The Cross House

Giving Up On Mr. Darcy

I have a tragic flaw. I expect life to be like a Jane Austin novel. You know, while life can be exceedingly vexing, eventually a Mr. Darcy will come along and then one can spend the rest of their life in gracious splendour at Pemberley.

But…but…I turned sixty-one last month and Mr. Darcy has still not proposed. Even worse, we have not even been introduced. Properly or improperly. It seems prudent, thus, to conclude that, sigh, there will be no Mr. Darcy to transform my life.

This has been painful to take in. And, I am quite vexed, indeed!

 

Ahhhhh, Mr, Darcy. Mr. Darcy.

 

I appreciate that you are thinking: What the Hell is Ross writing about?

I am writing about the struggle between the romantic aspirations of life and practical realities. And by romantic I don’t mean love but an idealized view of reality. In short, I constantly struggle with a romantic view of life verses reality.

I appreciate that you are still thinking: What the Hell is Ross writing about?

When I purchased the Cross House in 2014 I had a very clear idea of how I would, eventually, live in it. But this, damn fuck shit, is increasingly proving to be a romantic view of how I can live in the house. For, about a year now, I am been assaulted with an ever-increasing realization that the reality of how I can live in the house will prove very different than my romantic view.

So, yea, damn fuck shit.

 

I appreciate that you are still thinking: What the Hell is Ross writing about?

My romantic plan for the house involved me occupying the whole:

  • The basement would be used to store my lights (I restore vintage lighting for a living).
  • The main floor would be used for elegant living.
  • The second floor would be used mostly for my business. Three of the bedrooms would be office space and storage. The fourth bedroom would be my bedroom.
  • And the third floor would be used, like the basement, to store my vast lighting stock.

From Day 1, my biggest goal was the moment I would sit at my desk in the glorious round bedroom, reach over to turn on the newly installed computer, and then sit back awash with the powerful realization: It’s real! It’s finally real! I am in the Cross House and online! IT’S REAL!

This is a day I have yearned for. This would be my marrying-Mr-Darcey-moment.

Countless times I have stood in the glorious round bedroom and fantasized about…The Moment.

But, I am grievously sad to report that this moment will never be.

 

I appreciate that you are now thinking: EEEEEEEEEK! Ross is giving up the Cross House!

But, rest assured, that is so not where this post is headed. Worry not! Worry not!

 

Bit by bit, over many months and, really, for over a year now, I have been rethinking how I will occupy the house. A great concern is my age. How long can I keep up with my very demanding business? And, bit by agonizing bit, I have concluded, with a painful awareness, that my romantic ideals for the house are simply not possible.

Instead, I have had to lock my heart in a closet and allow my mind to take over. HOW to make sense of an enormous, financially all-consuming old house?

And, bit bit painful bit, I have arrived at a new plan. A plan with no Mr. Darcy.

 

THE NO DARCY PLAN

BASEMENT

This will be used to store my lights.

FIRST FLOOR

This will be used for elegant living.

SECOND FLOOR

There will be five rooms available, each with an en-suite bath, as an airbnb. I know! Gasp! Gasp!

THIRD FLOOR

The huge open room will be my space. I will live on this floor, and have my office on this floor.

ATTIC

This is now just an attic. I will covert this to more storage for my lighting.

THE CARRIAGE HOUSE

The carriage house will also be used an an airbnb.

 

GOLLY

In short, I am moving ahead with turning the Cross House into a guest house.

This, of course, is exactly how the house has been used for most of its history. But…with a critical difference.

And the difference will be one of price. For, rather than being an inexpensive place for people to stay, the Cross House will be the most expensive airbnb in the city.

And I think this will be possible. The house, fully restored, will be a knock-out. Each bedroom will be luxurious, comfortable, and stunningly stylish. And amazing!

Guests will have full use of the extraordinary first-floor, save the library, and the expansive laundry room in the basement.

There are plenty of places to stay in Emporia. But there will be nothing else like the Cross House.

I have purchased the domain name 1894house.com. (CrossHouse.com was not available.)

Of course, I am several years from making all this a reality. But having this new plan hugely alters how I will finish the house. For example, how I wire rooms for me is quite different than how I will wire rooms for public use.

While I grieve the loss of my romantic ideals for the house, I am also kinda excited. I love the idea of people being able to truly experience such a fabulous house. I envision families booking the whole house, and having the dining room alive with people talking and laughing. I envision a glorious Christmas tree in the round receiving room and the house filled with people enjoying the holiday season. I envision brides tossing their bouquets off the upper stair landing.

My plans for the house were, in a word, solitary.

The new plans are quite the opposite.

And I suspect that…

 

…Darcy will be pleased.

