The Cross House was built in 1894. It is located at 526 Union Street, in Emporia, Kansas. I purchased the house in March 2014. Want to learn about the background of the house? history. virtual tour. timeline. interview! Blueprints! Wanna Meet My….? Wanna tour? Want to help? My blog posts about the restoration are below.… Continue Reading

Currently displaying blog entries in Chronological Order. Switch to Most Recent.

Currently displaying blog entries in Most Recent Order. Switch to Chronological Order.

Let the Games Begin!

After much ado, the Heritage Grant work on the Cross House commences! This week Groh & Sons began work on relining the built-in gutters. Groh was founded in 1918, and is almost as old as the Cross House. The house has no visible gutters. The gutters are built into the prominent “cornices” of the house,… Continue Reading

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 5

Finding early 1890s gas/electric chandeliers and sconces for the Cross House will be a monumental, daunting task, requiring many years (decades?), and also requiring a vast fortune. Yes, I play the lottery weekly. Another monumental task will be finding period-correct glass shades for all the lights. I grow weak at the very thought. Last year… Continue Reading

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 4

Almost a year ago I did a post about the lighting which I had purchased for the Cross House. Although I sell vintage lighting for a living, I specialize in post-1920 lighting, so Victorian-era lighting is a mystery to me. However, slowly, bit-by-bit, I have been gaining a suggestion of knowledge about the era. As… Continue Reading

A Laughing Matter in the Carriage House

My previous four posts have all been about vintage lighting. And I sell vintage lighting for a living. So, one would think my own house would be full of vintage lighting treasures, right? Well, like the proverbial shoemaker with no…I am shoeless. The problem is that I cannot justify hanging up fabulous vintage fixtures in… Continue Reading

A Brief History of Gas/Electric Lighting

In my three previous posts I wrote about the great adventure of finding and revealing the lost gas/electric sconce locations in the Cross House. I wrote: In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb, and in 1882 Edison created, in New York City, the first practical system for generating electricity for homes and businesses.… Continue Reading

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 3

In my two previous posts I detailed the discovery of the lost gas nipples to fourteen sconces adjacent to seven fireplace mantels. At first I assumed that the sconces were gas sconces, but more sluething revealed that they were gas/electric sconces. Cool. While researching the two blog posts, I realized that the Cross House may… Continue Reading

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 2

In Part 1, I detailed the adventure revealing the, well, not quite lost, but, ah, overlooked gas sconces in the 1894 Cross House. They had been there since 1894 but I just never really registered them before. This was not too surprising as some were buried behind later plaster while others were just small nipples… Continue Reading

On The Hunt For The Lost Gas Sconces. PART 1

When the Cross House was built in 1894, it was state-of-the-art. It had new-fangled radiators, a telephone closet, a built-in ice chest, speaking tubes, and ELECTRIC LIGHTING! Yes, ELECTRIC LIGHTING! This would have seemed a wonder to visitors. In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb, and in 1882 Edison created, in… Continue Reading

Please, will you join me in the Parlor?

    A problem with getting a pretty color on the walls of the parlor, which I have been DYING to do, is that the walls are not really ready. They LOOK ready, but a raking light reveals a disturbing reality. Raking light is a bitch. In normal light the walls look pristine, and just… Continue Reading

The Mystery of the Missing Picture Rails

    By a wonderful coincidence, the image also highlighted an issue I was writing a post about. See the walls? See the papered frieze at the top of the walls? See the picture rail just below the frieze? This was a strip of molding common to houses for many decades, and was used to… Continue Reading

I’m Dreaming of a…Green Christmas!

I have done numerous posts about the steady erosion of the Home Depot kitchen in the carriage house, and the process of revealing the many layers of history regarding kitchens long lost. There were fragments and whispers of the original 1921 kitchen. There were bits and pieces of the circa-1950 kitchen. And there was the…EEEEEEK!!!!!!!…Home… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 10

WARNING #1 This is not a post about delicious stained-glass, luscious woodwork, fabulous mantles, stunning architectural detailing, amazing vintage wallpaper, or anything of even the slightest aesthetic pleasure. Nope, this post is about particle board, pressure-treated lumber, concrete block, and spray-foam. So, for those with delicate visual sensibilities? It is strongly recommend that you skip… Continue Reading

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2015!!!!!!!!!

      Justin and Scott graciously helped with the tall tree-o-lights! Thanks guys! We strung the lights this morning, and then I took us out to lunch at Radius. When it got dark, I was DYING to see the tree all brilliant with its zillion bits of bejeweled colors, but I was at my… Continue Reading

Yearning for my Lost Lighting

When built in 1894, the Cross House had lighting fixtures which were a combination of gas and electric. None remain. Much to my vexation. Nor do I have tantalizing interior archival images to offer an idea of what was. More vexation! I assume the fixtures were removed when the house was turned into the Palace… Continue Reading

The Cross House Comes Alive…Politically.

I love politics. Indeed, it could be argued that I am a bit obsessed with politics. My friends will all read the above and think: A bit? OK. Well, I had this nutty idea (I do not suffer from a lack of nutty ideas) that it would be cool to have Debate Nights at the… Continue Reading

Get ready. Get set. GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today, I received an email: “All work is okay to proceed under the HTF grant, the state tax credit program, and the state preservation law.” I know, huh? Huh? But this in M O N U M E N T A L news. Huge. Big. Exciting. Thrilling. A make-my-eyes-tear-up kinda news. You see, waaaaaaaaay back… Continue Reading

Suicidal Stained-Glass?

