The Cross House

The Worst Wall…RENEWED


Recently, I did a post about The Worst Wall. This was the view of the Worst Wall from inside the round bedroom. You can see the infilled area where a new door had been created in 1929 so the bedroom could access a newly installed kitchen. Then the door was blocked up in 1950 when the Cross House was converted into a motel. The net effect of these changes, combined with stupid structural decisions when the house was built, resulted in a wall with plaster that was literally falling off. Every week since I purchased the house in 2014, I would find chunks of plaster on the floor in front of the Worst Wall.


So, I stripped off all the plaster and lath. This is NOT something I normally recommend! I love old plaster walls and advocate for their retention. However, regarding the Worst Wall drastic measures were required. By fully revealing the studs, it was obvious that the wall was profoundly screwed up. I doubled-up most of the studs, and recreated a diagonal brace which had been cut through in 1929. The above image was taken before all this work was completed. Oh, the AC duct was something I added. I also removed the door frame and made it level.


And guess what I did today? SQUEE!!!!!!!! (I have the missing blue tiles to the mantel.)


I also discovered something REALLY odd. See the door in the above image? See the black area, lower left? See the black on the adjacent trim? That is…eek…charred wood! GASP!

But why would the wood be charred? Yes, I know, because of fire, but why a fire here? And when did this happen?

All very…curious.

In any event, I am THRILLED that the Worst Wall has been renewed. I am THRILLED that the round bedroom no longer looks so brutalized.

To me, few things are more pleasurable than de-brutalizing a fabulous old house. And, whoee, the Cross House abounds with so many such opportunities!



23 Responses to The Worst Wall…RENEWED

  1. Interesting that you’d use sheetrock; I would have thought you’d like to experiment reinstalling the lathe and plastering it (though its a lot of work). Do you ever use that method?

  2. Hello Ross!

    I see where you channeled a route in the lower wall to add electric. I need to add electric to a bedroom that is going to be my future office. Is there anything in particular that I should know before attempting this modification?

  3. Oh dear, a fire? Could it have been a kitchen fire? I recall when my father re-did sections of our house by taking down all the plaster and lath. Whew, what a lot of dust. Straightening out a door frame is tricky business. Great job!

  4. It looks fantastic Ross. I totally understand how you are able to see past all the damage and appreciate how beautiful the house truly was and how it will be again. I get the impression that the house was more or less in one piece until 1990. What specifically happened to it between 1990 and when Bob purchased it? It’s crazy how much damage was done to such a beautiful house, but, thankfully, it’s in good hands now.

    • Thank you, Kerri!

      The Cross House began to deteriorate the day after it was finished. There were structural issues from Day 1 which only grew worse wth each increasing decade.

      By, say, 1960, the house needed a massive infusion of money which it did not get. And things just grew steadily worse.

      When Bob Rodak purchased the house in 1999, the exterior was in alarming condition and the main porch close to collapse.

      in 1999, while the interior looked kinda sorta somewhat OK (all the ceilings and walls were intact, albeit laced with scary cracks), a lot of the plaster was in fragile condition, and many walls had been covered with cheap 4×8 paneling to mask damage. Then Bob rewired and replumbed the house, and added AC, which created a lot of holes. The library was gutted to the studs.

      Then I came along and tore more things apart. An entire U-shaped section of exterior wall was wholly removed because of termite damage. The kitchen and foyer ceilings were so profoundly damaged that they needed to be removed.

      My effort is to make the house in better-than-new condition by not only repairing all the damage but to correct structural issues which were built into the house from Day 1.

  5. I’m curious, was there any ever evidence of sconces on either side of the mantel, like there were on the other mantels downstairs? Or was the use of sconces limited to the first floor?

  6. The burns are very interesting indeed. I also find your air ducts interesting/intriguing. I like it better than cutting holes in the floors/baseboards, though I’ve never seen wall vents, not out west where I live.

  7. “To me, few things are more pleasurable than de-brutalizing a fabulous old house. And, whoee, the Cross House abounds with so many such opportunities”

    Ah, Ross, in spite of occasional political gloom, we can always count on you for a glass-half-full moment.

    Merry Christmas!!

  8. Why did you install the trim around the door before finishing the joints on the plaster board? Or did you just quickly tack it up for the picture?

  9. Oh! Wow! Ross, I can’t get enough of your blog, I look for it every day and I also read all of the comments. The mechanics of the blog are a reader’s dream (I love the next post, previous post buttons, I love how easy it is to find past topics). I appreciate the time you take with such small details that become large achievements. I have never done any of this work myself but I have been fascinated by the solidity and beauty that can be brought back to sad spaces. I credit Bugs Bunny for turning my attention to this. When I was 5 he renovated his burrow. The before was a dirt hole. The after showed squared off walls with pictures on them and Bugs Bunny sitting cozily in the center in a wing chair. Bliss!

  10. Don’t you hate it when you realize that someone, years ago, decided to trim the door to fit the crooked opening instead of fixing the opening?

    • Ross have you thought of jacking up in the basement to fix the “fallen” floors?
      Also can you contact the fire department to see if they have a record of any call outs to the Cross house? Just a thought. Merry Christmas.

    • Merry Christmas, Ross, and to all of the other Cross House groupies 🙂
      Thank you for another year of inspiration and humor, and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

  11. Merry Christmas, Ross! Your blog is a delightful gift to all of us, and beyond inspirational how it’s restoring you to restore the Cross House! I dream of saving a house someday and derive vicarious joy every time you “de-brutalise” a detail. The zoomable photos provide deep satisfaction when I’m wondering exactly what it looks like. I eagerly anticipate my next trip to Kansas and scheduling a detailed tour to see in real life what I’ve spent many screen hours marvelling over. Thank you!

  12. I’ve just spent a number of days binging on your blog. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and look forward to your next post

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