The Cross House

A Crazy Crazy Crazy Idea About A Mouse

The Cross House, early 1950s. Click on image to enlarge. Then click again. Note neon sign to left. (Courtesy Mouse Family.)


Scott Mouse, Sr., purchased the Cross House in 1929, and converted the second-floor into apartments.

His son, Scott, Jr., converted the house into the Palace Motel in 1950.

These conversions almost certainly saved the house from being demolished as the once prime residential neighborhood had gone commercial.

Today, little remains of the Mouse conversions. After Bob Rodak purchased the house in 1999, he removed most of the motel bathrooms. Only one motel bathroom remains (in the basement). I removed the motel staircase to the basement, and have recreated the original expansive main staircase (which had been been reduced in size by Scott, Sr.).

There are, however…


…Mouse family members all over Emporia and across the country!


But what happened to the neon Palace Motel sign? New & Modern!


The Mouse family sold the Cross House in 1960, and the Toms family became the new owners (for just over three decades). The sign was extant when a fraternity occupied the house in the mid-1960s.

Then, it seems to have vanished. And I have ached for it to turn up somewhere.

After several years of inquiry, I learned that the sign had, at some point, ended up behind a barn owned by the Mouse family. And the sign remained there for many decades. Then, all the stuff behind the barn was…thrown away maybe twenty years ago.

At least this is what was told to me via some old memories. And at this point I gave up my search for the sign.

Time passed. Then one day I woke to a startling thought: What about recreating the sign, and hanging on the big wall in the dining room? When one stepped into the house, one would look in a straight line through the foyer, through the stairhall, through the dining room, and right at the PALACE MOTEL sign glowing on the big wall.

How cool would that be? Way cool, I think.

Because I am quite insane, I have tried to see if a crazy idea could be transformed into reality.


And Shannon, from Coffelt Signs, came up with this. I gasped.


The sign would be 51-inches high with red neon letters (on a dimmer).

I am tremendously excited by this.

But…the cost. The cost. There is NO WAY to justify this. The sign is 100% not required. There is no compelling reason to pursue this, particularly while I still don’t have a full bathroom in the house or a finished kitchen.

But…but..the idea, as stated, is way cool.

I assumed the cost would be like $12,000 and this would, absolutely, stop the insanity.

Today though, Shannon sent me a quote.


Oh. That is…sorta kinda possibly imaginable. Note that I did not state doable. Just imaginable.

And this puts me in a pickle.

A Mouse pickle.



50 Responses to A Crazy Crazy Crazy Idea About A Mouse

  1. Does this include having the vacancy sign on top? If so, it should have a separate switch so it can be turned off and on while the main sign is on.

  2. You could also figure out how much you want/are willing to spend and find out the dimensions based on that figure. Just a thought.

  3. Oh, this seems like a necessity! Amazingly true reproduction! Smashing idea!

    The proposed design from Coffelt Signs is so true to the original, my eye went to the smallest of details. The original seemed softer and more ‘old timey’ and I had some fun trying to identify if this is just the difference between old photograph and proposed flat design sketch, or if there were any real differences.

    I hope this may be enjoyable (and not too tedious) to read, as it was enjoyable to write!

    Here’s what I see: on the original sign the middle lines of all the “E”s appear shorter. Also I think the font size of “new and modern” is slightly smaller on the original sign (in the old sign the font looks to be the same size as “Mouse’s”) And, and this is maybe the key to the ‘old timey’ feel, but also the difference I feel least sure of … I think the corners of the painted letters on the original sign are … rounded? Then again, this may be an illusion due to blurriness of the original photograph.

    • Agreed, there are some subtle changes required before the sign is actually built.

      I didn’t want to drive Shannon too crazy at this preliminary stage!

    • Yes good post! I am an art director and a bit obsessed and many of us here are . The font is not correct. You are right about the second bar in the “E.” The “M”s are the biggest offenders. Look at the points/stems in the center of the “M.” (pretty sure that pasty is called the stem.) In the original, they stop midway down as they do for example in the Gill Sans font. Here they come right down to the baseline. The “A” is also too narrow and the crossbar too high. The general proportions of the new signare a bit off. Before you spend all that money get a crazy art director to take a look. I volunteer and I may be able to have this font identified if helps. Ross is all about correctness in architecture and I am all about correctness in typography! And I love this blog. Thank you!

  4. I love this idea! I’m noticing that the proposed font isn’t quite right- for example, look at the Ms, where they come to downward points in the center of the letter. On the original sign those downward points come down about halfway, in the proposed font, they come down to the bottom. I think if you looked around for even a bit, you could probably find something more accurate to the original.

  5. You could also compromise, or at least for the short-term, hang a large framed photo of the original sign. I honestly think that would be more attractive. I’m personally not a fan of big outdoor signs inside a home. They look great in garages (or bars, restaurants, etc), but not home interiors. That’s my taste, anyway.

  6. I love the idea, but what about in one of your outdoor garden rooms? That way it would weather a tad and eventually look authentic, plus while giving some ambiance at night.

    • I know you also have a soft spot for mid century modern…. maybe theme an outdoor room that way….. 50’s patio furniture, and decor, palms…. it could be really fun!

  7. Don’t do it now. 5-10 years from now it will still be just as cool, the house will be half way finished and then, perhaps you can justify a little insanity.

  8. I like the idea of getting a picture of the sign. Blowing it up and framing it etc. Not wild about a real sign.

  9. I’m with the blown up picture crowd, that black and white photo is amazing. Have you stood where that photographer was and taken another photo?

