The Cross House

Traveling Back to 1894

 

In 1986,
In 1986, Ford introduced the Taurus. It looked like no other car on the road, and people stopped and stared when one would pass by. I thought the car was incredibly gorgeous — sooooo dashing! — and later purchased on. Today however, no one would look twice at the car, because every other car manufacturer scrambled to imitate its boldly curvaceous lines, with the result that in 2016 there is nothing remarkable about a car which was once revolutionary. Its context has been lost.

 

When the Cross House was built in 1894, it, too, had a context.

In 1894 radiators were an extraordinary invention, and people would have come into the Cross House and breathlessly asked: “Can I see a radiator?” They would have marveled over these mighty steel creations and stood agape wondering how they could produce heat with no flame or coal.

Today, most people pay no mind to radiators. They have lost their context.

In 1894 the house had all gas/electric lighting, and this also would have been wondrous. While gas lighting had been around for decades, electricity was new and miraculous. The White House was wired for electricity in 1892, so the Cross House having electricity just two years later was extraordinary, particularly for Kansas. People would have toured the house, wide-eyed at the glow from the carbon-filament bulbs.

Today, no one pays the slightest attention to a light bulb. They have lost their context.

In 1894 the house had a built-in ice chest, dumb-waiter, telephone closet, and speaking tubes — all miracles of technology.

Today, none of these are desired elements in new home construction, for they have lost their context.

So, in order to present the context of the Cross House when new, and what it represented, we need to time travel…

 

Please, will you join me for a trip back to the 1890s?
Please, will you join me for a trip back to the 1890s?

 

Isn't
Isn’t this fun!!!!!!!! I love time travel!

 

 

THE 1890s

Around 1880, houses in the Queen Anne-style were introduced, and became wildly popular.

Distinctive features of American Queen Anne-style may include:

…an asymmetrical facade; dominant front-facing gable, often cantilevered out beyond the plane of the wall below; overhanging eaves; round, square, or polygonal tower(s); shaped and Dutch gables; a porch covering part or all of the front facade, including the primary entrance area; a second-story porch or balconies; pedimented porches; differing wall textures, such as patterned wood shingles shaped into varying designs, including resembling fish scales, terra cotta tiles, relief panels, or wooden shingles over brickwork, etc.; dentils; classical columns; spindle work; oriel and bay windows; horizontal bands of leaded windows; monumental chimneys; painted balustrades; and wooden or slate roofs.”  —from Wikipedia.

 

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The porch of a Queen Anne will be highly elaborate and feature turned columns and spindles and elaborate trimmings.

 

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A Queen Anne-style house.

 

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A Queen Anne-style house.

 

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A Queen Anne-style house.

 

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A Queen Anne-style house.

 

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A Queen Anne-style house.

 

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And the Grand Dame of Queen Ane-style houses: The Carson Mansion.

 

 

THE BIG EVENT

Almost forgotten today, the The World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago, in 1893, to tremendous international acclaim. An astounding twenty-seven million people attended (even more impressive considering that the total world population was eight hundred million).

At the center of the sprawling exposition was The White City, a grouping of neoclassical structures surrounded a lake. The effect dazzled and stunned visitors, for nobody had ever seen so many buildings, all designed in the same style, creating a unified composition — on a grand, awe-inspiring scale.

The White City inspired the City Beautiful Movement, which had its effects on cities and towns across the globe.

 

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The exposition fronted lake Michigan.

 

The White City.
The White City. Pretty much everything in the image was made from a mixture of plaster mixed with cement. A temporary magnificence.

 

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No one had seen anything like The White City. It left visitors…

 

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…awestruck.

 

 

THE OTHER BIG EVENT

Also in 1893, the William H. Winslow house was completed, near Chicago, and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright was young, and not yet famous, but the Winslow House was revolutionary. No one had seen anything like it before.

While few people knew about the Winslow house, as compared to the Columbia Exposition, every architect would have been gobsmacked after seeing it published in architectural journals.

 

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The 1893 Winslow House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Now, compare this to…

 

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…the Carson mansion, built just six years previous. It was like a thousand years of architectural evolution had been compressed into just six years.