            This year the Cross House was awarded a substantial grant, in part to restore the 40 stained-glass windows in the Cross House. The damage above is a testament to the need of such work. Had the window not been so terribly fragile, it would not have been affected by… Continue Reading

A Wall. Full of Information.

    There is a lot of information encoded in the above image. In the above terrifying image. To the RIGHT are plastic pinky tiles from a 1950 motel bathroom. The bathroom was created in what once a kitchen. The kitchen was created in what was originally thin air. Confusing, I know! 1894: The staircase stepped… Continue Reading

Creating a New Kitchen in an Old House. Part Four.

A few months back I did three posts about how to create a new kitchen for an old house. No original fittings remain in the kitchen of the Cross House, although the room is architecturally intact. The butler’s pantry, and main pantry, are also mostly intact and will be fully restored. The other day I… Continue Reading

A Breathtaking Update About Peacocks!

Truly, I am breathless. A while back I did a post about finding some 1970s peacock wallpaper, and the powerful memories it invoked. If you have not read the post, I think you will enjoy it. This great find though was but a single roll. Enough to do one wall in the first-floor bathroom. The… Continue Reading

A 2015 Fall Update

Anybody walking by the Cross House last year could not help but notice a LOT happening. Here is what the house looked like when I purchased it:       But this year it appears, appears, that nothing is happening. At least from the exterior. Inside though is another story. In 2015 the living room… Continue Reading

Major Lust. Major Pain.

Today I receive an email from Bo Sullivan. Bo is way cool. He know ALL about old houses and old lighting and old wallpaper and old toilets and, well, just about everything old. During my great search to discover information about the original 1894 stairhall wallpaper in the Cross House, of which I discovered but… Continue Reading

Zounds! Batman moves to the Cross House!

The other day I stepped onto the rear porch of the Cross House… …when something captured my special attention. In the corner of the porch floor there were…droppings. You know, ah, well, poo bits. Ick! But the bits were unusual. There were not rabbit bits (the neighborhood has many wild rabbits). Nor cat bits. Or… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 9

It is great fun posting dramatic Before/After images. But this is a long post about a lot of Before/During. So, no WOW images. Yet.                                                   Continue Reading

Black Window Magic

Almost all the window sashes in the Cross House are original, and in excellent condition…relatively speaking. Meaning that, although the wood is in excellent condition, the sashes nonetheless require a lot of work to restore them. There are 120-years of exterior paint to remove, and 120-years of bad glazing jobs. I am quite good at… Continue Reading

A Tale of Four Facades

                It is quite distressing looking at these images. One way I manage such a huge project is to simply blot out All The Work Needing To Be Done, a kinda self-invoked selective blindness. Instead, I focus on work which has been completed. I have been determined to… Continue Reading

Does this idea make any sense?

THE BACKGROUND The Cross House and adjacent carriage house are surrounded by concrete, due to their being, at respective times, a motel, boarding houses, apartments, fraternities, and on and on. So, over the last 120-years parking became The Issue, and miles of concrete were laid. Miles. I think there is more concrete at the Cross… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 7

Have you ever had a day when you feel like you are standing at the edge of a cliff, and might fall off? Well, I had such a day. You see, today I was confronted with a situation involving a titanic battle between Good Ross and Evil Ross. Good Ross wanted to do the right… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 6

As previously mentioned, I need to create a new kitchen in the carriage house on a $1.98 budget, as I am still paying off the titanic-sized invoice to repair/restore the radiator system in the Cross House. As such, I am doing most of the work myself, although pixies seem to show up when I am… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 5

                    It is always a huge thrill for me to discover hidden aspects of an old house. It is one of the things I enjoy about old houses. My mind races with thoughts of previous owners, previous lives in the spaces I now occupy. My mind… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 4

      The huge L-shaped rotted 1921 front porch is gone. It will be replaced by a new porch, nestled under the overhanging tower above. The rectangular dining room is back! Whoee!!!!!!!! Note the office. Remember the triple closets from the plan above? One was originally a hall accessing the room. I restored this… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 3

                                                    SUMMATION Not a vestige remains of the R.I.P. Home Depot never-used kitchen. This was not the plan when I started on the kitchen two weeks ago. Sigh. The current… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 2

In a previous post I detailed how my plans to paint the north facade of the Cross House were thwarted by an unexpected opportunity to rent the carriage house, thus forcing me to focus my attentions on the carriage house. When I purchased the Cross House property, the previous owner had renovated the carriage house,… Continue Reading

CARRIAGE HOUSE: Part 1

I did a previous post on the curious history of the carriage house adjacent to the Cross House. Today, I would like to present my highly sophisticated drawings using the latest in high-def 4-D imaging technology. Prepare to be AGOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!             UPDATE: In a much later post, I detail numerous new… Continue Reading

GRAND PLANS…revised.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans — John Lennon In my very first blog post, I used the above well-known quote. And now, a year later, while I have been busy making plans, life has come along, again, and shoved me in an unexpected direction. I need to start wearing a… Continue Reading

Victoria! MY HERO!

  I have done numerous posts about the extraordinary difficulty in finding enough drapery panels to furnish the library of the Cross House. This task, made absurdly difficult by Walmart, has been largely accomplished through the efforts of people reading this blog. Amazing. Then, last week, Victoria came by the Cross House with FOUR MORE… Continue Reading

Creating a New Kitchen in an Old House. Part Three.

A few years ago Travis purchased a matching set of lights from me for his 1931 tudor-esque style home in St. Louis. It so happened that I was soon driving from Kansas to New York, so offered to drop the set off in person. Because I am, well, a beast, upon arriving I asked Travis… Continue Reading

Creating a New Kitchen in an Old House. Part Two.

