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 New York City, the first practical system for generating electricity for homes and businesses.
During the late 1880s and 1890s, cities across America rushed to build electric generating plants, such as East Coast cities Taunton (1886), Bath (1890), Exeter (1890) and Bristol (1893).
The White House was wired for electricity in 1891.
With such a timeline in mind, the Cross House was perhaps the first private residence in Emporia to have electric lighting.
Still, people were long used to gas lighting, and early electric plants often failed. As such, electric fixtures of the era were gas/electric combinations.
Upstairs at the White House. The chandelier is typical for the 1890s, and features both gas and electric arms. Gas jets face UP; electric sockets face DOWN.
A typical 1890s gas/electric chandelier. Such a fixture is likely what graced the Cross House. Sadly, the Cross House retains no original lighting. BIG sigh. Image.
PARLOR. In addition to gas/electric chandeliers in the Cross House, I have been dimly aware that there were also gas sconces, too, as their tell-tale nipples still protrude from the walls here and there. Like with the parlor mantel. See the little dark circle on the wall just to the right of the mantle? Just to the right of the mirrors?
Yep, that dark circle. Well, this got me to thinking. Did all eight mantels in the house have a gas sconce to one side? I write one side because the parlor mantel only had one nipple. There was no nipple on the left side. And what about the other seven mantels in the house?
LIBRAY. This mantle sticks into the room due to a chimney breast, so there was no room for sconces to the right or left of the mantel. But, hum, what about on the sides of the breast?
Why, yes! On each side. I had to cut around them to install book shelves. I would never have just lopped them off!
ENTRANCE HALL. Another chimney breast design. Gas sconces on the sides?
Why, yes! This is on the right, and is the only sconce with a cover plate. MOST curious! Oh, the corroded wall is dimpled wallpaper rather than mess-up plaster.
And the left side, now covered over. I assume the pipe is still in there.
DINING ROOM. Curiously, no amount of sleuthing revealed sconces to each side of this mantel. VERY interesting.
ROUND BEDROOM. There were no sconces adjacent to this mantel, either. However…
…over to the left is the round tower. See the dangling new temporary lights?
They are hanging over the old gas sconces. This is on the right, and…
…this is on the left. I assume the sconces were to light a dressing table placed under the high stained-glass window.
The original plans for the round bedroom. See the round tower? See the center window? See the G to each side of the window? GAS sconce! See the word Chamber? See the G above the M in chamber? GAS chandelier! I have looked at the drawings a zillion times and never noticed the G’s before. You know, I love this kinda stuff.
OCTAGON BEDROOM. The mantel has been removed to prevent water damage from a leak above. See the holes in the walls to each side? Yep, gas pipes.
SEWING ROOM. See the holes in the walls to each side?
Yep again. More gas pipes.
LONG BEDROOM. Again, there were no gas sconces. Or was there?
I measured to height of the gas nipples in the octagon bedroom, then came back into the long bedroom, measured, scraped away the wallpaper on the right side, and PRESTO! A plaster patch! Whoee! I love a vindication rush, and will take every bit I can get!
On the left side, I chiseled away at the plaster, and presto! Another petite vindication rush! Oh, wanna see the back of this gas pipe?
OK! So, I now knew that five mantels (out of eight) in the house had a pair of adjacent gas sconces. The round bedroom did not, but had a pair of sconces nearby. The dining room, curiously, shows no evidence of sconces. And the parlor had but a single sconce. A single sconce? Hum, this got me to thinking. So I measured the sconce on the right, went over to the left of the mantle, and started digging into my FRESHLY repaired walls.
It was immediately obvious that something was amiss.
And there it be, the long lost LEFT gas sconce in the parlor. Well, this was such a big vindication rush that I needed to rest a moment on the divan.
I have owned the Cross House about two years now, and only now do I have an understanding about a cool original feature of the house: its sconces. Why though did the dining room alone NOT have sconces? No amount of sleuthing revealed their location in other parts of the room. So, a mystery!
Well, now that I get all this about the house, I suddenly feel compelled to recreate all the lost sconces. COMPELLED! Even though a week ago no such compulsion was in effect.
I hate knowledge. It just leads to more friggin’ work. And expense.
And stay tuned for Part II!