 

 

A NEW STYLE

Architects were deeply shaken by the Columbia Exposition and the Winslow House. The former of course was in the neoclassical style, while the latter was boldly innovative and modern, but architects across the land knew that what they had been designing was suddenly and hopelessly passé.

Imagine being an automotive designer when the Ford Taurus came out?

Few architects, then and now, have the creative brilliance of Frank Lloyd Wright. So, architects of the day would not have gone from designing Queen Anne-style houses to Winslow houses overnight, but would have rather started introducing subtle shifts and updates to their work.

And thus was born the Queen Anne Free Classic style:

The strongest design features of the Queen Anne Free Classic are the porch posts. Rather than the turned spindles of the Queen Anne, the Free Classic has classical columns for porch supports. Across the country, these columns often ranged from simpler Tuscan columns, to high-styled Corinthian which featured leaves at the capital. Columns are sometimes full height and sometimes only partial height, sitting on a low wall or pedestal the height of the porch railing. Columns can be individually spaced, but are often paired, especially when there is a large, open span in the porch. Railings and other details are usually simple, and often lack the complex and delicate detailing of the Queen Anne houses.

Other classical elements were introduced, including dentil detailing, Palladian windows, pediments, and other features influenced by the Columbia Exposition.

 

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A modest Queen Anne Free Classic. Note how simple the porch is, and its classical columns.

 

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Compared to a Queen Anne porch, this Free Classic porch was simplicity itself. Note the paired columns on stone bases. Note also the Palladian window to the left.

 

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More paired columns on stone bases.

 

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A period correct color scheme would do wonders for this house. Note the pediment over the entry steps, a typical Free Classic feature.

 

A modest Queen
A modest Queen Anne Free Classic. Note pediment over steps.

 

 

INFLUENCING MR. SQUIRES

The Cross House was designed by architect Charles W Squires.

Squires would have, certainly, visited the Columbia Exposition, just an overnight train ride from Emporia to Chicago.

Squires would have also, likely, been aware of the Winslow House, which would have bene published in architectural journals.

And you can see these influences in his largest residential commission in 1893: the Harrison and Susan Cross House.

 

Copy of glass plate depicting the Cross home, circa 1895. Walter Anderson Collection - from ESU Archives.
The Cross House was completed in the spring of 1894. This image shows the house when it was brand new. Image courtesy Walter Anderson Collection, ESU Archives.

 

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The house would have likely been the first of its kind in Emporia. Note the paired columns on stone bases, the absence of spindles and fretwork, and the pediment over the stairs. Image courtesy Walter Anderson Collection, ESU Archives.

 

When I purchased the Cross House, I knew it was a fabulous Queen Anne structure.

I had no idea of its context though. I did not know how modern and clean it would have looked to people in 1894. I did not know that its architect was boldly pushing his work into a new direction.

I did not know that the house was a Queen Anne Free Classic.

And I did not understand until this week how Charles Squires would have, of course, also labored to assure a very modern color scheme.

 

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This is the color scheme I selected in 2014. I worked hard at ascertaining the original colors, and have been thrilled with the results.

 

What the fuck????????
This week however I discovered that I got the wall color wrong (the trim color appears to be original). The 1894 color was MUCH lighter than what I found, which appears to be the second color the house was painted. I was unable to get my head around the idea of the house being so, ah, almost white. Huh? Huh? WHAT was Squires thinking????????

 

 

BACK TO CONTEXT

Today, after much pondering, the very pale wall color makes perfect sense.

Context.

Squires had designed a modern, advanced home.

OF COURSE he would have selected a modern, advanced color scheme.

Of course.

Now, I have something startling to show you. Scroll way down…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have never shown this image before. It dates from 1909-1915, and the image is colorized. The colors obviously reflect the colorist rather than the actual colors, and by 1909 the house would been on its second or perhaps even third paint job. But the image nonetheless conveys how the house would have looked with a very pale wall color. It looks totally different than…

 

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…this.

 

Today, as nobody pays any attention to the styling of a Ford Taurus, nobody looking at the Cross House will think that the house was something innovative in its day. And if I had gotten the original wall color right, nobody (save Bo and Eric) would look at it and think: Ah! Sooooo perfect for a very early Queen Anne Free Classic house!

 

CONCLUSION

I am thrilled with the colors I chose in 2014, and plan to continue painting the house as such. I have painted too much to start over.

