The Cross House

The Cross House Museum?

Riley asked what my plans were for the Cross House post-me.

I have actually given this a lot of thought.

In my lifetime I have seen houses beautifully restored in the 1970s, and then demolished three decades later because they were in such poor condition.

I have also seen houses in perfect condition, and architectural masterpieces, be bulldozed.

These thoughts trouble me as I endlessly work on the house. Will all my work be in vain?

A big old wooden house is akin to leaving a dining table on the front lawn. Imagine what it will look like in a few years. Big wooden house require endless maintenance. And even a house in mint condition can deteriorate with stunning rapidity once maintenance stops.

So…my plan is to leave the Cross House to the state. I have no heirs. My remaining estate will go to endowing a maintenance fund, which I will also fundraise for.

And another state-owned historic house is a few blocks away, Red Rocks.

 

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Red Rocks is just north of the Cross House.

 

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The Howe House, just south of the Cross House, is also open to the public.

 

I am old enough to know that life usually does not work out as we plan, but sometimes it does. In 1978 I moved to New York City with the big dream of owning my own successful architectural design firm. And that happened. I also yearned to get some books published, and I did.

So, what follows are my plans. Only time will tell if they became a reality.

 

THE CROSS HOUSE MUSEUM

While I am restoring the Cross House, I will not be restoring the kitchen to what it likely looked like in 1894, and nor will the decor reflect 1894.

But if, say, twenty year from now, my plans for leaving the house to the state seem a go, I will move into the carriage house and begin the process of undoing some of my work, and creating, as much as can be ascertained, what the Cross House looked like, and functioned as, when built.

So, a coal stove will go in the kitchen, along with a 1890s slate sink.

What will be my bathroom will be restored as the Housekeeper’s Room.

The two en-suite bathrooms created in 1929 out of closets in the Round and Octagon bedrooms will be restored as closets.

 

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The 1950s oak floors will be covered with wall-to-wall carpeting (in 22-inch-wide strips, hand-sewn together) as they were in 1894.

 

All decor not in keeping with the 1890s will vanish. But…maybe some rooms, like my bedroom, will remain as I had them, to reflect my years of ownership. Maybe.

And so on.

In some room would be archival material depicting the lives of those who have owned or lived in the house. Maybe this will be on the expansive third floor?

This process will, I believe, be completely fascinating, and I cannot think of a more engrossing project for late old age.

 

 

 

11 Responses to The Cross House Museum?

  1. This is always a horrible conundrum! I see this same issue with my property, being an ex-church that has stood over a 150 years, how do I keep it standing long after I am gone? If my plans of a restoration gets fulfilled, I thought about donating it back to the church but what if there aren’t any locals left for a congratulation in fifty years from now? Then I hear the congregation really wanted to open an African American Museum back in the 80s, hmm maybe I will work on that but can I find enough history/artifacts to fulfill a museum? Its a hard one to ponder but since I can’t see into the future it’s hard to say what path to chose. For now all I can do is continue working on it and just follow the path. Odd thing to say but, hey, it’s a church! So I will let God guide me. So go with your idea, just go with the flow and decide later on in life.

  2. I applaud your idea for leaving the house for future generations to enjoy. An essential part will be your documentation and since you are already published, that should be a no-brainer for you.

  3. Ross, Chad’s caution as to the unsustainability of most house museums is important. State governments are feckless stewards of historic property. Even reputable private foundations are not reliable–Colonial Williamsburg, created and funded by the Rockefeller fortune, has twice dumped Carter’s Grove to private buyers, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter's_Grove You are canny and practical to make the Cross House desirable as a usable and enjoyable residence, attractive to future generations of old house lovers, even old-house-lite types. That gives her more of a realistic future than an airless museum piece conjecturally recreated to an arbitrary point in time, subject to divestiture at any time by a thoughtless legislature. Protection comes from a present historic easement donation covering interior and exterior elements–maybe get a tax deduction? I have to say also, much as the whole preservation/restoration community longs for permanence, I suggest what we really value is the individual and community experience of cherishing, re-creating and saving past design and handicraft. You are by way of providing inspiration, practical tips, humor, and yes wisdom to tens of thousands interested in preservation–that’s the Ross Legacy, not just the salvation of the Cross House. Not just one project, but your influence is and will continue to be felt–for good– to a wider audience than you will ever know.

  4. To the church lady, giving the property back to the church is probably the quickest way to get it demolished as most churches are cash strapped these days to wit the Inisfada mansion on Long Island 137 room mansion maintained in perfect condition since it was willed to the Catholic Church and sold and demolished when they needed cash. The pope even stayed there.

  5. My wife and I labored tirelessly on our Italianate house in New Jersey for eight years. Much money and energy were employed in the undoing of previous owners poor decisions with regard to upkeep and cosmetic alterations. After a prolonged struggle to maintain a small business in Manhattan inevitably came to an end, and exacerbated by the introduction of horrendous, uncivilized neighbors, we made the painful decision to move and start new careers in a different state. Our neighbors helped make our house unsaleable and it was these very philistines who ultimately bought our sensitively restored property and have since ruined it.

    I still remain committed to historic preservation and to craftsmanship, but I would be lying if I said that our previous experience has not left the task of mustering the necessary enthusiasm to start all over again much harder. And this time with an even more down and out and humiliated Italianate house. Would I have exercised the same purist approach to our first house if I knew that all that effort would be lost that quickly? What lesson is there in having sourced 19th century glass for windows that would wind up in a landfill? How far do I take it now, shaken from the previous experience? I strive to do the best I can in what ever task I engage in and my personal standards are high, but that makes the loss of one’s work all the more painful when it is annihilated by the dangerous vastness of American ignorance.

    • Hi George.

      It is nice to meet you. You story is a true horror story and I can only imagine your pain. I extend a hug to you and your wife.

      Sadly, I have no answers to your important, vital questions.

      I would though enjoy seeing pictures of your current Italianate house. I do love Italianate houses.

    • George, don’t let yahoos affect your passion, your taste, your sense of what works in a restoration. The Parthenon survived use as a pagan temple, a Christian Church, a mosque and an ammunition dump until the Venetians blew it up, and the Greek government is piecing it back together. St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square was used as a stable by Napoleon, a museum by the Commies, and is now a church again. The incomparable Unicorn Tapestries in the Met were used as potato sacks during the French Revolution. After the third time the wiring and plumbing were stolen by druggies from my vernacular Italianate, I gave it up and the City demolished it. BUT I am still working on and living in a 7-bedroom stick style and stabilizing a 1904 5-bed Edwardian. (Old houses are really really cheap in Bluefield, WV!) You keep doing what you love, the right way, and, mock-Latin though it is “Illegitimi non carborundum”—don’t let the bastards wear you down!!

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