The Cross House

Oops!

I hear a lot of things about the Cross House which are not true.

Visitors to the house tell me that the dark, detailed wainscoting on much of the first floor is hand-tooled leather.

I explain that it is Lincrustra, basically sawdust and glue.

Vistors insist that it is hand-tooled leather and look at me as if I am a simpleton.

Other visitors have told me, with great relish, that the secondary staircase was installed so that the Harrison Cross (who built the house) could easily sneak his mistress into the house.

I explain that the secondary staircase is a servant’s stair, which was 100% normal for such a large house.

These visitors look at me as if I am naive.

One woman, with great excitement at long ago memories, told me how she loved to travel up/down the dumbwaiter from the basement all the way to the fourth level.

I explained that this was impossible for two reasons. First, the dumbwaiter was removed decades before she was born. And, two, the dumbwaiter could not have possibly gone past the first floor.

She insisted that I was wrong. “My memories are so vivid! I know they are true!

So, I took her to the second floor and showed how it was structurally impossible for the dumbwaiter to have ever gone past the first floor.

“Oh.”

During a fraternity reunion several now elderly former residents breathlessly told me tales about crawling through the tunnel.

“What tunnel?” I asked.

“The one in the basement!”

“There is no evidence of a tunnel in the basement,” I replied.

They insisted they were right. “We remember it perfectly! We LOVED the tunnel!”

I asked them to show me the tunnel. So, a half-dozen of us went into the basement. No tunnel was found, and no evidence of a blocked-up tunnel could be found. And none of the visitors could even remember where the tunnel was.

And so on.

A while back somebody wrote in about the stone lattice. This wonderful feature covers two windows at the very bottom of the tower. The person stated that the stone had been removed, and that they were glad to see it back.

Huh?

All the stone was, indeed, in place, and there was no physical evidence of it ever having gone missing. But, before I replied I checked out all the old images of the house. None showed any missing stone, so I discounted this as yet another myth about the house.

However…

 

The stone lattice. This is the east lattice. There is matching lattice around to the west side of the tower.

 

Recently, I was looking at 1999 images taken by Bob Rodak, who purchase the house that year. One particular image caught my eye. There was something odd, seemingly, about the stone lattice to the east side of the tower. Was some missing? It kinda looked like it was. Or was the stone just really dirty? So, I cropped the image hugely, and then hugely enlarged it. The results are above. It does, indeed, look like some stones are missing.

 

These stones. And it seems that Bob must have found them stored away, and replaced them. Thank you, Bob!

 

 

So, to whomever told me this tale a while back, I extend my apologies!

Now, I just need the stories about a large box of gold hidden in the house to prove true!

 

 

33 Responses to Oops!

  1. Hi Ross, has anyone ever done a follow-up story on Mary Cross? I surmised she married and moved away. What happened to the “little girl” that moved in with grandparents? Her mother and father divorced, she lost her grandfather, father and grandmother all before she was put of her teens. Are there any Cross decedents left?

    • Mary got married and moved the the North West. Seattle, I think.

      Her daughter, or grand-daughter, did contact me with a gracious note. But I received no response to my reply.

  2. I’ve had a lot of visits from relatives of previous owners too, but my story is the opposite of yours:

    The grand daughter and a daughter of the immeadiately previous owners stopped by Memorial Day weekend several years ago. They had been here before, but this time toured the inside of the house (I had replaced the kitchen floor)

    They were thrilled with all the work I’d done inside, and when we went upstairs, I told them of how I had taken out all the sheeting, insulated the entire room, and while doing this on a hot day, suddenly decided it was time to put in a window. My helpers had looked on in astonishment as I came upstairs with a running chainsaw and cut a big hole in the west gable end, whereupon we went back to work in relative breezy comfort. We re-installed the sheeting, then taped, mudded, and painted the room. Then I framed in the hole, installed windows that I’d found in the old turkey house, and we had a window upstairs.

    My touring visitors looked astonished as well. “But it looks like the window has always been there!”

    And that’s exactly what I wanted to hear, of course. *grin*

  3. Good observation, Ken. Excellent work, Bob Rodak!

    Ross, do you get many people who INSIST the Third Floor is a ball room, despite the only access is the servants’ stairway through the kitchen?

      • The only house that I know of that actually has a 3rd floor intended as a “Ballroom” of sorts, is the house in Delphi. (Ross knows which house I’m talking about!). It has an original closet with rows and rows of hooks for guests coats, a legitimately finished staircase with fancy moldings and such, and reflector lights to dance by. Not to mention that the dance floor is actually framed out. The only other use I could think of for such a space would be for billiards. Other than the particular instance I’m referring to, it is very very very uncommon for a 3rd floor to have been intended as a Ballroom.