In my previous post on this subject I showed numerous archival images of kitchens from the 1890s through the 1930s. This post shows new kitchens in old houses. About twenty years ago, a new look evolved for kitchens. This look is, well, hyper-active. Less is certainly not more. MORE is! MORE! These kitchens have upper… Continue Reading

Creating a New Kitchen in an Old House. Part One.

The Cross House was built in 1894. While 1894 living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and even bathrooms are not radically different from the same rooms today, kitchens are. And few people owning an old home would want a period-correct kitchen. Kitchens in 1894 did not have refrigerators (which became common post-1920), dishwashers (which became common… Continue Reading

My Love Affair With…Radiators

Today, we think of radiators as charmingly old-fashioned. However, when the Cross House was built in 1894, radiators were state-of-the-art technology. There can be no doubt that people, when first stepping into the Cross House in 1894, exclaimed — breathlessly  — “Can I see the radiators?” They would have oohed and aahed while standing before these… Continue Reading

Kelly! MY HERO!

    Kelly created and operates my favorite blog, Old House Dreams, and in previous posts about the Great Drapery Search (here and here and here and here), Kelly stated that she had, by some miracle, found four drapery panels. I responded that while I believed her, I doubted that the online order at Walmart… Continue Reading

Living with Anxiety

I have been lying to all of you. Well, not lying really, but…holding back the full truth. In a previous post I exalted about the Cross House being awarded a $90,000 Kansas Heritage Grant. Whoee! WHOEE! But…but…in the fine print of the grant, page 476, subsection Q, line 48, there was a clause. The clause… Continue Reading

Predicting the Future

In a room with curtains drawn, and candles lighted, I sit before a crystal ball. And I see things. I see wondrous things. I see things which will amaze people…   BUT FIRST, THE PAST In 1894, The Cross House was built in the best neighborhood in Emporia. The neighborhood was very close to downtown,… Continue Reading

Not…Predicting The Future

Today I received a long letter from Peter, introducing himself. Peter is young, and admits to a terrible affliction: he is besotted with big old houses. In reply, I extended my sympathies. At the end of his letter, Peter asked several questions. It occurred to me that perhaps others have the same questions, so it… Continue Reading

Brian and Bailey! MY HEROS!

Brian and Bailey are a young couple. And I mean young. It scares me to realize that I am old enough to be a grandfather to them. These cute young kids are moving to Emporia to attend ESU. Brian wanted to buy a house to live in during his college years. And not just any… Continue Reading

Thwarted…AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is now obvious that GOD is conspiring against me. Well, maybe not me (I hope!) but against curtains for the library of the Cross House. In my two previous posts, I detailed the great adventure in finding curtains. In the first post, all was lost. In the second post, all was saved. Whoee!!!!!!! But… Continue Reading

KELLY SAVES THE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In my previous post I lamented, lamented, the great trial I was undergoing. Thwarted by curtains! Oh the horror! The horror! So, Kelly, who runs my very favorite blog, read my post, and then contacted me. She had been doing a store-by-store search for the curtains I could not obtain! While I could only find… Continue Reading

Thwarted by…Curtains!

I am working to complete the library in the Cross House, and have been holding back images to do a dramatic Before/After reveal. (Or perhaps I have been kidnapped by aliens and they made me write the above.) I am dedicated to meticulously restoring the house, and look forward to its being returned as close… Continue Reading

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

I am very afraid. I keep walking, ever more nervously, into the library of the Cross House, and to my shock an inexplicable and obviously surreal event — one no doubt of an extraterrestrial nature — is manifesting itself. Oh, the horror! While I am no scientist, it seems (I am almost afraid to put this in… Continue Reading

More Small Moves

I have been busy of late in the library, and will have a LONG post…soon. In the meantime, I have this small post, about a small move. The Cross House has four entry doors, one in each direction of the compass. The south entry was the principal family entrance, and it opens onto the porte-cochère. I… Continue Reading

A Gala at the Cross House. Part One.

I have owned the Cross House for fourteen month. And finally had a party! My first! The event (May 1st) was to celebrate the Cross House receiving a Heritage Grant, and the guest list was composed primarily of individuals I wanted to thank for making the grant a reality. I also invited those who have… Continue Reading

Please Allow Me To Introduce My…Lincrusta

The first floor of the Cross House is blessed with a lot…a lot…of Lincrusta. Old house nuts afficinadoes across the land know that Lincrusta is a linoleum-like product embossed with patterns. But the general public has no idea what Lincrusta is. Thus, on numerous occasions when I have given tours to people, I hear: “You… Continue Reading

A Surprising Niche

The Cross House continues to amaze and startle me. In the spacious foyer and stair hall is a niche:     To the right of the niche is a door to a vestibule (the north entrance). There are three stained-glass arched windows. To the left is a door to the telephone closet. Yes, a telephone… Continue Reading

Want To Earn A Million Dollars?

The Cross House has eight fireplaces. All were originally coal-burning (but I am not sure why they were ever used as the house had a new-fangled radiator system). Each opening is surrounded by an artful array of figurative tiles by the American Encaustic Tiling Company. A few have gone missing over the years. So, here is… Continue Reading

A Brief Moment of Civility

This Friday I am having a party at the Cross House. A party! It is my very first in the house! The party is to celebrate the house receiving a Heritage Trust grant. However, it will be quite surreal having a gala in rooms which look like bombs have gone off. There is missing plaster, dangling… Continue Reading

A Moving House

In a previous post I detailed the surreal history of the carriage house to the Cross House. In short: 1) Built in 1894. It had a 2-story main section, and a 1-story north wing. The structure sat right against the alley. It likely had no flooring on the main level, just dirt (it was used… Continue Reading

The Dead Have Some Explaining To Do!

