Learning From The Past…SLOWLY

If I were a millionaire, the Cross House would have suffered.

With millions at my disposal, I could have (and would have) embarked upon a restoration with a full crew, and would likely have finished the house by now.

And the house would have suffered.

You see, there are dividends to moving slowly.

By moving slowly, I have learned about the house. And just when I think I could not learn more about the house, the house proves me wrong.

Over and over.

Just three weeks ago I only had a dim awareness that the house was originally lighted by both gas and electricity. And I never much thought about this.

But now? Oh, I have learned a lot.

Today I know that an EXTRAORDINARY and historically THRILLING aspect of the Cross House is that it was likely the very first house in Emporia to have electricity. The house was built in 1894, only two years after the White House was wired for electricity.

Today I know that all the chandeliers in the Cross House were gas/electric combinations, but I have also proved (via extant physical evidence) that all the sconces in the house were also gas/electric.

I did not know this three weeks ago.

Had I rushed through an amply-funded restoration, I would never have made this discovery. Nor would I have discovered the few extant bits of original wallpaper. And the speaking tubes might well have been overlooked and even torn out. Would I have even put 2 + 2 together to realize that the house originally had a dumb-waiter?



Since buying the house almost two years ago, I had been steadily purchasing period-correct lighting for the house. However, all these purchases later proved almost period-correct, and mostly dated from a decade after the house was built. All these purchases were also, save one, electric fixtures rather than gas/electric fixtures.

Because I did not, well, get it yet, I was not really concerned that installing such fixtures would slightly muddy the historical timeline (1904 rather than 1894). Today though, I realize that installing such fixtures would diminish a vital and extraordinary and fabulous and WAY cool aspect of the house: it was originally lighted by gas/electric fixtures.

And today, unlike just three weeks ago, I belatedly recognize that ONLY gas/electric fixtures should be installed in the house.

To this end, I have started selling off almost all the lighting I purchased for the house during the last two years, and have already sold several fixtures.

Only a single fixture will be retained. For now.



This ALMOST period-correct chandelier now hangs in the long bedroom. It dates from about a decade after the house was built, but it IS a gas/electric fixture. So, it will remain…for now.


Because the house needs so much work, buying period-correct vintage light fixtures is not actually a priority, my current obsession notwithstanding.

And I know that buying chandeliers for the parlor and dining room, for example, will be WAY out of my budget as large-scale gas/electric chandeliers from the early 1890s are incredibly expensive and incredibly hard to find.

Imagine then, if you will, why my heart stopped last week.



A matching pair of early 1890s and large AND gas/electric chandeliers came up for auction on aBay.

Hence, the heart seizure.

And lust reached terrifying new levels inside me. Even greater (if such a thing is even possible) than my green sink lust.

I kept staring at the images online. MUST HAVE was my thought.

Drool dripped from my lips and pooled on my desk. MUST HAVE.

At night, I went to sleep fantasizing about the pair (a pair!!!!!!!!!) in the parlor and dining room of the house. MUST HAVE!

Yet…yet…how could I possibly justify such an expense, even presuming I was the eventual high bidder, and even presuming I had the money? I still have the last 10% to pay on the titanic-sized radiator invoice from last spring. Paying down the invoice had drained every available penny all these months.

How could I also justify such a purchase when 6589 things were of vastly more importance to getting the house livable than pretty chandeliers?

Oh, I was wracked with indecision.


The day of the auction I felt like I would vomit. There is no other way to describe how I felt.

Two conflicting thoughts dominated: MUST HAVE and CANNOT AFFORD.

Two conflicting thoughts. I had visions of being in a tug-of-war, with me in the middle of rope, the rope tied around my waist, as the MUST HAVE team pulled on one and the CANNOT AFFORD team pulled hard at the other end.

Oh, what an awful day.

I managed to get some work done, but kept updating the auction on my computer (a man obsessed) and later, when I went out for several hours, I kept updating the auction on my iPad.

The bids were not high. Yet. It helped, vastly, that the fixtures were not restored, and the gas arms had never been wired for electricity. All the glass shades were missing, too, and replacing these would be an alarming extra cost. Still, there was no question that a matched PAIR would carry a significant premium, likely enough to offset the lack of wiring and shades.

A man obsessed does not think clearly. And I started to wonder: MIGHT these beautiful twins be…possible?

The hours ticked by. The obsession grew. The lust was overpowering. The nausea was ready to knock me flat.

I had no choice. I just had to toss in a bid via an auction sniper service. This meant that at least during the last ten seconds of the auction my bid would go out. For, a truly terrifying thought had now occurred to me: what if the chandeliers sold cheap, AND I DID NOT EVEN BID?

This was a horror which would surely kill me.

I could not of course put in a large bid.

The nausea increased.

But bid I did, and then tried to step away to let the fates decide.

Tried. To. Step. Away.