 

 

 

52 Responses to Giving Up On Mr. Darcy

  1. Awe Ross, I was with you all the way through your writings today. I too have dreamed of living in an elegant Victorian styled home, my Mr Darcy… but the reality is I can hardly afford a cardboard box (it takes a lot to heat and cool a cardboard box in Iowa). I fell madly and passionately in love with a Grand Mansion in my town, but had to walk away because I just don’t have the resources to make it happen …I can’t hold her back from someone who can. I greatly admire what you have done for the Cross House and continue to do. I had so much fun last year during our tour, you are a wonderful host and I can’t wait to see your success with your Air Bnb! I wish you much success!!!!

    • I love your ideas, Ross. I have stated at a B&B in Dubuque, Iowa, that is a gorgeous Victorian mansion. Actually, when I traveled the state with my job, I stayed there several times (hotels got really old after a few years). I took my girls there last year (9 and 11) and they LOVED it. We talked about how people lived “back in the day” and they learned a lot of history. (Dubuque was the first city in Iowa.) I just turned 60, and definitely have had to make adjustments to the way I live for a while (arthritis). The folks that own the B&B say they could not have repaired the house and lived there without it being a business expense. I don’t know if this new model of staying in people’s homes has the same monetary benefits. You might need to check that out. Anyway, love your idea, and my girls and I will have to start saving for a trip there. And Marjie, hi from Iowa. I have a small Victorian in a small town in Iowa. Not able to fix it up like I would like to, but I enjoy living in it anyway!

  2. So wise, Ross. I, too, turn 61 in a few months, and while I retired last year, I have come to realize over these last few months how totally impossible it will be to do ALL that I aim to do not just my beloved Stagfield, but in my very full and busy life in general. I, for one, will definitely make it a point to be one of your first guests in your AirB&B. My husband and I love seeking out such lodgings and have rarely been disappointed. You have already established your client base, as I’m sure you’ve realized. I wish you every success. You deserve it. You are a treasure to so many.

  3. Sometimes coming to terms with the reality of things brings us to a new level of understanding and to a potentially better situation. Kudos for your catharsis.

  4. Best laid plans of mice & men…go astray (Keats (I believe) Ode to a Mouse)

    1894CrossHouse.com or 1894+House.com domain not available??

    I thought + for Cross kind of quirky.

    Your vision is brlliant–more in line with reality & the future– advance planning with an eye on mortality.

    Cross House restored a la Ross is the MacTaggart Pemberly of Emporia, KS.

  5. Ross, a friend of mine owns a monster of a house in Saint Louis. 20k+ square feet if you include the carriage house. It has been a painstaking renovation over the years, but my god is it a spectacular mansion. She has been very successful in making its daunting, vast expanse of space into a successful business…a venue for weddings and other events. She also does house tours and charges for those. I think you’ll figure out a nice balance between making your home an amazing home and also creating income to help pay for it. Just so you know, I would be thrilled to travel to my mothers college town of emporia to see your home and stay in one of your suites. But only if you’re willing to give me the grand tour!

    • Would love love love to stay in one of your suites & do Master cooking classes while there– making amazing & sumptuous meals & doing something fun!! Justin could bring wonderful produce from their garden & we could whip up plethoras of gastronomic delights! Ambrosia!

  6. Love this post and this idea! It’s pragmatic, social, educational and fantastically allows for the public to enjoy this grand home. I agree with the poster above that 1894CrossHouse.com seems more special than simply 1894house.com.

  7. How about Ross’sCrossHouse.com? Your name is already a star in the Cross House’s constellation. It is a household word among those of us who follow your blog.

    I really admire the way you succeed by readjusting your plan to reality rather than failing because you have “planned your work and worked your plan”.

  8. I’m so sorry that your original plans won’t work out– but I must say I am very excited about the possibility of one day staying in a Cross House guest room 🙂 I’m going to start making my 5-year plan to Emporia now!

  9. I think this is a great development. Although the financial and practical realities may be a primary factor, it will give many others the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the home and your incredible restoration efforts. As the interest in your blog has demonstrated, there is demand for your rare character and attitude towards architecture and history. I have a feeling many people may come because you are running the place, not just because of the house.

    I’ve stayed at B&Bs in converted historic homes before, and believe they are a practical way to make them sustainable. Although some have disappointing unsympathetic alterations, and bad remodeling, I know that’s one area that yours will not suffer from these!. I can’t think of a better person to restore a place like yours for use as a B&B.

    Good luck, and I look forward to seeing how your plans continue to develop!

  10. Instead of Mr Darcy it seems you will be marrying Captain Wentworth. He may not have Pemberley, but his house will always be full of life and good cheer as his sailor (world traveling) friends come to visit.

