The Cross House

Down The Rabbit Hole

Bo asked, innocently: “Why are these sashes so…odd?”

And then all Hell broke loose.

In my previous post, I detailed how all I knew about the carriage house was likely wrong. Way wrong.

And all because Bo asked an innocent question about some sashes.

 

Wanna join me down the rabbit hole?

 

 

OVERVIEW

 

This image is invaluable as it is the only one I have offering a sorta somewhat kinda good view of the carriage house (right). What we see is the 1-story north wing. We see nothing of the adjacent 2-story structure. Click on image to enlarge.

 

See?

 

I have shown the above image previously, in a post detailing the history of the carriage house as I then understood it.

Later, I did a second post better explaining how the carriage house was relocated on the lot.

In short:

  • The carriage house was built against the alley. It was likely at ground level, and with a dirt floor.
  • The structure comprised a 1-story north wing, and 2-story main body.
  • Circa-1921, the structure was moved a bit west, and set upon a new foundation. The 1-story wing was rotated 90 degrees, and set behind the 2-story main body.

In the above image all that is clear is the north wing, its roof, and an extraordinary cupola/ventilator.

 

WHY 1921?

I long wondered when the conversion took place.

Looking at the deeds of the property it was evident that the Cross House was on one legal lot (526) and the carriage house on another legal lot (524). These two lots remained in the same names until 1921, when 524 was, for the first time, sold separately.

This is all I know for sure.

But was the conversion done before the sale? Or after? So, is the conversion, say, 1919? Or 1924?

I do not know.

But I use the date of 1921. I should though always write circa-1921. I am a bad boy.

 

This is what the carriage looked like when I purchased the property in 2014. This is also how the carriage house would have looked after its conversion, save the two gray columns added by by Bob Rodak, who was able to re-acquire the carriage house around 2002. The large-L-shaped porch is part of the conversion. A tantalizing detail? The front railings; these date from the 1894 carriage structure.

 

Shortly after buying the Cross House I removed the structurally dangerous porch. And I have no plans to replace it.

 

In the above image, I assumed everything on the first floor dated from the circa-1921 conversion. Everything on the second level, I assumed, dated from 1894 save the flat-roof dormer to the right of the turret.

And almost everything I just wrote is, it seems, now wrong.

And all because Bo asked an innocent question about some sashes.

 

THOSE DAMN SASHES

Bo wanted to know why the diamond sashes in the turret did not match all the other diamond sashes on the second floor.

I had not noticed before.

The turret sashes were obviously constructed differently and were, in addition, constructed really badly. In short, they are really fucked up, dude.

My previous post details all this.

 

DO I HAVE TO????????

When my previous post was done yesterday I knew I had no choice. Today, I would have to crawl around inside the attic of the carriage house. Only this would confirm/deny my new hypotheses.

But I was loath to do this.

Now, normally I cannot wait to climb up a ladder and get into an attic! WHAT is more fun?

But I have never been in the attic of the carriage house.

I know! Can you believe it!

I had tried. Once. I popped open a small wood panel in the ceiling, stuck my head in, shined a flashlight…and gasped.

All I saw before me were mountains of blown-in cellulose insulation. MOUNTAINS. The attic looked like a gray version of the Sahara with towering drifts of cellulose.

The idea of crawling into this was decidedly unappealing. I closed the small wood panel and never again ventured forth into the attic.

But today I had to be brave.

Sigh.

 

BUT WHY?

 

I had assumed that the many many many dormers all around the carriage house, save the one flat-roofed one, dated from 1894. And I had assumed that the second floor was a livable space in 1894, occupied by a groom and his family, and/or other male servants.

 

But then Bo asked an innocent question about some sashes.

Then, while writing my previous post yesterday, I had a cascading series of epiphanies.

OH! Maybe most of the sashes dated from 1921?

OH! Maybe all the dormers dated from 1921!

OH! Maybe the second floor was just a big hay-filled attic with a turret stuck on?

OH!

 

This is the image which destroyed me. Between the columns is an 1895 view showing the SW corner of the carriage house. It is not readily obvious WHAT is revealed but one thing seems clear: There ain’t no dormers.

 

This would mean that all three dormers on the west facade are circa-1921.

