR

 

The last room to be done is the parlor. This is the AFTER long center window, primed, and upside-down.

 

AFTER. The south window, happy again.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

AFTER.

 

 

THE NORTH FACADE

 

The north facade is on Highway 50, so a lot of people drive by every day. I keep the rooms lighted at night so people can enjoy the amazing, colorful glass.

 

Last year, Elizabeth gifted me with these FABULOUS Cross House stained-glass cookies!

 

And now, after five years, and many tens of thousands of dollars spent via two Heritage Trust grants, all 42 stained-glass windows in the 1894 Cross House are now restored. And the long missing 43rd window will soon be resurrected and returned to the house. A window I did not even realize was missing in 2014.

 

I am now 63. And my life has been really intense.

I have lived big: in the 1980s I was a successful interior designer in New York City with my own firm (and with Donald Trump as a client. I know!). I had a large duplex apartment in Little Italy. I owned a 68-foot 1928 yacht which I was restoring. I drove a 1972 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (yes, that’s true). I had a Colonial-era weekend house in Newport, RI, which I was restoring after it had been condemned.

By 1996 though I was homeless. Yes, you read that right. And this was the result of a real-estate deal gone very VERY bad in 1992 due to two evil partners, and a collapsed economy.

Emotionally shattered and penniless, I rode a bicycle to rural Kansas after being offered room and board in exchange for work rebuilding an almost ghost town. I arrived with (I am not making this up) $1 in my pocket.

Somehow though, somehow, rural Kansas took me in and offered refuge. Many kindnesses were extended and month by month by month by month I began to recover.

During the next few years I finally finished a book on classic yachts, a project I had started in the late 1980s. The book was published in 2001, and my editor at WW Norton, Jim Mairs, was a delight to work with. (Note: Jim died in 2016. I desperately miss him. He was a profoundly generous soul to me. Our last conversation was about doing a book on the Cross House. I had no idea he was ill.)

A second volume on yachts was published in 2004. These two books are my proudest accomplishment. It thrills me to think: Hey! I’m in the Library of Congress! Forever! I am also so very proud that I managed to get the books done when my life was in ruins. I look back and think: HOW did I do that?

Then, in 2006, while still in rural Kansas, I listed a few old lights on eBay. They were in my basement and getting rusty. I thought: I should try and sell these before they disintegrate. I had no idea, NO IDEA, that this simple act would wholly transform my life. In a few years my sales numbers exceeded my best year in New York, something which I thought would never ever happen again. Never! This sudden and unexpected prosperity then led to (drum roll, please) my buying the Cross House in 2014. For, I needed a place large enough to house my business. And me. And the kitties.

 

I am now 63. And there are two things I am most proud of:

  1. My books.
  2. The restoration of 42 stained-glass windows in the 1894 Cross House. And the recreation of the single lost window.

The former will bring pleasure to people long after I am gone. But only to a small number of people.

The latter will bring pleasure, and joy, to people long after I am gone. A great many people. Not only to future owners of the Cross House but to the countless many who will walk or drive by the house for decades to follow. “OMG! Did you see those spectacular windows?”

Getting all the stained-glass windows restored has taken a lot of effort. Writing the two grants was a ton of work. Then waiting waiting waiting to see if the grants were approved was painful. So painful. This was, of course, offset by the exhaultaion of being approved!

Every single window then needed to be removed and brought to Hoefer Stained Glass for restoration, and then picked up when they were done, a 3-hour drive each trip. During these five years it was a pleasure to work with Scott Hoefer and Eric.

Once each stained-glass window was restored, it’s wood sash also needed to be restored. Then glazed. Then primed. Then painted. Then re-installed.

In short: Geez. This was all a ton of work.

In short: Geez. This was all a ton of work.

In short: Geez. This was all a ton of work.