The Cross House has two pantries: 1) A butler’s panty. 2) A main pantry. Cool. I love these classic old house features. Here is the original drawing of the butler’s pantry:         At some point in, it seems, the 1950s, the pantry was modified: 1) The two upper drawers were removed. 2)… Continue Reading

Small moves, Ellie, small moves.

The Cross House is a monumental project. And in my fourteen months of ownership a great deal has been done. Steel beams have been inserted, windows have been restored, a new structural wall prevented collapse, original paint colors were determined and reapplied to the exterior, the boilers have been repaired, and all the radiators now… Continue Reading

A Studebaker Alert!

    When I woke up this morning I had NO idea what a 1932 Studebaker looked like. Nor have I ever once thought about a 1932 Studebaker. But this evening I am possessed by 1932 Studebaker thoughts. POSSESSED! I love when life throws out such curve balls. My idea: Somewhere out there there, somewhere,… Continue Reading

I Am Freakin’ Out, Man! Freakin’ Out!

In 1929 Scout Mouse, Sr. purchased the Cross House and partially converted it into apartments. I do not know if he and his family lived in the house. In 1950, his son, Scott, Jr., turned the house into the Palace Motel:         Today, Lindy Mouse Whetzel, the daughter of the dashing Scott,… Continue Reading

Announcing My 2015 Project

In my previous post, I was, perhaps, not entirely serious. In today’s post I will try to conjure some sober maturity. All my previous posts have focused on the west facade. My 2015 project is to get the north facade painted all pretty. And do repairs. And tuck-point the chimney. Both facades are highly visible, as… Continue Reading

STORMING THE CASTLE!!!!!!!!!!

Brothers and sisters of the Ancient Clan of Restoration, a great day is upon us! ‘O let us rejoice! The rumors ’tis be true! It can today be stated that our endeavors have been achieved, allowing us to embark upon our siege of the Castle Cross! And we shall have victory! VICTORY SHALL BE OURS!… Continue Reading

A Flooring Mystery

  When the Cross House was built in 1894 it had wall-to-wall carpeting on the first two floors, a great luxury. In such instances, plain pine floors would be laid under, as was done at the Cross House. However, for a very long time the house has had oak flooring. I always assumed this was… Continue Reading

Color Trial #1

  In my previous post I invited readers to paint my library. Kelly and Melody took up the challenge, and graciously photoshopped Tiffany Blue onto the library walls. Thanks to you both! With the lighter trim color now revealed, I do like Tiffany Blue better than when the trim was all dark. But is it… Continue Reading

Get Ready, Get Set, and Start…

In three previous posts (one, two, and three), readers offered suggestions as to what color I should paint the library in the Cross House. I love this input! The room will mostly be bookshelves from floor to ceiling, so the color will be confined, in the main, to the ceiling and around the windows. I… Continue Reading

…And Putting It Back Together.

Last summer I tore off a large section of original shingles on the second-floor exterior wall of the house. This section was punky from a blocked-up drain-spout (since unblocked), and missing roof flashing above (since installed). Thinking that I would replace the shingles with alacrity, I simply tar-papered over the naked section. Then time passed.… Continue Reading

Tearing The House Apart…

Originally, the 1894 Cross House had cheap pine floors on its first and second levels. This was because these floors were covered by the extraordinary luxury of wall-to-wall carpeting (27-inch wide strips hand-sewn together). Later, the pine floors were covered with plain oak floors. Sigh. Had the Cross House NOT had wall-to-wall carpeting in 1894,… Continue Reading

Pipes and Cast Iron and Burly Men, Oh My!

Today, nobody looks at a radiator with abject wonder. Nobody thinks, with an awestruck awareness: Wow! Radiators! They are so cool! So hip! So amazing! No, we think of radiators as being charmingly old-fashioned. But in 1894, when the Cross House was completed, radiators were a revolutionary advance. Since the beginning of time people used… Continue Reading

…so…maybe not THIS shade of blue? PART 2.

This blog is not even a year old. And one of the things I really LOVE about having a blog is OPC*. *OPC: Other People’s Comments. Today, I did a post about what-to-paint the 1894 library of the Cross House. I was flaberagasted that within an hour I had numerous comments. THIS IS SO COOL!… Continue Reading

…so…maybe not THIS shade of blue?

      Mind you, I am SO not a matchy kind of guy. I do not need nor want a PERFECT match between the wall color and the Blue Bits in the stained-glass. But I do want a complement. As such, I am uncertain if Tiffany Blue (lust lust lust) is the right-perfect-ideal-most-fabulous color… Continue Reading

The Remains Of The…

The Cross House has been through a lot. A lot. It was built as a private residence, but was later a tea room, an apartment house, motel, boarding house, and numerous fraternities and sororities. Golly. To accommodate all these changes a lot of kitchens and bathrooms were added. Then removed:     The above image… Continue Reading

Feeling Kinda Blue

I have been pondering paint colors. My house was built in 1894, and we think of Victorian-era houses as being very dark. We assume this because we only have black/white images of the era. If color images existed I suspect we would be shocked at how colorful many Victorian-era homes actually were. We long assumed… Continue Reading

An Ode to Porcelain. Part 3. BREAKING NEWS!

In a previous post, it was discovered (thanks to Travis) that the American Standard toilet in the marble bath of the Cross House dates from 1926. Barb also brought to my attention a contest which American Standard had in 2005 for the Oldest Toilet in America. A 1928 model won.     But my model… Continue Reading

An Ode to Porcelain. Part 2. And an Invitation.

