The Mystery of the Missing House
When I first considered buying the Cross House in March of 2013, I stood on the sidewalk and looked just to the south, to 524 Union Street. This house was very close to the Cross House, and it was also, oddly, set WAY back on the lot. I also knew that the 524 lot had once been attached to the Cross lots.
In addition, 524 looked like the Cross House, just a smaller version.
So naturally I assumed that 524 was the original carriage house to the Cross House but that it had been sold off many decades previously.
However, “no” was the answer I received about my assumption. I was told that 524 had been built twenty years after the Cross House.
“But why”, I asked, “does it look like the Cross House?”
“The guy who built it loved the Cross House, so he hired the same builder to create a smaller version.”
Well, I guess that was possible.
“But why”, I asked, “is it set so far back?”
“There was a historic tree on the front portion of the lot, the Centennial Tree.”
Well, I guess that was possible.
So, I shook my head, and stopped thinking about the mysteries of 524.
In December, after I reached an agreement to buy the Cross House, I realized that I had to buy 524, too, which I needed like eighteen holes in my head. But, it was sooooooo close to the Cross House, and many interior rooms of the Cross House overlooked 524. It seemed that if I was going to undertake a titanic-scaled restoration of the Cross House that it might be prudent to also control what happened RIGHT NEXT DOOR.
It was also significant that the owner of the Cross House, Bob Rodak, also owned 524. He had purchased it about ten years previously, reuniting two properties which had been separated for almost a century. It seemed, I dunno, cruel to separate them again.
So, I purchased a HUGE house needing a ton of work and a LARGE house needing a lot of work.
Yep, pretty insane.
524 is really cool, though. The main level interior has a subtle Mission-style thing going on. The living room is unexpectedly large and has a drop-dead gorgeous tile fireplace.
Going upstairs though offered an expected phenomenon. At the top of the steps it seemed as if a fracture existed in the time/space continuum, because I always had the oddest sensation that I had just walked through…a time portal. I am not kidding. The upstairs felt older than the main level.
I could never explain this odd sensation but others commented on the same thing. “It feels older up here.”
See, it was not just me.
One day, I was walking down those crazy time/space steps when a thought popped into my head: The reason the upstairs feels older than the downstairs is because it IS older.
In a flash I understod.
Number 524 was the missing carriage house.
Number 524 was built in 1894, and not twenty years later.
THE PUZZLE REVEALED
The Cross House was built on three lots. The house straddles two of the lots. The third lot, to the south, was the location of the garden, and right against the alley was the carriage house.
The carriage house sat right on the ground, and the main level likely had a dirt floor (it was used for the Cross family carriages and horses). The main structure was two-stories and with a one-story wing to the north. Upstairs would have been rooms for a groom (and his family?), perhaps male servants to the Cross House, and perhaps a gardener.
About 1915, a basement was built right in front of the carriage house. The one-story north wing was separated, the two-story block was lifted up, and moved a bit west and onto the new basement. The main (west) facade received a massive full-width one-story L-shaped porch. The interior of the main level, originally barn-like, was finished to a high standard and in the then fashionable Mission-style. Upstairs, all was pretty much left as it was save the original tongue & groove boards which were removed and replaced by proper plaster on lath.
Then the lot was separated from the two Cross House lots and the “new” house sold off. As such, 524 showed up as a legal entity for the first time, and thus its seeming creation twenty years after the Cross House was built.
THE PUZZLE NOT QUITE REVEALED
But what happened to the one-story north wing?
It crossed the lot line so it could not have remained in place.
I assumed it had been moved a bit north, to become the garage to the Cross House. But research disproved this.
I then assumed it had been moved to a nearby property to became a garage. I drove up/down numerous alleys but could find no conclusive evidence to support this theory.
Because people back then did not routinely discard stuff, including structures but a few decades old, I deeply believed that the missing north wing was somewhere.
But where? Maybe it had been moved, and I could not find it, or it had been moved and demolished decades later.
THE PUZZLE REVEALED. REALLY.
One day, while not at all thinking about The Missing Wing, a thought popped into my head. This happens often to me.
I suddenly got a shiver of excitement though my whole body when I realized that the north wing HAD been moved. Just a tiny bit. And it had been right in front of me — and everybody else — the whole time.
After the two-story block of the carriage house had been moved a bit west and upon a proper basement, the basement had then been extended to the east, and a kitchen wing constructed on it.
Not quite. Yes, the new basement had been immediately extended east. But, no, a kitchen wing had not been built on top. Instead, the new kitchen wing WAS the original north wing. Zounds!
After the carriage house had been moved onto its new basement, the north wing was turned ninety degrees, lifted up, pushed a bit to the south, and atop its new basement.
I would kill for images of this adventure.
UPDATE: In a much later post, I detail numerous new discoveries about the carriage house, negating some of what has been written above.
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