This is a tale of two houses.
The Union Street house does not, at first glance, look like much. The whole is covered in white paint (originally the house would have been in several shades of earth tones). The front porch is missing, too, giving the facade a blank expression. And without the porch the house appears too tall and ungainly.
However, 911 Union is, I suspect, a Charles W. Squires design, the architect of the Cross House.
Why do I suspect this?
Please, join me for a visual tour…
My first clue that 911 Union was more more than might first be assumed was its front door. This door matches another door in Emporia…
…and THIS door is at 819 Constitution. And 819 Constitution is by Charles. W. Squires. However, such doors were made by the millions and sold through millwork catalogs across the nation. MOST great old houses across the nation have doors, trim, mantles, built-in cabinets, and even entire staircases from millwork catalogs. Nonetheless, 911 Union has numerous other things in common with 819 Constitution.
911 Union. You see what I mean about the facade not looking like much. But…
…this is 819 Constitution, the Ashbel J. Crocker House. And this, sorta kinda maybe, is how 911 Union would have looked like originally.
I am repeating the image above. In the lower right corner would have certainly been a porch originally. It was likely only one-story in height. The facade, otherwise, appears mostly intact. The house was less expensive than 819 Constitution, and there is no evidence of stained-glass or other pricey details.
The south side. What THRILLED me was the lone extant column pilaster!!!!!!!!! From this seemingly irrelevant detail the front porch, and the obviously lost side porch, could be resurrected.
See the numbers 911 to the right? That is where another column pilaster would have been.
819 Constitution. You see see how the porch does not actually mate well with the body of the house. Rather, it crashes into the body. This is likely what the lost porch at 911 Union would have done. The columns of 819 are custom-made. The lost columns of 911 would have matched the lone column pilaster on the south facade, and these columns were ordered from a catalog. Again, 911 was less expensive than 819.
A year after I wrote the above, I came across an 1899 Sanborn Insurance Map showing 911 Union. This confirms the two lost porches, and that each porch was one-story in height (hence the #1 where the porches are dashed in). Cool.
911 Union. Both 911 Union and 819 Constitution have staircases in identical locations, each with a protruding bay, and each is U-shaped. However, while 819 has a beefy custom staircase, 911 is from a catalog (but no less wonderful).
911 Union. Again, this exactly corresponds with 819 Constitution, except the latter has an extra window.
The dining room of 911 Union has an angled fireplace (reworked). And so does…
…819 Constitution, and in the same location. While 819 has numerous custom details, it, too, has catalog components, such as all its interior trim, interior doors, and likely this mantle. Even the Cross House, with a budget vastly exceeding 819, has catalog components.
The upstairs hall of 911 Union looks a lot like….
…the same at 819 Constitution.
Back to the front door. I am TERRIFIED that a new owner of the house will not give a thought to throwing away this highly important piece of the house. The door, restored, would be glorious.
Houses like 911 Union fascinate me. The house was once gorgeous, and an asset to the community. Over time however, bit by bit, it has been degraded. This happens to most old houses. Today, the house would not warrant a second glance from anybody walking or driving down Union. But…but…if the house were restored it would be a knock-out.
I would start with the front door.