  4. What I’m suggesting is absurd but this is the post for it. Your idea of a steam plant in the carriage house that would serve the Cross House and maybe neighbors reminded me that I never did get to tour the steam tunnels at the old Eastern State Hospital when I worked there. That and those frat boys misremembering the 60’s/70’s (meaning they really were there, the boys if not the tunnel).

  5. Dear Ross:

    This is a follow up to another post that refers to the origins of the Cross House.

    While Col. H.C. Cross was the first mayor of Emporia and accomplished many things, the life of Col. H.C. Cross and his family is one of the most painful ever for the City of Emporia.

    The failure of the First National Bank of Emporia is well documented in various historical documents. In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court decision of February 23, 1903: “Cross, who was president of a bank and had been misusing its funds” (i.e. Charles Cross). The result was hundreds of Emporia citizens losing all or most of their life savings when the bank collapsed.

    The Cross House played a significant part in this shameful saga of Emporia History. After the death of Col. H.C. Cross on September 5, 1894, the suicide of his son Charles Cross on November 16, 1898, and the death of his widow Susan Cross on February 5, 1902, there was only one heir left: a grand daughter Mary Cross; and only one asset: The Cross House.

    Numerous court cases and appeals were launched for the citizens of Emporia against the trustees for Mary Cross. On Feb. 11, 1904, the Supreme Court of Kansas awarded the house to Mary Cross on a technicality when it decided ” ‘The constitutional exemption of a homestead from forced sale under process of law may survive to the family”. A house built with money taken from the ruined lives of many Emporia citizens had been awarded to a Cross family member.

    The first hand accounts of the hardships brought on Emporia by the Cross family are now silent. Today, any account might be considered innuendo or hearsay, but in the 1960’s there were many children of those who witnessed this shame first hand around to tell their stories. Today, we only have the facts documented by our courts to show the very troubled origins of the Cross House.

    There are many happy stories in the life of 526 Union, but the Cross family is not one of them.

    • Dear Ryan,

      I have a great love for facts.

      And I have a great distain for gossip and speculation.

      I have published two books, and worked hard to write about facts rather than gossip and speculation. I remain proud of my work.

      In your comment you mix facts with speculation. Another reader did the same in previous comments.

      Here are the facts:
      * Harrison Cross was President of the First National Bank in Emporia. He retired in 1891.
      * The son of Susan and Harrison, Charles Cross, succeeded his father as the President of the First National Bank.
      * Susan and Harrison Cross moved into the new Cross House in the spring of 1894.
      * Harrison died in the fall of 1894.
      * The bank was declared insolvent four years later, closed, and Charles committed suicide that same day.
      * A lawsuit was filed against the Cross family by depositors who lost money because of the bank’s failure.
      * The case was decided in favor of the Cross family.

      Everything else is speculation.

      NO ONE knows how Harrison Cross paid for the Cross House. His position and accomplishments (lawyer, banker, railroads, real estate, former mayor) are commensurate with the house he built. There might also have been an inheritance involved (this was, and is, a common impetus for building a house).

      No one knows.

      The Cross House was planned during an economic boom. But after construction was well underway, a highly significant event, and one always overlooked, is that the national economy collapsed during the Panic of 1893, and banks across the country failed.

      But the First National did not fail. Does this indicate that it was on a sound financial footing at the time?

      The Panic lasted until 1897. Four long years. Does it make sense that this might have negatively impacted the First National, which collapsed the following year?

      No one knows.

      There is no evidence that Charles Cross profited from any misused bank funds.

      When the bank failed, depositors lost money. They were, no doubt, and totally understandably, mad. It is not hard to imagine that the Cross House, a highly visible and stunning creation, become the fulcrum of their anger.

      NO ONE knows though if the construction of the Cross House, and the collapse of the First National four years later, are connected.

      No one knows.

      Yet people in 1898, and in the ensuing decades, DO connect these two events. Even today still, as you wrote: “A house built with money taken from the ruined lives of many Emporia citizens had been awarded to a Cross family member.”

      But no facts support such a statement.

      Ryan, I also have to ask: Have you no decency? You gleefully malign the reputations of people who cannot defend themselves, based on events from over century ago. To state the facts is fine with me, even if such facts are distasteful. However, to damage the reputations of people through speculation/innuendo says, to me, far more of the accuser than the accused.