In my previous post on this subject, I had wondered about the age of the American Standard toilet in the marble bath of the 1894 Cross House. I knew it was old, but how old? I wrote: “Is it 1920s? Circa-1910? Or is it the original 1894 toilet?” One of the things that I really… Continue Reading

Emergency Spindle Question!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  In a previous post I detailed how I recreated the original expansive size of the main stair in the Cross House. In order to finish the work I need to order 16 new oak spindles (at $55 each). There is one problem. See the spindles above? See the sphere in the middle of each? See… Continue Reading

…and now comes the fun part: DECORATING!

THE GOOD NEWS The living room of the Cross House is — it seems hard to believe — sorta kinda somewhat ready to decorate. Not this minute, mind you, but (crossing my fingers) in April. Golly. I have been so preoccupied with structural, electrical, restoration, and other non-decor issues that the idea of being able to, at… Continue Reading

An Ode to Porcelain

I do not think I have ever seen Justin quite so excited. You see, Justin has been doing a lot of work on the Cross House. He is the Main Guy, and the one who has been lifting sagging parts of the house, demolishing non-original parts of the house (or rotted), building new sections of… Continue Reading

Porch Railings. Part 1.

With all the west-facing columns now returned to the front porch for the first time in many decades, the next Great Porch Adventure can begin! Railings!                 To my utter astonishment, and considerable delight, the moldering railings proved to be almost all there, and all were restorable. Dr.… Continue Reading

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Golly. I started work on the Cross House a year ago today. And what a year it has been. I first saw the house in 1999, when Debbi and Bob Rodak had an open house shorty after they moved in. I was awestruck and mesmerized by the huge structure (almost 9,000 square feet on four… Continue Reading

Roofing the House. Part 5.

This is my fifth post on re-roofing the Cross House. Nowadays, we are all concerned about energy efficiency. The most efficient roof on the Cross House would be white, which will reflect the sun. Of course white would be a terrible color choice, aesthetically. But an excellent choice, in term of efficiency. Oh, I am… Continue Reading

Windows! Reappearing! Everywhere!

        Note the second-floor of the round tower. Look, TWO restored windows now back in place! TWO! And things of great beauty they be (particularly when you consider what they used to look like). Note the third-floor of the round tower. Look, THREE restored windows now back in place! THREE! Whoee!!!!!!! It… Continue Reading

Roofing the House. Part 3.

In Part 2 of the roofing adventure, Marilyn commented: “If you are using Tamco shingles, their website allows you to upload a picture of your house and then “apply” different shingles.” Really? Cool!!!!!! Thanks Marilyn! So, off to Tamco.com I went! It was pretty easy. The modeling tool however is not very sophisticated so I could… Continue Reading

Lighting Up

The Cross House was built in 1894, and with gas/electric lighting. At some point however ALL the original lighting was removed from the house. I am waiting for a time-travel app on my iPhone so I can go back in time and slap the person who made this decision. Even though I restore vintage lighting… Continue Reading

Desperately Seeking…Doors

For all the the Cross House has been through (private residence, sanitarium, tea room, fraternities, sororities, apartments, motel, boarding house) it is amazingly, astonishingly intact. Save some bits. Like all the original lighting is long gone. BIG sigh. There are also about four interior doors which are Gone Door. Sigh. I have looked through countless… Continue Reading

Roofing the House. Part 1.

2015 is the year that the Cross House gets new shingles, and the built-in gutters get relined. This is good as the roofs and built-in gutters are scary:     After MUCH debate, I have settled on asphalt shingles. Quite pedestrian, yes, but I have no desire to return to the original wood shingles “dipped… Continue Reading

My Big Learning Curve About Historic Tile. Part 4.

      Since buying the Cross House a year ago, I have been…appreciative of the tile floors. I did not love or adore or treasure them. It seemed cool that they were original, and I certainly intended to respect them and do what I could to fill in missing sections. But during this week… Continue Reading

My Big Learning Curve About Historic Tile. Part 3.

                A week ago I had no idea, none, that the 120-year-old porcelain geometric flooring in the Cross House, supplied by the American Encaustic Tiling Company, could be properly restored, and missing tiles recreated. No idea. My elation is considerable regarding this new-found knowledge. My anticipation is great… Continue Reading

My Big Learning Curve About Historic Tile. Part 2.

FLASH UPDATE! In Part 1 of my Big Learning Curve, I discovered that it might actually be possible to fully restore the 1894 bathroom floor of the Cross House.     I just got off the phone with Bryan at Olde English Tiles in Arkansas, and with incredible news. The company can match my existing tiles!… Continue Reading

My Big Learning Curve About Historic Tile. Part 1.

When the Cross House was built in 1894, it featured tile floors in three vestibules, two bathrooms, and also tiles around eight fireplaces. The previous owner of the house, Bob Rodak, found an invoice from the American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO). This was a way cool discovery. Amazingly, all this tile is still there in… Continue Reading

W! H! O! E! E!

BACKGROUND The 2015 Kansas Heritage Fund grants have just been announced. The Cross House had applied (after six months of work on the application). Then there was 3-1/2 months of waiting for the results. The Heritage Grant program is funded by a small tax on every mortgage filed in the state. The monies collected are… Continue Reading

The Mystery of the Bathroom Notches: REVEALED!!!