But…I am not only filled with pride, I am also filled with joy. In person, as one walks through each room, the restored stained-glass windows glitter and sparkle in a way they did not previously. The century-plus of ingrained dirt has been removed (via an acid bath) and the windows now seem, well, joyous. Joyous! I often find myself, my mind filled with worry and concern, suddenly stopping in a room and appreciating the glory and beauty of the stained-glass. A smile overtakes my face while my soul is invigorated with happiness.

I am so happy. I am so proud. I am so thankful to Scott Hoefer and to Kansas.

 

 

 

 

33 Comments

  1. Dan Goodall-Williams on June 10, 2020 at 3:20 am

    What a stunning amount of work. The detail in those windows is spectacular. You absolutely should be proud! Thank you for saving them!

    • Julia Chennault on June 11, 2020 at 1:16 pm

      Such a visual feast Ross! Thank you for sharing!!! We love you ❤

  2. Sue on June 10, 2020 at 6:20 am

    Those glorious windows are an encouraging metaphor in so many ways, not least in your own life story, Ross. Thank you for all your hard work and inspiring passion to make things right and bring out (and share!) the beauty that might otherwise have been lost.

  3. Anthony Joseph Bianchini on June 10, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Doubtless, sans Bob Rodak and you – all this fine art would have been lost FOREVER. And very few would even be AWARE of the LOSS.

    • Dan Goodall-Williams on June 10, 2020 at 7:16 am

      Anthony, so true.

  4. Amanda on June 10, 2020 at 8:48 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed your recap of the stained glass restoration journey. The way your life has been restored just like the windows, is a beautiful thing. 🙂

  5. Beth H. on June 10, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I responded too quickly before, because the pictures just made my fingers fly over the keyboard. I hadn’t even gotten to your life story at the bottom of the post… so I have to add – thank you for sharing that story! Riches to rags to riches – and incredible perseverance… it all makes me want to visit with YOU as much as see Cross House. (And my sympathies for having to deal with trump in person – I can bet that was NOT pleasant.)

    And again… OMG… those windows. Those windows!!!!

  6. Derek Walvoord on June 10, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for this lovely post! There is a lot of joy to be had in restoring things. Those windows look terrific. The baby steps method is definitely working!

    I have been enjoying the first yacht book, and hope to find a copy of the second. And, I still often think about your conversation with Trump about the “ivory” panels, and it just seems to so perfectly sum up where we are right now. . .

    It was great to see all the windows!

  7. tura wolfe on June 10, 2020 at 9:41 am

    All the windows are BEAUTIFUL! It would take me forever to have one favorite. Just now looking back at the pictures, the blue in so many of the windows grabs my eye, but the lovely red, and the purple glow. The baby telephone booth window is so special and unexpected with a grand mix of colors. The street numbers stand out in that perfect blue. Oh my! I think I would have a different favorite everyday as the sun guides the show or darkness enjoys the sparking brilliance.

    Ross, your determination to obtain the two grants, craftsman skills, outstanding design talents, countless hours of hard labor, and love of the Cross House have saved the place for future lovers of old homes. I do hope there will be many, many more lovers of old homes. Thank you so much for saving the Cross House. You are the best………….and love that you share your story and the pictures, the picture, the pictures!!!!!!!!!! WOW!

  8. John S Blick on June 10, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Stunning. Spectacular. 22 year old Christie Brinkleyish.

  9. Barb Sanford on June 10, 2020 at 10:19 am

    I’m so fortunate to get to see these lovely windows in person. The house is looking better and better all the time because of the time and attention you lavish on it. You’re saving one of Emporia’s gems, and we all are very, very grateful to you for that.

  10. Bethany on June 10, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Those are some of my favorite before/after pictures I have EVER had the pleasure of seeing. Kudos to Kansas for entrusting you with the money to have those windows restored.
    P.S. Did you ever eat the cookies?
    P.P.S. I would really love to have seen a 1980’s interior designed by you. I can only imagine how deliciously 80’s awesome.

  11. Michael Mackin on June 10, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Your story is inspiring as is the work you have done on the Ross House. I am curious if you eventually plan to put in storm windows over the stain glass on the exterior to protect them from the elements?