Nonetheless, I am disappointed that I got things so wrong. I very much liked the idea of truly honoring what Charles Squires endeavored to create in 1894. He created something fresh and very modern, and I have slightly fudged this effect.

Sigh.

I do have a small solution, and will post this soon…

 

 

 

15 Responses to Traveling Back to 1894

  1. Ross, I have a feeling you’ve read “The Devil in the White City”. Haha Anyone out there, you should most definetly read this book by Eric Larson. It tells the story of the fair, the men who built it, and one of Americas first serial killers who used the fair as his hunting ground. Very good read! So many great architectural details.

  2. I think Mr Squires and the Cross family would be THRILLED that you’re putting so much time, effort, money, and LOVE into fixing this house. They will not begrudge you a slightly-off paint color!

  3. Ross, your time travel machine left me just a wee bit dizzy but it was a wonderful ride and worth the bout of vertigo. Thank you.

    I have a solution to your problem and am wondering if my solution is the same as yours. I’m thinking of the carriage house, of course. Paint the carriage house using the original colors. The main house will still reflect your impeccable style, while the smaller house will honor the memories of the Cross family and Charles Squires. N’est–ce pas?

      • Haha, probably not. I had such a huge crush on James Darren back in the day and was convinced every tunnel I entered would take me on an adventure.

  4. I have a question…because of the picture you posted, of the Cross House as the hospital. It is about the 3 arched windows above the front porch. The picture, you said, reflects from 1909 – 1915. So, 15-20 years after the Cross house was built. Yet in the picture you can clearly see the piece underneath the center window, that looks like rows of “squares”. And that piece was still present in some of the pictures of the house, from when you purchased it from the previous owner. Yet now, you have the wooden shingles underneath the window. I have searched through your previous posts, because I thought I remember you explaining why you replaced that piece with the wooden shingles. But I cannot find that post. I’m assuming it is because the wooden shingles were originally there. So, now my question….”why would they have put in that piece with the rows of squares, a mere 15 years later? And that piece survived for another 100+ years?

  5. The Ford Taurus today looks way better than it did originally (perhaps I’m biased since I own one.) Just like I and many others think your color palette looks way better than the colorized version you shared. The lighter color makes it look like a girl in her petticoat, she’s embarrassed her olive dress hasn’t been put on it!

  6. The lighter colors are not you or the Cross House. But the Carriage House…that’s another story!!! You paint the second color first…and the first color second. Are we all in agreement ?

  7. Sometimes in an attempt to be modern or in other ways try to please others, we compromise our values and do things we know to be wrong. In doing so, Mr. Squires may have turned from his true vision for the house. I believe your colors capture that perfect vision.

  8. In the picture from the early 1900’s the carriage house appears to be olive. So…maybe the original color of the house was olive. The newspaper article talked about shades of olive. I’m not sure if that was the carriage house or the main house. That one piece of shingle could have been a replacement shingle. You might not ever know. In any case, the house looks beautiful! If it wasn’t for you, the house would not be in such amazing condition! It seems that the structure could have collapsed due to a lack of support which you corrected! There was termite damage and broken windows and missing plaster and missing flooring. There were missing columns and lighting and lots of horrible damage bad renovations. I salute your efforts! The color is absolutely stunning. Who cares if it isn’t the original, it’s better!

  9. This post surprised me. The pic of the 1986 Taurus is what did it. Just a wee tid bit to add. I hired in at the Ford Chicago Assembly plant on May 12, 1986. I helped to build THOUSANDS of those cars! LOL For a while I swore they had to be filling the Grand Canyon with em! LOL
    My suggestion on your colour conundrum? Save the newer colour for NEXT time you have to paint…..cuz sadly there will be a next time.

  10. Ross, I recently came across your site and, of course, had to start reading it from the beginning. I read this post today and you made me realize that my house must also be a Queen Anne Free Classic. For a long time I’d thought it was a Queen Anne, but was unable to reconcile that with some very un-Queen Anneish elements that are present, such as fluted columns with scamozzi capitals(on both the exterior and the interior) as well as very simple interior door and window casing(a simple radius vs the more detailed profiles usually seen in victorians). I love everything you’ve done with the Cross house, and can’t wait till I get caught up to the present with your posts!

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