A Column Milestone!!!!!!!!

Porches are highly vulnerable things, and it is common for Victorian-era houses to have lost their original porches.

Like with this house…


…in Dunkirk, Indiana. The porch is new. The porch gable ends are plywood. But…look closely over to the left…


…where the outline of a lost column is visible! How profoundly tantalizing!


But wait! There’s another porch on the house! Which is totally intact! This could be used as template to recreate the lost porch! Image courtesy John Shiflet.


See how the columns perfectly match the front “ghost” imprint? Image courtesy John Shiflet.


And the original gable end of the porch is sitting ON the porch! Oh, what a glorious bit! It could certainly be restored! Image courtesy John Shiflet.


When I first saw the Cross House in 1999 its porches were in sorry condition with a lot of bits missing including many of the columns. Still, enough remained to fully and accurately restore the porch.

The new owners in 1999, Bob Rodak, then spent the next 15 years working on the house, and I would drive by several times a year to view the progress. But…but…bit by bit more and more original columns went missing, to be replaced by 6×6 posts.

I worried. And worried. And worried some more. I fretted that the porch would ever-so-slowly just erode into something banal.

Oh, the horror.


You can see how bad things looked in 1999. Three columns are already missing, and one is profoundly rotted. EEK!


The south porch columns are intact. Whew! But, soon, three of these columns…


…went missing. (Stone was added between the two single columns, right.)


And what remained was disturbing.


BEFORE. There are six columns missing in the image. This is how the house looked when I purchase it.


AFTER. Squee!!!!!!!! All the west columns are reinstated!!!!!!!!






AFTER. SQUEE!!!!!!!! The hand-carved capitals are fabulous and now artfully painted to enhance the newly revealed details.


A number of new bases had to be made, and other bits. Thanks, Dr. Doug!


And new shafts had to be made.


The bottom portion of 5 shafts had new lumber grafted on. And numerous “hats” had to be made. Thanks, Dr. Doug!


BEFORE: The north porch single column.




BEFORE. The porte-cochère.


AFTER. Squee!!!!!!!!




AFTER. Squee!!!!!!!!




AFTER! Squee!!!!!!!! (The non-original stone between the two single columns has been removed.)


This means that all 21 porch columns are now restored or recreated. Only four of the hand-carved capitals, and four shafts, had to be recreated. Many bases, “hats”, and others small bits are also new. In short though, most of what you see is original.

All this has taken five years. Slowly but surely, via my patented baby-step™ method.

And…I am beyond excited that this vital project has been completed. I walked around the house today just stunned, with a huge smile overtaking my face.

It is rare that people make the effort to carefully restore/recreate architectural bits which have been lost and/or damaged, but this whole process has been incredibly exciting and incredibly soul-nourishing.

Ross is very very ridiculously happy tonight!

The restoration/recreation of the eight south columns is part of the 2017 Heritage Trust Grant.



  1. Leslie Harlow on September 22, 2019 at 12:20 am

    You have earned your bragging rights.

  2. Suzanne on September 22, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Grandeur and beauty restored. That west side view is magnificent!

  3. Patty D on September 22, 2019 at 2:31 am

    Wow, what an amazing difference the refurbished columns on the porte-cochere make!!!! Hope you went home and opened a celebratory bottle of wine, Ross. All 21 columns in place and looking beautiful, what an accomplishment!!!!

  4. Andrew Hewitt on September 22, 2019 at 6:55 am

    looks amazing also it great to see once dried out drift wood now looking like class A Victorian wow candy .

    • Nancy from Georgia on September 23, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      Haha! Victorian wow candy! Classic!

  5. Lindy on September 22, 2019 at 6:59 am

    How incredibly lucky we are to have you in emporia. You have taken an eyesore and turned it into a beautiful home..

  6. Dan Goodall-Williams on September 22, 2019 at 7:04 am

    WOW WOW WOW! Simply stunning! Just so thankful that it is you restoring this house! Absolutely brilliant! I’d walk around smiling too. Thank you Ross.

  7. Anthony Bianchini on September 22, 2019 at 10:20 am

    What a treat! I read this post 3 times, that’s how enjoyable this was to read.

  8. tiffaney on September 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    When we bought out house, the porch was rotted and actually pulling the house down with it. That had to be the first project tackled. So I understand your porch-related excitement!

  9. Brendan on September 22, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    It’s great to see this happening. Our 1897 house has a 1919 porch added by my great grandparents. They wanted a porch large enough for the family. It has four Doric columns and a railing wide enough for sitting on.

  10. Bethany Otto on September 22, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    It makes me so happy to see beautiful old homes being carefully restored by people like you instead of abused, updated, or knocked down. You are doing it the way it should be done, although many don’t have the resources or know-how to live up to your high bar. It should be everyone’s goal, though!

  11. Linda A. on September 22, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    You are amazing, Ross!! And so are those columns!

  12. Cindy Belanger on September 22, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Just beautiful! Before, the thick, aligatored paint on the capital, and After, pretty, crisp details. I know how long it takes to scrape the paint off of those carvings. Or did you strip them? Are you going to install the square lattice under the porch, as on the North porch?
    Our porch columns were intact, but took about 6-8 hours to scrape the old paint off of one four sided capital, leaf scroll and pineapple. We have 8 full and 3 half columns. I’m glad we’re done with them.

  13. Leigh on September 23, 2019 at 2:12 am

    You do wonders, Ross. You resurrect things. So too, Dr. Doug. Much gratitude to the Kansas Heritage Trust Grant. They have chosen well when they allocated funds for you.

  14. Dodi on September 23, 2019 at 8:45 am

    Ross my darling…you have done so beautifully well! There are no words for your patience. I would like to add a bit of restoration advice if I may. IF you have painted the columns with oil based paint (as I am sure you have, being the meticulous person you are), then once a year during warm periods, apply raw linseed oil to the columns. Not the boiled stuff, but raw oil. Why? Because oil based paint is based on linseed oil and it will penetrate to the wood beneath and nourish both the paint and the wood and will keep the paint from aligatoring. It’s not the paint that dries out, it’s the oil. Just a quick slop on(nothing fancy or time consuming) will keep that paint watertight and smooth. It’s like caring for fine furniture; a light coat of oil does wonders for good wood. Even with the paint in place, the oil will penetrate both strates and preserve the hard work that has been done.

  15. Joanne on September 23, 2019 at 9:41 am

    I loved this post and stared at those astounding before & after pictures for a long time. Your devotion to the Cross House is always inspiring but now more than ever! The number of hours spent loving restoring every single detail is incredible. Congratulations on your wonderful column success story. They look beautiful.

  16. Grandmere Louise on September 23, 2019 at 10:21 am

    When you repost those 1999 photos I am truly amazed that this house survived. You, and Bob Rodak before you, are splendidly brave and nuts. I’m glad you are. (And I’m also thrilled by the driftwood to Victorian candy transformation. A lovely way of putting it.)

  17. Nancy from Georgia on September 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    It does the heart good to see the improvements! I’m so glad you decided to be crazy and buy the Cross house! 🥰

  18. Marilyn Franks on September 23, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    You have given the old girl her shapely legs back. Just stunning!

  19. Karen on September 25, 2019 at 10:19 am

    I have no words….. I’m awe struck!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.