Of course, I was unsuccessful, and kept refreshing my computer. The bids were still low, without much activity, but savvy bidders will only show up in the last ten seconds, as would my bid.

I clicked refresh, and clicked and clicked and clicked.

Then it was all over. Scroll way down…



























The object of my affection And there were two. All the shades are missing.


I stared at the results.

Thirteen bids. A lot. But not a lot.

My eyes were watered up. I had to blink several times to clearly read the results.

The twins were…mine.




I was in shock. The finial price was WAY less than I ever would have expected.

Mine. And I could put the purchase on a credit card, thus not stealing monies from the last payment for the radiators.






You know, being obsessed is gonna kill me.

But think how GORGEOUS the twins will look all rewired and shaded and resplendent in the Cross House?

Death vs.: beauty? Hummmm.



As mentioned, there were thirteen bids. And seven bidders. This means that there were six other people out there, somewhere, who also lusted after the chandeliers.

Six people.

I would love to meet these kindred spirits.


  1. Marta Barnett on February 2, 2016 at 9:06 am

    They are beautiful!! Glad you got them, Ross. They will be gorgeous in your house. What ever happened to the old chandelier in the dining room? I know it wasn’t original to the house, but was it still there when you became the owner?

  2. Amy Heavilin on February 2, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Aaaaaack! I’m in love. I am SOOOOOOOOO excited about these.

  3. Barb Sanford on February 2, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Wowzer. Those are fabulous. I can’t wait to see how you dress them up with shades.

    In other news: Some day, Ross, you will write a suspense novel, and you will do very, very well. I was practically sweating along with you as you waited for the results of the auction.

  4. Michele on February 2, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Beautiful….now the search for matching shades begins!

  5. Sandra G. McNichol on February 2, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Wonderful!! I LOVE these chandeliers – gosh they are GORGEOUS! I am SO SO happy for you, Ross! Wahoo!!

  6. Mi'Chielle Cooper on February 2, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    The perfect choice! This story SO GOES in the January report! LOL

  7. Nathan on February 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Gorgeous! Are you going to wire the gas arms for electricity, or plumb them for gas?

    • Ross on February 2, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      There is a part of me which would love to restore the gas arms to gas.

      But this is rather dangerous, today, for a variety of reasons. The most significant is that the combustion of methane releases significant amounts of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. When the Cross House was built is was, like all old house, quite drafty, so this was not the problem it would be today, as the Cross House will be MUCH tighter.

      So, the chandeliers will be converted to all electric. Although I might just leave the gas arms As Is, and put votive candles inside the gas shades when I entertain, as I plan to do with any gas/electric sconces.

  8. Mary Garner-Mitchell on February 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    So very pleased for you, Ross!!

  9. Julie Fuller on February 2, 2016 at 3:59 pm


    I read your post, holding my breath (and resisting the urge to stop reading, go directly to eBay and find out for myself), hoping against hope that you would bid, and get them. I AM THRILLED!!!!! The twins are indeed stunningly gorgeous, and worthy of both you, and the glorious Cross House. I know you will enjoy them.

  10. Connie in Hartwood on February 2, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    This story totally made my evening … I am so happy for you!!

    I completely understand the old house lessons that can only be learned from taking things slowly, whether it’s planned that way or not. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your discoveries with us!

  11. Ken on February 2, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    They are beautiful Ross. I bet the old house will be happy to have some of her missing beauty back.

  12. Rachael on February 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I completely “get” your feelings on the benefits of taking things slowly with an old house. I am now 2 years into our project and have been thinking the exact same thing. I have learned SO MUCH.. and learn new things weekly about the house, or about old houses in general and my plans and dreams for my place change with this new knowledge.

    I’m really happy about your find! I was just at our local salvage shop the other day… you should see it. This old guy just has hundreds of light fixture piled on top of each other on shelves. I just had to ask if he had any gas electric fixtures… he did not 🙂

  13. Bethany on February 5, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    You should start a “go fund me” for the house. I bet you would be surprised . . .

  14. Derek W on March 3, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Maybe you could just run gas to the LR and DR fixtures. . .

    • Ross on March 3, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      I am thinking of running a new gas line to the DR chandelier. The gas would be propane, from a small tank.

      This seems doable. I think!

      • Derek W on March 4, 2016 at 11:07 am

        That would be great! And, then there would be a master off valve. That would make me sleep better. Then all you need is one of those cool table top gas lamps with the weird hose running from the chandelier. I think I saw one of those at the Mark Twain house.

  15. Ken on March 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    There is a video on you tube of a Victorian house with working gas lights. Look it up, it is very interesting and beautiful. The man goes from room to room showing each fixture.

    • Ross on March 4, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Hi Ken! Do you mean this?

  16. ken on March 4, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Yes that is the one. There is also one how to make a coal fire in fireplaces such as yours.

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