 

As well as these kissin’ dormers on the south. This is SO weird though. I now believe the large dormer is circa-1921. I find it hard however to accept that the small dormer is from the same time. Is it older? Or younger? Note how its sash is also different.

 

More of the south side. The two kissin’ dormer are shown again. To their right is the circa-1921 sunporch built above the 1894 north wing. The sunporch replaced…

 

…the fabulous cupola/ventilator.

 

The NE corner. The circa-1921 sunporch is left. There are three dormers shown. All are, I now suspect, also circa-1921.

 

The NW corner. Both dormers are, I believe, circa-1921

 

 

DESPERATELY SEEKING CONFIRMATION

In the attic, I hoped, should be some evidence as to these wild new hypotheses. If the dormers were all added at a latter date, this should be obvious by physical evidence in the attic. Right?

So, I had to channel my MOST manly inner self…and brave the Sahara of cellulose drifts.

 

I crawled into the circa-1921 attic of the sunporch. Right before me was as I expected: the 1894 roof sheathing. You can see how it has been cut to access the 1894 attic. This kind of cutting is normally (but not always) a tell-tale sign. Had everything in the above image been built at the same time we would see random lengths of sheathing rather than a roughly cut even opening.

 

I crawled through the cellulose drifts into the 1894 attic. I first looked into the attic over the large south dormer. And the 1894 sheating (foreground) was cut rather than being random length. This is a very good indication that the large south dormer was added circa-1921.

 

Bravely, heroically, and with a stupendous feat of manliness, I squeezed through a terrifyingly tight opening to access the 1894 attic over the northern portion of the carriage house. My heart was racing. Because I am soooooooooooo brave though, I did not experience even a twinge of panic. [Note from Editor: This is a lie]. I then crawled some more and into, whoee, the turret! Looking up! Into a blizzard of dust particles! The darks parts are the 1894 joists and sheathing. The lights parts are Bob-installed OSB sheathing.

At this point, there was so much cellulose dust in the air that I could not take any more pictures.

But, access to the turret is through RANDOM sheathing. This strongly indicates that the turret dates from 1894.

In addition, access to the large dormer on the east side, kissing the sunporch, is through CUT sheathing, strongly indicating that this dormer is, too, circa-1921.

 

THE TURRET QUESTIONS

Readers have been asking: IS the turret from 1894?

 

This is an 1893 Sanborn map. See the curved bay on the carriage house? I don’t think it was ever curved. I think it was, as it is today, an octagon.

 

This is a 1911 Sanborn map. See how wrong the carriage house is?

 

In short, Sanborn often gets stuff wrong.

In 1893 Sanborn shows the turret as a curve when, it is almost certain, it was an octagon.

In 1911 Sanborn does not even show a turret at all!

So, is the turret from 1894? I believe yes, based on:

  • The sheathing in the attic indicates that the turret is original.
  • An octagon-shaped weathervane is shown on the 1894 drawings. The only location for this would have to be the octagon turret on the carriage house. In addition, the 1894 weathervane drawing has a distinctive lower section. A 1932 image of the turret shows a weathervane with the same distinctive lower section.
  • Did the turret extend to the first floor? The evidence indicates no. Why? The exposed underside of the overhanging turret is painted, carefully installed beadboard. This was covered over by the circa-1921 porch. Had the turret extended to the first floor, the removal of the porch would have revealed exposed joists on the underside of the turret rather than neatly installed beadboard.
  • The turret has the same oversized tin cornice, with tin swirls, as the Cross House. It seems unlikely that this would have been added twenty years later.

Wanna know why the turret perhaps did not extend to the first floor?

 

I show this image again. Now, see…

 

…this? WHAT is that? Look again at the image above this one.

 

That distinctive horizontal line looks, perhaps, like a standard barn door track. If this is correct, then it means that a sliding barn door was under the turret. It would have slided to the right (south).

 

 

UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

My epic attic exploration seems to support my newly born suspicions:

In 1894, the carriage house was built with a huge roof. Under would have been an attic. There were no dormers. The turret is from 1894.

 

TWILIGHT ZONE QUESTIONS

Two questions remain unanswered.