It did not seem possible that only 24-hours after posting a thread about mysterious notches, the notches would no longer be mysterious! You see, the exposed studs in the second-floor bathroom of the Cross House have three rows of horizontal notches. The notches are only about 1/8-inch deep. Why are they there? Obviously, they had… Continue Reading

The Mystery of the Bathroom Notches

What are they? What were they for? When did whatever they held get removed? Will the mystery ever be revealed??????????????????     In the 1920s the bathroom was converted into a kitchen. In 1950 the room was converted back into a bathroom (when the house was turned into a motel). At some point the room… Continue Reading

Windows, Windows Everywhere!

During the summer and fall, a lot of windows were removed from the Cross House to undergo restoration. The house, amazingly, retains all its original sashes. Of course, after 120-years some are not in great shape.       As the above image testifies to, with a great deal of faith (I just know these… Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 8.

    I have another column adventure on the south side of the house, to be completed later in the year. The restoration of the long-missing porch railings? Underway! Next is the recreation of the missing lattice, as well as repairing the damaged porch flooring. I have not gotten used to all the west-facing columns… Continue Reading

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I am trying to get the finial column on the west front porch painted. But not today! It is 23-degrees right now, but with 45-mile-an-hour winds! So it feels like 4-degrees! But…look at Tuesday…and the upcoming weekend! Kansas is like this. Just crazy!   Continue Reading

The Glory of the Glass. Part 2. A Conundrum.

The Cross House has a whopping forty stained-glass windows. The conditions ranges from good, poor, to terrifying. Even the good windows will need to be taken apart to have all the lead caming replaced. Caming has a life-span of a century so the caming is already past its due date. I have a grant application… Continue Reading

The Story of the Lost Dramatic Sweep.

          I really really really wanted the Great Sweep back and uninterrupted. So, today, we removed the 6×6 post (you can see it sitting on the porch floor, above). Lest we be thought of as damn fools, here is why we did what we did…   FOR THE STRUCTURAL GEEK Some… Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 5.

Today’s post is not much of an adventure. But it is an update!     You see the four limestone plinths? If the left is ONE, and the right is FOUR: ONE The paired columns were installed this week. The columns were badly rotted and required significant restoration. The capitals are new, and made from… Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 4.

Ok. Yes. I know. And agree. I am a bit obsessed (small voice in my head: a bit?) with restoring all the missing pieces (columns, balustrades, and lattice) to the 1894 Cross House main porch. As stated previously, it is quite rare to have an 1894 porch last into 2015. Even with all the damage… Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 3.

        In the next few days, two more columns are being re-installed after also being AWOL. These columns are over to the right (out of the images). When this work is completed, ALL the west-facing columns will be back in place for the first time in a very very very long time.… Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 2.

        And now — drum roll, please — may I present all four center columns being returned to the front porch after many decades absence (scroll way down):                                                   Continue Reading

The Great Column Adventure! Part 1.

Porches have a short shelf life For two reasons: 1) Wood does not respond well to being left out in the elements. Its rots. So, a porch built in the 1890s was normally in poor condition by, say, 1920. 2) As with clothes, cars, and hairstyles, houses are either fashionable…or not. A house built in the… Continue Reading

The Waiter Has Been Butchered! EEK!

It was a mystery. I felt compelled to solve it.   CLUE ONE There were some old boards hidden inside a wall adjacent to the kitchen. Why were these boards there? Why were they inside a wall? Why had they obviously been cut? Why had they been stained? I mean, this indicated that they were… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 6. ANNOUNCEMENT!

Welcome to Part 6 of the Great Refinishing Saga! In Part 2, I posited an idea. What if, if, I had actually uncovered the 1894 finish on my trim? And what if, if, the finish was not varnish or shellac on stained wood, but rather…a faux wood finish?     In Part 2, I wrote… Continue Reading

Winter? What Winter?

In Kansas, they say if you do like the the current weather, wait an hour. This has some truth to it. One December, we has a blizzard in mid-December. Then the day after Christmas, until January 3rd, a 70-degree forecast was predicted. Whoee! So, the day after that Christmas, I (being a sensible person) demolished… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 5.

Soooooooooooo…all along I thought I was dealing with a 120-year-old finish on my woodwork. And I was fretting, big time, that maybe my refinishing was not, you know, right. Yet in plain sight all along was proof that I was dead wrong about my finish assumptions.   ABOVE: What you are looking at was behind… Continue Reading

Recreating the Cross House in…Ireland?

  THE BACKGROUND I love learning new stuff. I really love learning new stuff. It should be noted though that I am a picky learner. So, if somebody says: YOU SHOULD LEARN THIS, I will, most likely, be an unenthusiastic learner (and who does not react as such?). However, if something captures my special attention,… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 4.

So, continuing the Great Wood Refinishing Drama! I think (hope) the drama is now over. I think. I hope. Today I finished one section:     I used denatured alcohol to “liquify” the original shellac on all the door trim. You can see the result at the top, horizontal piece of trim. Then I used… Continue Reading

Fred Flintstone at the Cross House

One day I pulled up the 1970s vinyl flooring in the Cross House kitchen. Under was 1950s flooring. I pulled that up. Under was a thin layer of Masonite-type boards. I laboriously pulled all that up. Under was…wow. Wild! Weird!   ABOVE: The 1930s linoleum flooring in the kitchen of the Cross House.   There… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 3.

Two posts previously I was freakin’ out man. Now I am chillin’, man. This was my concern two posts previously: ABOVE: I had started to refinish the trim and ended up with wood WAY lighter than I had intended. So, yea, FREAK OUT! After some most excellent advice from readers and friends, I did this:… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 2

I have a wood mystery. Take a look at the image below:     NOTE: when I took the image I had not finished stripping off the old finish. It now looks much neater. Look at the gouges. They mystify me. If I were to toss out a guess I would say that my trim… Continue Reading

Refinishing The Wood Trim. HELP!!!!!