    So don’t be too despondent, Ross, you’re still in a Jane Austen novel, just a different one.

  11. Ross, I am so disappointed that you are giving up on Mr. Darcy. You certainly come across as very smart, handy as hell etc. If I wasn’t already married I’d be on the next flight to the Cross house. Hang in There!

    • Thanks , Dan!

      I used Mr. Darcy in this post as a metaphor for giving up on a romantic ideal. I realize that my plans for the house were romantically based rather than realistic.

      • Have you considered that this could possibly be a more romantic ideal than your original plans? I think so. Wouldn’t it invoke a feeling of mystery, excitement and totally uniqueness from your everyday life. Opening your treasured space to guests would certainly fill that criteria. Mr. Darcy 2.0

  12. This sounds like a LOVELY plan. I know several people who aribnb rooms in their house and from what i have seen it seems like a great way to make full use of a house that size, and a way for it to be more widely appreciated. The people I speak of also love having constant company around and are always making new friends and having lovely formal dinners. Seems like something the cross house was made for. My only question is; how are you going to swing the en suite bathrooms? I ask because you have recently spent so much time removing them, as they brutalized the floor plan.

    • In 1894, there were three bedrooms on the second floor. Each had a walk-in closet; these were converted into bathrooms in 1929. I have retained these bathrooms.

      The 1894 sewing room had a full bath adjacent. This was later converted into a kitchen. I will return it to a bathroom.

      The housekeeper’s room in the SE corner will be used for a single bed, and I will add a full bathroom.

      All this will allow five bedrooms on the second floor, and each with an en-suite bath.

  13. Also, I disagree with your Mr. Darcy comparison. For you ARE Mr. Darcy (though it seems a more agreeable version) and you HAVE your very own Victorian-era Pemberley.

  14. Several close friends and family share your dilemma: a large, demanding residence to support in what should be years of relaxation. I’ve got you by ten years, and can only run my house now with 2-3 foreign students living here every year, not so much for the money as for the help. Your Vision ’18 is so much more consistent with the way you’ve lived your life for the last four years, sharing your wit, knowledge and enthusiasm with the world. Rather than solitary majesty–Ross soaking in a bubblebath in an immense J.L.Mott clawfoot, warbling a tune https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2OLMzrLpbY–you will continue to share the splendor. You’ve saved the house, now let it save you!

  15. Hi Ross, i felt a bit sad reading your post, it must have been hard for you to drop your romanticized version of living in the Cross House, but i’m very glad that you came up with another plan! I know a couple living in the Cotswolds, UK, who have a 400 yr old limestone house, and when we stayed there we were among their first Airbnb guests, we slept in their 3rd floor quirky attic bedroom and would share the family’s bathroom (we’ve become friends since our stay and i’ve been there a 2nd time with my sister). They’ve turned 2 of their 2nd floor bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, and since then i can tell you their Airbnb business is thriving, they have ppl over almost 365/365 days. It has given them substantial money to do works in their house, they have been able to restore other parts of their house to convert them, and adjacent buildings too. And i can tell you they’re cheap compared to the prices of other rentals in this very touristic area of UK. So i really hope your Airbnb project will come true and help you with the on-going restoration (because we know it’s a never ending project!). If you want to check their gorgeous house, click here: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/3781456/listings

  16. You made me cry, laugh and think hard all in the same post. I think your plan sounds exciting! I am especially happy that the Cross House will remain Ross’s House. At first I was afraid you were either throwing in the towel or arranging to turn it over to the city. I have often thought that your work, both your business and your restoration work, would be wonderful opportunities for folks to learn the art of restoration. I think there might be quite a few folks who would pay to take a class at the Cross House. With your experience you could teach everything from evaluating the property before purchase through designing the restored interior. I realize this would take some time but it would also provide future “worker bees” hands on experience and training and possibly a place to stay while taking the course.

    I, personally, would have loved to hem the drapes and help with refinishing the wood trim and lincrusta. But, I only found your blog a week ago so I missed the drapes. Seems like you have a lot of trim left to do!

    People love this house and it seems many are anxious to add to her restoration. I am 65 and live in Delaware so I am not local and not likely to ever be able to save one of these treasures. But, given the opportunity to work on one would be a dream come true. Just a thought. Love what you do and the way you do it!

    • Maybe Ross could have themed weekends: “Restore an old house AND keep its Integrity;” “10 Ways to use that basement cistern;” “Planning your wedding in an old house–tips and tricks;” “Fun with Stencils;” and “Gas isn’t just for stoves–canned lights ARE for dummies.”

      • I think that’s a great idea!