  1. Why are the turret diamond-paned sashes so fucked up? I still have no answer.
  2. Why does the Sanborn map show the main body of the carriage house as 2-stories? I posit an answer:

 

The 1893 Sanborn map.

 

See a 1 and a 2 marked on the carriage house? The 1 denotes the one-story north wing. The 2 denotes a two-story main body.

But all the evidence indicates that the main body was one-story. Above was a big attic. With a turret. But an attic never counts as a “story” with Sanborn.

My guess? Sanborn looked at the turret, and assumed a second floor.

 

If you visually remove the three dormers, does the carriage house look like one or two stories? It looks like two to me.

 

 

A GUILTY REQUEST

I am ready to click “publish” on this post.

This post took 5 hours to write.

My previous post also took 5 hours.

Ten hours to write two posts.

THIS FREAKS ME OUT.

I soooooooooo cannot afford this kind of time. Behind me is a box of six sconces which need to be rewired, fully restored, packed into a box, and ready for FedEx to pick up Monday morning, early.

I had planned to start on them at 4PM.

It is now 8:23PM. And I am still writing this post.

At least since 6PM I have been experiencing an ever more guilty sensation:

WHAT AM I DOING?

I need to earn a living! I need to FOCUS on earning a living!

But all I felt like doing was writing this breathless update.

Sigh.

Then I had a thought.

What if I reached out to you?

Did you enjoy this post? And the one before it?

If so, would you be comfortable helping to make sense of the time spent of creating these posts? Would you be happy to click on the Go Fund Button below? Would you be delighted to contribute $1? $5? $10? Really, any amount?

I may likely even share some of the funds with Bo.

 

 

18 Responses to Down The Rabbit Hole

  1. Do all the diamond pane windows measure the same? Some of them look different and seem a different size. It may be the angle of the picture but are the measurements exactly the same? I wonder if the diamond panes were made for one size and for some reason some of the windows were smaller?? It may be my imagination.

  2. I have come across this which may help with an idea for the roofline and doors for the carriage house. It’s allegedly by Squires and is in Emporia!

      • There are some beautiful carriage houses in Emporia. You inspired me to do some Google Mapping. The one on the north side of E 7th Ave and Union St has a beautiful cupola. It must have been quite a wealthy district.

  3. I can’t afford anything at this time but I love reading your house-detective posts. I learn so much and am so entertained by your great writing style.

  4. Ross, here are my thoughts on your “funky muntins” ( I like how that rolls off the tongue: FUNKY MUNTINS 🙂 ) Our relationships with these old houses are, in many ways, like a marriage. I have been married to a wonderful, beautiful lady for almost 30 years, and one thing that I have learned is that ladies, like old houses, have some mysteries that us guys sometimes just have to accept. The Cross House has, for the time being, chose to keep this part of her past a mystery; it could be that, in time, she may decide to reveal the mystery to you when you least expect it. Or, she may decide to keep her secret. The fact is, you (us too) must accept it as a mystery, and move on for now. Let’s just be grateful that a previous owner didn’t decide 20 years ago to replace the carriage house windows with vinyl ones; a mystery is definitely preferable to a mistake. So set this aside, and concentrate on paint, wallpaper, stained glass, and whatever else you had scheduled for this spring. The funky muntins aren’t going anywhere…

    • OK, after posting all that about moving on, I am still thinking about the darn carriage house. Not so much the window muntins, but the tower itself. I remember you talking about how you thought that the tower had always been a feature only on the second floor, but in a post about the lost Newman house, you show several pictures of the carriage house: https://i1.wp.com/restoringross.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/13.jpg While it was bigger than yours, it shared many traits, and was built around the same time, and the tower was from the ground all the way to the finial. I’ve never felt that your tower would have looked right with only a flat wall below it. You mention that the underside of your tower has painted beadboard; are there signs of decorative brackets? One of Squires’ signatures was the use of ornamental brackets. I know I’m opening up a new can of worms here…but this is your own fault, LOL. If you were one of these restoration bloggers that only posted a few pics with brief comments every couple of months, we wouldn’t have gotten so interested in you and your house!

      • great comment and observations! He DOES bring this on himself, doesn’t he?! And so entertaining as well! I read every post and every comment. THAT should keep him going, knowing that we are so interested in his house!