This post is a cry for help. You see, I started to refinish the trim in the living room of the Cross House. I have done this many many many times previously over the decades and have never encountered what I did the other day. All my woodwork has an alligatored finish. And it has… Continue Reading

FLASH NEWS! Wallpaper UPDATE!

OK! I am freakin’ out, man! FREAKIN’ OUT! Recently, I did a post on the wallpaper discoveries at the Cross House. In particular, I found scraps of the original 1895 wall paper, wall frieze, and ceiling paper in the two-story stair-hall. Were these scraps, I wondered, enough to recreate all three papers? I mean, how… Continue Reading

A Weird Time/Space Continuum

The movie Willard came out in 1971. I was fourteen, and saw it four times. It’s a movie about….rats. But the main story is not what drew me in. It was the house. A big, old, fabulous house, featured prominently. I felt intoxicated at all the scenes showing the house, and even though I understood… Continue Reading

Hints of a Proper What Was

ABOVE: The living room of the Cross House, December, 2014. I always thought it odd that none of the rooms in the Cross House had a picture rail. Wasn’t this de rigueur for houses of the period? I mean, punching a nail in plaster walls to hang a picture was simply not done! One respected laboriously… Continue Reading

History as revealed by Wallpaper. Part 2.

Today I had a real thrill. There are two radiators in the living room. It seemed like a good idea if they were temporarily removed so we could: Scrape off the old wallpaper behind them Repair the plaster as required. Repaint or re-wallpaper. Refinish the floors under. And so it was done. Behind the radiators… Continue Reading

History as revealed by Wallpaper. Part 1.

When completed in 1894, the Cross House was elegantly finished, and fully wallpapered (including the ceilings). When the house was converted into a motel in 1950, I was told that all the wallpaper was removed (along with, it seems, all the original lighting), and the walls and ceilings re-papered. When the previous owner purchased the house… Continue Reading

Peacocks in the House!

THE TIME: 1973. MY AGE: A pup of sixteen. THE PLACE: A wallpaper store in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. THE SCENE: My mom and I had made numerous trips to the store, and there was one paper we yearned for. It was by Van Luit and featured peacock feathers. We looooooooooved the paper but it… Continue Reading

My Love Affair With…Downspouts?

To everybody BUT me, the above is not a thing of great beauty or worthy of adoration. But I could not be more excited! This is one of my new downspouts!!!!!!! And look! WATER is coming out of it! WATER!!!!!!! You see, the Cross House has not had downspouts for a very very very long… Continue Reading

Whew! 2014, What A Year!

It was a year ago that I — damn fool that I am — decided to purchase the historic Cross House. All 8900 square feet. Yes, you read that right. And all 8900 square feet needed work. In my first post I articulated the reasoning behind the decision. If such a decision CAN be reasoned. I closed… Continue Reading

A Message From The Past

The interior of the Cross House was fully wallpapered when it was built. All this was pulled off in the 1950s, down to bare, never-painted plaster, and fully papered again. Poo. I wish I still had 120-years of paper on my walls — layers and layers of time. Today I was scraping the post-1950 papers from… Continue Reading

BEFORE and AFTER

          Most of the west facade has now been repainted in the original colors. An 1895 image guided me as to WHAT colors went WHERE (along with paint scrapes), and also confirmed that the distinctive huge curved cornices were originally painted all one color, including the dramatic stamped tin swirls. The… Continue Reading

Wanna See My 1894 Ice Chest?

When the Cross House was built in 1894 it was state of the art. Today, it would be like having a home built wholly wireless and with LEED green certification. In 1894 this meant: 1) Both gas and electric lighting. The former was a proven technology; the latter was new and unproven. Hence, being modern… Continue Reading

1894 High Tech: Speaking Tubes

THE PAST When I was a wee one in the 1960s, my parents would take us kids (there were four) to visit Aunt Mabel, who was sweet, generous with a kind word, never lectured, and always gave each of us kids a whole dollar (back when a dollar could actually buy something). Aunt Mabel was also… Continue Reading

A Love Affair With…Scaffolding.

I love scaffolding. I admit it. Some people love ladders. Some people love boom lifts. I love scaffolding. You see, ladders are all about up/down and up/down and up/down. A day of this at my age is tough. You can also only work a small area at a time before having to move the ladder.… Continue Reading

Can Santa see the Cross House from the North Pole?

    For the holiday season I created a three-story Christmas “tree” at the Cross House. To repeat: three-stories high. It is BIG. And it makes me smile. I wanted to do something for my first holiday season in the Cross House. But what? The house is so huge and the possibilities are endless. Obviously,… Continue Reading

Can I Paint Today? Can I? Can I, Please?

Here in Kansas it is possible to paint the exterior of your house all through to the end of December. CAVEAT: just not every day. It becomes kinda hit or miss these two months. Once I had 70 degree weather between Christmas and New Years. So, I removed the exterior wall in my kitchen — sure,… Continue Reading

How To Heat A Big Old House. A Theory.

One of the single biggest impediments to owning a big old house — perhaps THE biggest — is heating and cooling. Basically, in a big old house you will never be warm in the winter or cool in the summer. And even trying will cost a terrifying amount. Geez. Because I am quite fond of… Continue Reading

More Scaffolding!

Recently, we took down the forest of scaffolding surrounding the round tower. Whoee! This week we put up scaffolding so I could paint the dormer window, and one side of the octagon tower. Whoee! So, bit by bit, the original colors are returning to the Cross House. NOTE: I am much happier standing on a… Continue Reading

More Windows!