      • Ross, I understand completely. While you may not be related by blood to the Cross family, you are still related in a sense because of your commitment to the house, especially since they are not here to defend themselves. My grandfather was a large shareholder in a small town bank in the 20s, and also owned a real estate/construction company. When the local bank failed in early 1930, many in town who lost money blamed Grandpa and a few others, there were even threats against his home and his family. He lost more than most, and I have today about $5K of worthless stock certificates that represent his lost “wealth”. He died in 1985, and at that time there were still people who blamed him for what happened 55 years earlier. People need a scapegoat, facts be damned. So, like Grandpa always said, we just have to shake it off and move ahead with a smile on our face 🙂

        • Ross, I wish I had googled before I posted above, since I found some things that I want to add.

          The Emporia KS Republican newspaper, when reporting HC Cross’ death while on vacation in Michigan, stated: “The news of his sudden death will be a great shock not only to the people of Emporia, but to the people of the entire state. He was in every respect a grand man, and his place in business circles cannot be supplied. His death therefore is an irreparable loss.”

          From the Emporia Gazette: “In the searchlight of a career which brought him before the public, no blot marred his escutcheon. As an industrious and capable attorney, then as a patriot soldier and commander, afterwards as president of a great financial institution and manager of a large railway system, he always displayed the powers which all admire and which distinguish a leader of men. The citizens at his home are saddened and their hearts heavy with sorrow. They mourn the departure of the strong man upon whom the community could lean. His memory will remain and abide with us as a sacred monument to the noble qualities he possessed, and which his nature displayed.”

          Doesn’t exactly sound like they were ready to lynch the man, now does it? Five minutes of research reveals that HC Cross retired from the bank in 1891, two years BEFORE he built the Cross house. So, there are the facts, Jack. BOOM.

          Sorry for the lengthy post, but this just struck a nerve with me, I guess because my family has been through it. I feel better now…

        • Thanks, Mike. Your comments mean a lot to me.

          And I extend my sympathies to your family. Small towns can be tough.

          Oh, I did not know that Harrison Cross was retired from the bank before he built the Cross House! I have amended my previous comment above to reflect this. Thank you.

  6. There is a house 2 doors down from mine that was built a few years ago by a dentist. Before that, there was a tiny Texas 111 on the property, but before THAT was a grand Victorian that everyone swore had a ballroom on the second floor, with the bedrooms on the third.

    This is the dentist’s abomination. Mine is two houses west (to the left) with the red bushes out front.

    If that link doesn’t actually work, you have my eternal apologies.

    Also, god bless that Bob Rodak! He seems to be the gift that keeps giving.

    • Tiffaney, your street is beautiful, and your house is awesome! While it may not be the equal of what was there before, at least the dentist’s house is well-kept. So many of us who live in old houses feel like an island in the stream, surrounded by run-down rentals, vacant lots, and/or commercial conversions…

        • The listing. Not nearly enough photos. I still “walk” up and down the street on google maps too. Go east; there’s a beach! I miss it so much there just are no words.

          It was quite a mess when we bought it, but it was top shelf when we sold it. However, my parents didn’t go into the EPIC detail that you are doing, Ross. Your house will be an absolute showpiece when finished. Restoring the dumbwaiter?! I could hug you.

      • I miss living there so much. 20 years we lived there (and I’m only 35 years old). I thought I’d die there.

        I was shocked that the village board let that design though, but you’re totally right – he at least keeps it nice. There are a lot of renters in the neighborhood, more than ever. They come down from NY for the summer and leave the houses empty in the winter. So far no problems, but it makes us worry, you know? Well, not me anymore since I don’t live there….. but yah ok I still worry 😉

      • No worries Chris. I don’t even know if that phrase is really a thing, or just a local idiom. It means a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 floor house. As you can probably imagine, and see by the house across the street from this one, rebuilding a giant Victorian house is cost-prohibitive. So when these grand old houses burn down (it’s almost always due to fire around here, as opposed to them being demolished due to bad condition), people build a smaller house. Sometimes it’s just to keep with the times, like the small 1960s house across the street, or just because it’s cheap… cheaper than rebuilding the Victorian that was lost.

    • It DOES, Cindi M., particularly if you read the obituary on Susan Cross!

      By the way, I discovered that the photo of the Cross House displayed is another copy of the “UFO” picture Ross used to show us the missing finials long ago. This version isn’t as cropped and is missing the unidentifiable scar on the top right (the UFO). I think this photograph is in slightly better shape.

  7. I always tell my kids there are three sides to a story. One side, the other side…and what actually happened.
    Ross I love your blog and your phenomenal work on the Cross house. I can’t wait for more paint reveals!
    When do think you will move in? I hope that’s not too forward to ask.
    Cheers!!

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