Emporia

THE FORGOTTEN HOUSE: 810 Mechanic, Emporia, Kansas

Damn.

Damn, damn, damn.

Why am I not a zillionaire?

For, if I were, I would be saving the world’s architectural heritage.

Damn.

 

The other day young Brian and Bailey asked me if I wanted to go look at 810 Mechanic in Emporia.

My heart instantly raced, as I had previously identified 810 as a likely design by architect Charles Squires, who designed the Cross House.

The house, today, presents a grim visage. Looking at the house, which has long been divided into two apartments, few people — like, essentially nobody — would look at 810 and see much of value. Indeed, the house is shabby and even ugly.

But, it wasn’t always. And it could be, could, be a knock-out. Restored, people would stop on the sidewalk, then a smile would cross their face, and they would think: What a gorgeous house. But, today, the house attracts no such attention. It is, again, grim.

And this causes me a lot of pain. I itch to get my hands on it, to study it, and to carefully reveal its beauty and restore lost features.

But I cannot afford to do so. And the house will continue to be overlooked. Nobody will walk by and recognize the house as being significant. The house will continue to age, continue to be cheaply patched-up, and then one day will be demolished with nary a thought by anybody.

Damn. Damn damn damn.

 

810 is covered with several eras of cheap siding. The porch has Cracker Barrel columns (oh, the indignity), and over to the left is a large blank space which originally was, glaringly obviously, the location for the front door.

 

When my eyes first sighted 810 they were not…interested. But then two features captured my special attention. And I went: Oh my!

 

810 abounds with exaggerated dentil trim above the windows. And guess who LOVED exaggerated dentil trim? Charles Squires! My heart raced. Could this ugly house be a Squires design? Then I saw…

 

…this stair bay to the north. Wow. Fabulous! F A B U L O U S! And those…

 

…brackets? Astounding! And I knew: 810 is certainly by Squires, who adored the exaggerated, impish detail.

 

Most people will not see beauty here. I however am thrilled by the abounding exaggerated dentil trim and the deliciously charming round gable-end window. My mind aches to know: WHAT is under the later siding????????

 

Because the original front door has long been covered over I was apprehensive, to an extreme, about the fate of the entry hall and staircase.

Had they, somehow, managed to survive?

 

Two houses south of the Cross House is 510 Union. It was also converted into two apartments and the foyer was rebuilt as a laundry room. However, the u-shaped stair was untouched.

 

Three house north of the Cross House is 618 Union, by Squires. It, too, was converted to apartments but miraculously the foyer and U-shaped staircase survived.

 

At 618, an arched ceiling is above the lower staircase. Fabulous.

 

So, what happened to the foyer and staircase of 810 Mechanic?

Well…damn.

The foyer is now a full bathroom, closet, and hall.

The lower staircase has been ripped out, although it could have been saved like 510 Union. Damn.

 

However, the UPPER section of the U-shaped stair at 810 has survived.

 

As has — squee!!!!!!!!! — the arched ceiling over the lower stair! I adore the 1940s wallpaper and imagine that when it was hung the house had been loved. Was this the last time the house had been loved?

 

The second parlor at 810. The mantel has managed, somehow, to remain unpainted. Did it have an overmantel originally? The wide opening had pocket doors. Are they hidden, still, inside the walls? My mind aches to know. Aches!

 

The sole mantel. Did the house have more originally?

 

When was 810 built? It seems earlier than the 1894 Cross House but it is not shown on an 1893 Sanborn map of Emporia. It does appear on the 1899 map. Note how the porch is NOT an L-shape as it is….

 

…today. Oh, oh, WHAT did the lost porch look like???????? Then I walked around to the south side of the house and found…

 

…this! See what I see over to the right?

 

ZOUNDS! The lost porch would certainly have featured this exact type trim. The shape of the lost columns may well be imprinted under the later siding.

 

810 Mechanic is in poor condition and is currently for sale at $40,000. It will sell, no doubt, but not to anybody who sees it as a muffled treasure, absolutely deserving of a meticulous restoration. No, the sole motivator will be the rental income. The house will continue to be cheaply patched and patched and patched all the while its true value, as work of great beauty by a significant architect, will continue to remain unknown.

Damn.

 

As a house by Charles Squires, 810 could easily be listed on the National Register or the Kansas Register. With either of these designations in place, the house could qualify for a Heritage Trust Fund grant. The Cross House has receive two such grants totaling almost $180,000.

Kansas is the only state I know of offering outright grants to restore historic properties.

My hope in writing this post is that maybe, out there somewhere, is a savior for 810 Mechanic.

The house deserves a glorious resurrection.

And what a glory 810 could be.

 

 

11 Responses to THE FORGOTTEN HOUSE: 810 Mechanic, Emporia, Kansas

  1. Do you follow @cheapoldhouses on Instagram? That might be a very helpful signal boost to the right kind of buyer. (crosses fingers)

  2. Thanks for sharing the pictures,
    I’ve been curious as to the shape inside. I lived next door to this house in 2010. At that time I meet a woman who had lived at 810, growing up there as a child. She said it had been an adorable house with loads of “gingerbread trim” on the front porch. When I see this house now I try to see it as it was.

  3. I often look at houses in Emporia on Zillow. I’ve seen this house but had no idea that it is a Charles Squires house. There are several houses in Emporia that I would love to get my hands on. At 63, I think I’ve got one more scary adventure left in me. So… you never know.

  4. Sigh…this house certainly looks worn out,odd and sad. There are encouraging details there, but it would take an intrepid soul to take on this project for sure.

  5. Oh! My eye set on exactly the same details when looking at these pictures. I can imagine how awesome this house looked at it’s prime. I truely hope there will be a gentle soul to rescue this house.

  6. 810 could be a wonderful house again. I see so many like this, an ugly disguise covering a lost beauty. I sometimes imagine winning the lottery and saving these many houses. But my husband & I, in our retirement can barely afford to restore the one we have. High hopes for 810.

  7. The surviving whimsical details are captivating… especially the arched ceiling over the staircase! Squires certainly left his mark on Emporia; I cannot understand why so few in the community appreciate his work today. At least the Cross house will endure (thanks, Ross)! While the house at 810 Mechanic is not in great condition, I think “poor condition” is somewhat harsh. The house is definitely restorable and offers a lot of architectural detail and history for not much money. Thanks for sharing this treasure with us!

  8. Hi Ross. Would you mind passing me the estate agent details for the property. As you know I’m keen to follow your lead and save a house, and this could be within budget. Hope all is going well with you this fine weekend. Colin

    • Hello, Colin!

      It appears that 810 Mechanic has sold.

      It would have been a THRILL for you to have taken it on.

      And I look forward to the opportunity of meeting you one day!

      Ross

  9. You are so fortunate to live in a state that not only values it’s historic architecture, but actually contributes $$ towards the restoration. My state (Illinois) does nothing like that, and the local (county) government is constantly trying to raise my taxes every time I do something.

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