  12. Colin Boss on June 10, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Ross. I love each and every post, but this one has to be one of the best ever. The windows look spectacular; and your perseverance in getting them restored is wonderfully inspirational in these strange, scary and disturbing times. However, as your writing style is so engaging I was picturing you in the 1980s, stepping from your Rolls Royce and loving life before finding yourself on the bicycle. Wonderfully written; truly inspiring and just a great post. Congratulations – both for the restoration and for turning things around once more in life! Colin

  13. Mary Myers on June 10, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Stained glass windows are one of humans most glorious achievements. You sir are so much more, thank you for preserving these treasures.

  14. Bonnie Graham on June 10, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    The windows are cathedral like in their beauty. As for your life’s journey, all the ups and downs and zigs and zags has led to a most interesting life. I think you may be” the most interesting man alive”.

    • Leigh on June 13, 2020 at 8:49 am

      Fabulous post. Ross. You documented the restored windows. You also shared a challenging moment of your life. Both required a lot of work to continue on.
      You have brought inspiration and happiness to the Cross House restoration, the restoringross.com blog and simply by being you.
      The world is so much better because you chose to share your work and your self.
      The Heritage Trust Fund by Kansas Historical Society chose well when they generously approved two grants for the Cross House. You completed the quality restoration and installation of all the stained glass windows plus a recreation of a missing panel. People in Emporia, those passing through and the blog readers who see the Cross House are extremely appreciative of the resurrected beauty. May you continue to be blessed Ross, have kind and skilled people to collaborate with, and know that you are loved by us. Thank you for all that you do, and for all that you are. May you and the kitties move to the Cross House soon. As my way of thanking you, will be donating to your gofundme account next month. Again, thank you ever so much.

  15. Linda A. on June 10, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Ross, I love this post! I love seeing ALL the stained glass laid out room by room. Just like I dont have a favorite child, it is hard to pick my favorite window…but I will!! I just love the 2 square windows in the back servants staircase and I don’t ever remember seeing the loooong rectangular, transom window in the dining room. It is too gorgeous! But I love the triple, north side, staircase landing windows too. Even more from the outside looking in. All in all… fabulous!!

  16. Randy Cummins on June 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I am so excited for you Ross. I have always loved and admired stained glass…thus taking up the hobby some 40 years ago. I was fortunate to visit you and the Cross House 2 or 3 years ago and I believe at that time you had restored and re-installed about half of the windows. I was agog. I would be honored to be able to visit again to see them all back in place and proud. While I love everything about the Cross House, I must admit the windows are like my babies! Congratulations on a job very well done. I sent a note to Scott Hoefer last week telling him how impressed I was with his work on your windows. Of all your accomplishments, I truly think these are the crown jewels.

  17. Terri on June 10, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    The stained glass windows of the Cross House brought me to this site (blog?), but YOU and your style of restoration has kept me here! Thanks for the before and after pictures. Breath taking!
    Your life has been an amazing roller coaster ride. Inspiring to say the least. I’m thankful that you found the Cross House. I think it helped you as much as you’ve helped it. Definitely a work of love, and it shows! Cheers to the house and you!

  18. Cindy Belanger on June 10, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Ross, I like all of your posts but this one has to be the best. I really enjoyed it. All of the windows are SO gorgeous, I can’t stand it. The colors are so beautiful and the designs so graceful. The dining room window with the jug, wine glass & fruit is outstanding. I’ve never seen anything like it. I love them all.
    You’ve led such an interesting life, the ups, downs and then up again. And so many interesting things yet to come. Your hard work has made these things happen. What you’ve accomplished with the stained glass windows will give you incentive to tackle the not so fun, but essential work. Thank you for saving the Cross House.

  19. Brian A on June 10, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Now I’m picturing how wonderful a vintage Rolls Royce would look parked under the porte cochere at the restored Cross House!

