The Cross House

An 1894 Mystery!

The great north wall of the Cross House, 2015. See the triple windows above the crooked porch?


The windows are surrounded by elaborate tin. Elaborate. But, I never really noticed. I mean, I knew all this fabulousness was, you know, there. It just did not fully register. Oh, and the poor poor poor windows. My heart just went out to the little dears.


Today, I gasp at just how friggin’ AMAZING all this is. Wow. Wow! WOW! Tin repaired and painted! Stained-glass windows restored! The whole ensemble reminds me of…


…a giant diamond brooch clipped onto the great north wall. Which brings me to the 1894 mystery…


…involving this recently acquired original drawing of the great WEST wall, or main facade. See the set of triple-arched windows in the center? (Drawing courtesy Mouse family archives.)


The triple-arched windows were, I believe, ALSO meant to be surrounded by tin. I believe that everything between the red arrow was meant to be tin. And with four glorious stamped-tin flourishes. The panel under the center window was meant to be, I also assume, tin. But…


…that is not what was built. Image from 2014. Instead of custom tin work and stamped tin flourishes, all was built out of wood, and with no flourishes. Poo. Even the panel under the center window was wood. Which proved a very bad idea, and had to be removed due to rot, as I detailed previously.


So, why the change? Why did what would have proved a wonderful brooch on the west facade get replaced with something less interesting, and less durable?


I doubt I will ever discover an answer to this 122-year-old mystery.

What was built would have cost less than what was drawn. But, the savings would have been negligible in the end. However, there are other areas where the detailing on the exterior became simpler:


Such as on the second level of the tower. The windows were to be bracketed by paneling. but this was made simpler and the windows were bracketed by shingles.


And see the double windows in the big gable on the north facade? They were meant to also be bracketed by paneling. And they were, too, bracketed instead by shingles.


The south facade got built pretty much as drawn. Except a dormer was never built. See it to the right, with the diamond-hatched window? Not built.


Was there some sort of overall cost-cutting in 1894? Or did the architect of the house, Charles Squires, decide to subtly create a simpler effect?

Again, I doubt an answer will ever be forthcoming.

I have however concluded one thing. In removing the wood panel under the triple-arched windows on the main facade, I intended the change to be temporary until I could figure out a better solution than something which would just rot out again. Now that I have the original 1894 drawing of the main facade (showing a likely tin panel), and now that I know WF Norman can do pretty much anything, I am going to see if they can recreate the original look of the panel…in tin.

Stay tuned!



11 Responses to An 1894 Mystery!

  1. It would be interesting to look at the bank records from 1893-95 and see if there was a local economic downturn mid-construction. But–as you state–the changes were minor considering the expense already incurred. A mystery probably unresolvable.

  2. Ross just another great post, love following you on your Journey. Tin, it’s a cool feature but I plead ignorance on why it is used and would this been something they wanted folks to know it was tin or believed to be carved wood.

  3. Ross, drawing on the knowledge I have gleaned from reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries when I was a child I have deduced that there are only a couple of scenarios that make sense. The villain in this case could be financial. Maybe it was a problem with the supplier. It could have been installed for expedience because it was taking too to build the house and the costs were adding up. Maybe the owner finally decided “Enough!” Just get it done! Maybe the factory producing the metalwork burned down, leaving them with a house that was finished with wood in a couple of spots, and the owner didn’t care to spend more money to change it after the house was built. Now on a gloomy day like today- we are having severe thunderstorms that make me wish my slate-roofed house had lightning rods- something for you to ponder, Ross. And it is supposed to be very hot after the storms. If only I had Hannah Gruen to make me one of her fantastic meals and Nancy, Bess and George to keep me company. And Mr. Drew to talk with, too. We could discuss the latest crime wave to hit River Heights.

  4. Hi Ross, I don’t comment much. There seems to be a few favorite commenters so I usually just read fantasize and enjoy. Recap, I lived in Emporia from age 5 to age 20. This house to me, is like Cinderella’s castle in Disney World is to regular kids. You just don’t know how ecstatic I am about your breathing life back into this house. I still visit my sister there and will be there in November. Pretty pretty plz may I come look at her in her new glory? Warning I might cry. Lol. Also how are things going on the carriage house? Haven’t seen much update on it I was just curious.

    • Well…you did say pretty please!

      Just give a few days heads up, and I will be happy to give a grand tour!

      Oh, and the carriage house is mothballed, again.

  5. Lol on the carriage house. But that’s alot to undertake two restores. And on the visit… honestly BLESS YOU!!! And I will certainly let ya know. I’m excited beyond all belief.

  6. Keep us posted on this, Ross. I think a panel of some sort would be a big bonus on the front. It’s interesting to note that, on the plan, the architect drew shingles on the left side of the panel area but not on the right. It makes you wonder if the area around those three windows was sort of left up to Mr and Mrs Cross and their builder. I could see a panel that maybe uses thin columns as the outside edge, with the columns curving over the tops of the windows…

    • It’s a common drafting technique to “indicate” materials such as roofing or shingles. So, the architect would just show a portion drawn in.

  7. I think it was an aesthetic decision. I think Charles Squires (or maybe Mr or Mrs Cross) decided that it looked better to have three matching windows, each with separate frames rather than a triple group with overly wide joined frames. These windows are in three separate rooms so he couldn’t alter the spacing to bring the windows closer together and thus narrow the frames down a bit. Once he made the decision to unjoin the frames then the flourishes had to go.

    Why was the lower central panel made of wood and not tin? I suspect he didn’t realize how badly it would fail in wood. But he did put a tin sheet behind it so he definitely had his doubts. Perhaps you should be glad he didn’t put panels in the other areas where he’d initially planned or you’d have an even greater restoration problem than you do.

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