        I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be interest in weekend workshops on the restoration or decorating topics Ross has become an expert on.

  17. Just last night I spoke with a friend about this very thing – feeling it was time to put down the old dream and find something new to hope for and dream of. Your post was so very timely and so very encouraging. Plus now, I get to start dreaming of planning a trip to the Cross House ❤️

  18. Have you thought about keeping your lovely round bedroom and turning the third floor into a reception hall that you could rent out for events/weddings for extra revenue. You could make Cross House a ‘destination wedding’ venue. Is there enough to room in the attic to make changing rooms? The Carriage House could be the ‘Honeymoon Suite’. I am sure you could find a good caterer, a minister of some kind, and rent the tables/tablecloths/glassware/candelabra until you wanted to invest in your own. It’s just a thought and a way to keep your lovely round bedroom to yourself. You have put so much into this renovation, you deserve to enjoy your Mr. Darcy moment

  19. I have to say, I am excited for this plan. Partly because I love seeing the Cross House loved back into grandeur. But also because I can hardly wait to see what fabulous things you will concoct for that third floor!!

    • Thank you, Paige!

      I am actually not happy about this new plan. But it makes the most sense. So, it is my sense and sensibility realization!

      One bright aspect of the new plan is that, rather than the FABULOUS third floor being used for storage, which always seemed kinda criminal, it will be quite a glorious residence for me. So, there is that!

  20. Well Ross, as you’ve encountered in your research, ‘original plans’ are not always so strictly followed. 😉
    The melding of ‘what was’ to ‘what is’ makes for a beautiful’what will be’.
    The heart may be a lonely hunter, Ross but … one can never know what will be. 🌻

  21. Reading your post brought to mind the movie Under The Tuscan Sun where she buys a run down Italian Villa spends exorbitant amounts of money and time fixing it and all the things she dreams of happening there do happen but just in a different way than planned, as so eloquently pointed out by her friend and realtor. And in the end she is happy, loved, surrounded by “family”. Welcome home Ross!

  22. I think it’s a brilliant plan, and I’m excited to see what you create on the top floor! I’ve long though “Wow, Ross could run one hell of an Air B&B”, given the 1929 bathrooms and immense size of the Cross House – and it wouldn’t require goofy remodeling or dreaded shared baths to pull it off, either. I’ll be doing the same with my old Queen Anne – it’s more house than I need, but it would break my heart to rent it out year-round, so I can get the best of both worlds with Air B&B. I’m also in a college town, and there’s no shortage of people looking for a great place to stay. P.S. Do you ever think of recreating one of the 1950s basement motel rooms? That would be so fun!

  23. Dear Ross I also had a birthday last month, my sixty third. Before I started reading your blog I had pretty much given up on ever having another life adventure. Your words gave me hope that even at my age much was still possible. For instance I have learned to type,so I could make posts. There are many parallels of our lives, you went east to New York, I went west to San Francisco. Were we worked in much the same fields. A part of my life I wouldn’t change for anything, disasters and all. What I’ve learned is you can make the plans’ but you can’t plan the results.I say embrace the results with all the passion of those early years, and run with it. You helped me get off my old ass and try new things. I type this as I sit in the four thousand sq ft disaster of a beach house, that my husband and I are remodeling for my sister and brother-in law. You inspired me to give it a try . Yesterday ended in tears. Yet here we go with another day of not giving up. Thank You Ross you do more than you know.

  24. These houses were meant to be enjoyed. They come alive filled with people. They are so different from today’s homes that people want to experience them. When completed the house will have two great attractions. 1) The house itself, in all its grandeur and history. 2) Ross, in all his grandeur and history. Ross is the perfect host for this endeavor. After all, one of the attractions of a B&B is the people you meet. Ross, you will meet many interesting people and your guests will enjoy a one of a kind host. — and it may even help pay the bills.

  25. Thought you might enjoy this article on medium.com entitled, “Why I’m Over Airbnb” with the subheading, “Am I just getting too old for this shit? Maybe.”

    If you are unfamiliar with medium.com, it defies me to come up with a description. Let’s just say that the ability to read the first three articles is free and then one needs to subscribe.

      • I felt that it contained some food for thought as to what you might want to avoid in your own Airbnb.
        -Although the site more often has pieces with which I agree, here is one where I find it difficult to like the author (@$#%&^*b#tch) in spite of the fact that I agree with some of her thoughts. As a white male, I find her brush is a little broad, so to speak. I really hate it when anyone chooses any group to categorize for discrimination.
        https://medium.com/@IjeomaOluo/the-anger-of-the-white-male-lie-6f9a6e646d47
        -I am only sending you this one to see if I can provide you with a writer that you like even less than the first.

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