In order to restore the windows at the Cross House it is necessary to remove them for long-ish periods. A good chunk of this time is waiting for the glazing to dry enough to paint. So, the house ends up with plexiglass covering the openings, which rather kills the beauty of the house. So, behold,… Continue Reading

Have You Ever Jacked Up A House? SCARY!

I have an deeply-held belief system with regards to old houses: 1) One needs to expect structural issues.  2) As long as you discover SIX or less structural issues, you are lucky. All is well. The Gods have blessed you. 3) If however you find SEVEN, give the house back to the previous owner. And RUN… Continue Reading

Can A Wreck Of An Old House Actually IMPROVE Your Health?

While I have zero statistical data to back up the following, I am pretty sure it is a known truth: Old houses can kill. There have been countless couples and singles who have enthusiastically purchased a wreck of an old home, started with gusto…and then…lost their minds. Marriages are destroyed by old houses. People are… Continue Reading

My Doors Are Back From The Hospital!!!!!

  This image thrills me. You see, the doors just came back from the Door Hospital. They underwent a veneer repair, sanding, staining, and refinishing. I was terrified that they would not survive the anesthetic. But they are back! And GORGEOUS! Thank you, Dr. Doug!!!!! The Cross House has two sets of entry doors. This… Continue Reading

What Do YOU Think I Should Do?

I have a problem. You see, I have X amount of financed construction funds left, and just learned that I have four months to spend this borrowed pool of money, or else the unspent amount gets cancelled by the bank when the loan is rolled over into the mortgage of the Cross House at the end… Continue Reading

Up High, Is That A Bird? A Plane? Why, no, it is…

ABOVE: A lovely fall Saturday. But wait, up high, is that a bird? A plane? Why, no, it is just some bald guy.   ABOVE: You see him? Over at the right edge of the scaffolding?   ABOVE: Oh. It is just…me. NOTE: My expression can be correctly interpreted as: 1) WHAT I am doing… Continue Reading

Abracadabra! Windows…resurrected!

The Cross House has like a zillion windows. OK, maybe not that many. Maybe there are actually only a billion. OK. Maybe not that many. But surely there are thousands. At least it feels like thousands. Luckily, the windows are all original. Praise the Lord that nobody in the 1970s decided to tear out the… Continue Reading

…and did Mrs. Cross belatedly need a conservatory?

ABOVE: You are looking at the second floor of the Cross House, the southeast corner. Sorry for the dark blue patch, that is on the drawing I have. The bedroom was, it seems, the housekeeper’s room. The door shown is right off the servant’s stair, although the door was actually placed a bit over to… Continue Reading

…but how did Mrs. Cross get to her porch?

  ABOVE: You are looking at the second-floor Sewing Room of the Cross House, designed by architect Charles W. Squires. In 1894, when the Cross House was built, a “sewing” room was traditionally a wife’s domain, or a Wife Cave in today’s terminology. A library was a husband’s domain. A sewing room was used by… Continue Reading

A Tale of Two Views

The two images below are instructive. In both images I was standing in the same place. In the top image I am looking south, and north in the second image. The top image is how the Cross House looked when I purchased it. It had been painted in a blue-ish gray. The second image shows… Continue Reading

When Normal Nuts Just Ain’t Enough Nuts

There is nuts. And there is nuts. The fact that I purchased the Cross House — a huge old pile with its every inch needing work — would confirm that I am, ok, nuts. But…there is nuts. And THIS nuts is a quantum other level of nuttiness. I am kinda embarrased to post this thread because it offers proof… Continue Reading

The Glory of the Glass

When I purchased the Cross House it had but a single window fully restored, a wonderful small round window in the four-story servant’s stair tower. This left 6,987 more windows to go. Well, maybe not that many, but it does feel like it. In addition to the standard windows, all in deplorable (but restorable) condition, the… Continue Reading

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… Continue Reading

A Mouse in the House

In 1929 Scott Mouse, Sr., purchased the Cross House. It is a good thing that he did. When the house was built in 1894 the neighborhood was highly desirable; indeed, it was the neighborhood. By about 1910 however, its proximity to downtown — originally an asset — had caused the neighborhood to begin a steep… Continue Reading

The Importance of the Small Bits

      In 2014, It is something of a miracle that the porch remains at all. Almost all late 19th-century porches were wholly replaced at some point in the 20th-century. That the 120-year-old Cross House porch remains, albeit battered, is something I am deeply grateful for. Still, with so many bits missing, it is… Continue Reading

A Question of Color

Today, we often think of Victorian-era houses as having many many colors, and all quite bright. However, this is the after-effect of the Painted Ladies craze which began in San Francisco in the 1970s. Wild & crazy hippies took old, unloved houses and painted them in exciting, bold colors, the more the better. Images of… Continue Reading

Bob’s Story

NOTE: In 1999, Deborah (Debbi) and Robert (Bob) Rodak purchased the Cross House. It had been boarded up. This was the low point of the house, and it was dangerously close to being condemned and demolished. This is their story, as told by Bob:     When we found out the Cross House was for sale… Continue Reading

Resurrection

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates   An inner psychology drives each one of us. Yet how many of us actually understand our own behaviors and motivations? One thing has been a constant my whole life: resurrection. I am deeply drawn to resurrection, yet have no idea why. My income is derived… Continue Reading

The Why of the Buy

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans — John Lennon The powerful truth of this well-known quote has made itself evident to me many times. While I furiously make plans, life often saunters in from nowhere and bashes me in the head with its own agenda. I really hate this. Life did it again in… Continue Reading