  5. I too have been spending way too many hours with the mysteries of your carriage house. I can’t explain the turret wndows, but I agree with your supposition that there was a barn door under the turret. In our historic neighborhood there were two opposing doors on the carriage houses so that the carriage could be driven right on through. I can imagine the Crosses being dropped off at the porte cochere and then the carriage was parked in the carriage house. Because the horses didn’t back up, the carriage was then driven out the alley side.

    I also noticed that the foundation stones don’t match. Where the porch was they are plain and the rest appears to be hewn. Did the original build have only two courses of stone, which they reused on the new foundation, and they used plain stone where it wouldn’t show?

  6. Put my few cents toward your endeavor. A good reminder that, like us, you are working for a living. And please tell me you were wearing a respirator in the attic!

  7. Ross,

    I am happy to see that you’ve come to peace with some of the alterations of the carriage house. I think that a less skilled carpenter on-site is the reason for the odd window sashes. You’re going to have to fix those.

    Now that you understand that the dormers are from the 1920’s alternation, how are you planning to finish the front? It looks rather naked as-is.

    Not to sound like my father, but every time you jump down a rabbit hole with your gorgeous home, you’re delaying your moving into said home

  8. I think the carriage house is fascinating all by itself. I wish there were clear photographs of it when it was a carriage house and right after the conversion. Since photographs have not shown up at this point, I wonder if some history might reveal something. Who sold the carriage house in 1921? Yes, I realize it was the owners of the Cross House, but who were they? Who bought the carriage house? Who did the conversion of carriage house to house? Did the local newspaper do a story on the conversion? Are there any blueprints for the conversion? We’re building permits required?

    In other words, the Cross House has a history, but the history of the carriage house is just as long and rather blank compared to the Cross House. I don’t know if more history would reveal anything, but there sure seem to be some blanks. Plus to me the front of carriage house looks a little weird as it now stands.

    I read Ross’s blog faithfully because I know nothing about construction. Sometimes I understand nothing even after reading his blog and all of your comments and have to read everything again. What I do have is a deep love of history. To me the history of the carriage house needs more detail.

  9. Ross, If I might make a suggestion..
    I greatly enjoy your blog and I know many others do too: although they, like me, may lack the funds to show our true appreciation.
    More of your subscribers might be willing to donate if you had some kind of reward system. Perhaps more people would be interested in a private tour of your house for a minimum donation. I know I would scrape together a donation and take a day trip to Emporia for that! Just a thought.

    • For clarification:
      I should have said, ‘specific donation amount’ instead of. ‘minimum donation’. I did not mean to imply that you should give a private tour for every $5 donation. what I meant was that if you promised a private tour to anyone who gave $100 or more… or $200… whatever you feel like your time is worth. How long does it take to give a tour of the house?

  10. Clearly, diamonds are not a boy’s best friend. However, to your question, I have enjoyed these window postings very much as well as your reader’s postings. In fact, it took me several months to reach “present day Ross” because I read every one of your postings and all of the reader’s comments, which are priceless.

    I am a knitter and I have to force myself to finish projects because I tend to want to be scattered and work on many different projects at once. I dearly love buying yarn and starting things but finishing them is more difficult. I bring my attention back by setting deadlines and schedules, so this baby’s sweater has to be finished by Saturday, then I will take up that spring sweater and leave aside the winter ones.

    So maybe the mystery of the diamond mullions can be set on the back burner for a time. Maybe in the future somebodies grandchild will find the blog and remember how grandpa found some diamond mullioned windows somewhere and decided to put them in the carriage house so that it “matched” the main house.

  11. Ross, you might have already explored this idea and have discarded it, but isn’t there a way to make money with the blog itself? With the readership you have, there should be a wealth of exposure opportunities for advertisers. I hesitate to even suggest it because I love the clean site and the ease in navigating it, and I know some of these qualities would be sacrificed by adding ads.
    I have no clue how to make this happen, but maybe other readers have experience with something similar and could enlighten you.
    I am a new reader here. I can’t even remember how I happened across your blog, but have read it from start to this point over the past 2 or 3 weeks. I love your project and admire your tenacity! The house is a wonder to behold!

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