  20. Vicki F on June 11, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    I remember five years ago when you were tossing around the idea to purchase this house on OHD. I, along with many others encouraged you and I even volunteered to be your first groupie! I dearly love beautiful woodwork in old houses and that was what stood out the most to me at the time. Now looking at this post, I hardly even noticed the woodwork. Ross MacTaggart, if you hadn’t done a single other improvement to your “mansion”, the restoration of these windows would be more than enough to impress. This post was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the beautiful jewels and gems that glorify this house. It is on my bucket list to one night drive down Union Street in Emporia and see them in person in all their glory!

  21. Patsy Douma on June 12, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    The windows make the house Look beautiful but the paint colours enhance the windows love it hope to come see it sometime.

  22. Sandra D Lee on June 13, 2020 at 3:58 am

    THIS is my favorite post on the BLOG!! ❤️

    I will never forget driving into Emporia, KS on Thanksgiving Day for the Friends Thanksgiving on Friday In 2017! The Cross House stained glass were backlit and glittering like jewels!! West & North facades that had been restored looked amazing!

    It was a breathtaking sight!

    I pulled over & got out of my car & just stood there in awe!

    It was twilight….

    Exquisite sight!!

    I had the pleasure of meeting Ross that evening!!

    He bounded down the beautiful stones steps toward my sapphire blue car (Hyundai Accent and somewhat small ….). It is sort of like a clown car in the circus… Ross remarked…”Your car is so-o-o small & you brought so many things!! He was sort of amazed at the leftovers I brought from my Thanksgiving feast…..all organic & made from scratch..

    Anyway he looked Lilliputian as Cross House is so huge!! Gargantuan!

    The house in person is so very immense.. I was somewhat disoriented by the unexpected size!

    The blog post & pix are awesome but nothing prepares for viewing in person until you are there…

    Just BEAUTIFUL!

    Love you Ross and love you even more for lovingly restoring Cross House!❤️

  23. arlene s picciano on June 13, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you Ross too
    What an awesome life
    : )

  24. Beverly on June 15, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    You inspire me. Your beautiful way with words and perseverance to restore meticulously inspires. Your incredible energy and work ethic encourage me that it’s never too late to put forth effort to foster change in my radius of influence. Meeting you and visiting Cross House was delightful. Keep writing. Your blog provides a delicious emotional feast in times of fear and despair. You give me hope that it’s never too late to chase dreams. Miracles still happen. Bless you, Ross!

  25. Sandra D Lee on June 15, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    I just looked at this post again and I just LOVE ❤️ IT!

    Mesmerizing and the reason I want to get back to Emporia when south facade done!!

    The Cross 🏠 House is a JEWEL in its entirety!!

    Wonderful!

    Just love this blog post and the others as well!! But this blog post the piece de resistance!!

  26. Brian Bauhs on June 15, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Wow!! What spectacular work!!!
    That is really a gift to the entire community.

    Thanks for sharing that.

    Brian, an admirer from JMG.

  27. Jakob on June 16, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    At your housewarming party (yes, people WILL get together again someday!), You’ll need a projector and all these photos playing on loop. In fact, lots of your before-and-afters!

    Side note: Ever seen the amazing stained glass in the San Francisco Columbarium? It’s incredible!

  28. Nora O on June 19, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Hi, I just looked at this post again. It’s so amazing. I had commented before but don’t see it. Maybe forgot to hit send. 🙂 Anyway Thank you so much for the pictures, they are the so very beautiful!

  29. Karen Spencer on June 23, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Heart-stopping images. Incredible commitment. Fabulous story. Rolls Royce! We do love you Ross. Thank you for all you do, and all that you give and share with this wonderful community that you have built. This is among the best posts. I will have the books someday. Hugs to you!

  30. Owen on June 27, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Ross, I’ve been following your blog for a while, but this is the first time I’ve commented. This post made me so happy! Seeing you resurrect what should now be called the ROSS House is truly something to be proud of. Seeing this piece of history preserved for future generations to enjoy is truly commendable. When you finish, you should take the entire contents of this blog, get it professionally printed and bound, and leave it as a time capsule in the house to inspire people in the future and document your contribution to it.

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