  10. I agree with Dawn, you are insane. I feel the Cross House in cringing a bit at this idea. But like Clinton said, the sign would be cool in one of the outdoor garden rooms. But first things first, you need a full bathroom.

  11. Hi everybody!

    I am startled that this idea has not received a better reception!

    I really love the idea of recreating the lost historic sign.

    Clinton’s suggestion of having the sign be in one of the outdoor rooms is…tantalizing. I will reflect upon this.

    Also, I have zero desire for an enlarged photograph of the sign. I crave neon!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Ross,

    Count me among those who think the idea of neon in the dining room is unnecessarily tacky. Not to mention that, as someone said above, you need a full functioning bathroom first. HOWEVER… having some form of the sign, either inside or out, would be oddly appropriate if you follow through with your plans for an AirBnB!

  13. This is off-topic, but I was looking at that photograph, and the porte-cochère appears to have a railing on it’s roof? How cool is that! The spindles don’t appear to match the porch, however, considering the date of the photograph and the fact that the railing would have been much more exposed to the elements, I wonder if they were replacements, and the originals were matching.

    • Hi, Paul!

      The porte-cochère is not visible in the top image.

      In the background is the carriage house. And the porch which was added about 1921. I removed the porch in 2014.

  14. I’m pretty sure the spindles you describe are cresting the porch of the former carriage house – next door. The porte-cochère would not appear in this angle, methinks.

  15. I think that Clinton’s idea is a good one; I think it would overpower your chandelier and everything else in the room. It would look authentic outdoors, and everyone passing by could appreciate it. If you do the B&B, it could also earn it’s keep by advertising…

    • If I do put the sign outside, it will be in one of the private outdoor rooms.

      I would not have the sign be public. That would be WAY too confusing!

      “Is this Mouse’s Palace Motel?”

      • Wait but I thought you were turning it into a boutique bed and breakfast anyway – would resurrecting the old business’ name sound too downmarket?

  16. Ross, you are like me if something lights up it’s always better. Insane or not lifes to short for not having something fanciful in your home. I love the idea!

  17. No one looks lovely by neon light. You’re not thinking of the beauty element. And the buzzing and the flickering.

  18. Hi Ross!

    My name is Cindy and I have only been aware of you, the Cross house, and your blog for a couple of months now but I feel like I’ve been here since day one.

    I know it’s crazy but I have fallen completely in love, reading and rereading every word!

    I love your idea about the motel sign. I think it’s a wonderful memorial to the Mouse’s! Also I feel like any idea you have that keeps you excited about the house helps keep you wanting to stay and not give up. If that means a neon sign before a completed bathroom then so be it!!

    Can’t wait for your next post!

  19. Hi Ross,
    I love the way every idea that you have shared in your blog brings in comments from different people who have professional knowledge about such things (in this one it’s fonts and graphics). The many opinions expressed on this entry have been particularly enjoyable because there is clearly little agreement among those of us who follow you regularly. Even though the comments come to me by e-mail, I prefer to refresh the page on your site to see what else has been said because of the context it gives. With this one, it has kept me thinking about the sign idea throughout the day.
    Is this idea crazier than yours? probably, but it is fun to play with the possibilities.

    Suppose you did a two sided sign which would rotate on its post. You would make it as close to the exact size, font and design as the original sign with a slight twist. Since I am not particularly capable in the graphics department, this is in Times New Roman and is not formatted at all except for putting the words on separate lines. The top word on each side would be in the upper box where the original sign had a vacancy light. The remaining words would be set in the same way as the original sign.




    NOW Airbnb

  20. I wonder how Lady Cross felt when her walls and stairs were torn apart to turn her into a motel. Did it cheapen her? You want to memorialize the symbol of that destruction and hang it in the dining room, after all your hard work to undo the damage? This seems like a contradiction. However, the sign would be great in your light shop!

    • Morning, Dawn!

      As I mentioned in my post, the transformation of the Cross House into the Palace Motel almost certainly saved the house from being demolished. In the 1950s, few people wanted to live in a huge and “gloomy old Victorian”. Becoming a motel gave the house an extended lease on life. Moreover, as I mentioned, the changes have, today, been almost entirely reversed. The house was never destroyed.

      • Yes, it’s always important to remember that often the injuries and scars that old buildings have suffered prevented their total destruction. The degree of what was preserved in the Cross house through its apartment and then hotel conversions was uncommonly respectful, though. I can’t think of any other that preserved lincrusta, or so much of the original hardware and millwork.

  21. Blow funds on that sign and I will paint the purple house to resemble a 50s Chinese restaurant and add red neon to outline the porch details!

  22. I love the idea of the neon, but I also have a neon blue shark that hangs in my house. 🙂 I feel confident in your ability Ross to pull the dining room together, even if you choose to use a neon sign.( and I’m still searching for the perfect pink flamingo for that last Mouse bathroom, I promised you last summer!)

  23. This sign is a vital part of the history of Cross House and I love the idea of recreating it. Maybe it is a discordant note in the decor of the house but it will certainly be an eye catching and interesting piece.
    I went to a boarding school in an 1830s castle. It went bankrupt in the 1980s and became a Victorian gothic museum and art gallery. They kept a room on the top floor that showcased its ugly utilitarian-gray boarding school years. Perhaps Cross House can spare a room that tells its history? If not a dedicated room then certainly these pieces of historical narrative strewn throughout the house!

  24. I know, I’m so mean! Devil’s advocate! Neon sign in the dining room WTF! Pink flamingo’s! AAAHHH! 🙂 What will you think of next? How’s that niche coming along?

  25. I think you should commission James Howard Kunstler to paint a depiction of the sign aglow on a humid evening. Same size, just 2-dimensional.

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