The Cross House


(L to R) Jim and Cindy, and Phyllis and Louis. All from Lawrence, Kansas.


This past Thursday, Jim and Cindy, and Phyllis and Louis, came by for an extended tour of the Cross House. Phyllis and Louis were last in the house in the 1970s, when they first rented the Octagon Bedroom, and then the entire top floor. For $60 a month! Furnished!

Phyllis and Louis were in their early twenties at the time, and with a young son. As they told their stories I said: “You were obviously THE coolest people in the whole city.” They smiled at each other, then looked at me, and nodded (a bit bashfully).

They also came with slides!!!!!!!! So we set up the projector in the parlor, turned off the lights, and took a trip back to the 1970s!

I was astonished! From many stories I have heard, by the 1970s the house had grown, well, shabby. But their images showed a house in good repair, a testament to the Toms family which owned the house from 1960 to 1992. There were certainly issues, like new wall paneling covering water-damaged walls, but the house looked cared for.

Another surprise was seeing the top floor (one huge open room) lived in. The room was filled with lovely antiques from the 1920s,  huge female nude portraits created by Louis, an art studio in the smaller north gable end, plants and rugs and art objects. There was an image inside the round tower with the couple and their young son, and in the background was black striped mylar paper and a black ceiling painted by Phyllis — the ne plus ultra of 1970s decor.

The now gutted south room was their kitchen and it, too, looked clean and well maintained. Next to the bathroom was a small room that Louis had converted to a sauna! Friends would come over, bake in the sauna, then cool off naked on the fire escape! Ahhhh, the 70s!

It was fascinating listening to their stories, and as we walked from room to room the past of the house came alive in a way that was new to me. They knew the Toms (distant relations) and most of the people renting rooms in the house. The only rooms they had no recollection of were the parlor and library.

When we were in the sewing room, Phyllis pointed to the mantle and said: “Our friend had this room. She always had a bottle of Ouzo right there.” I replied: “I think I will stop calling this the Sewing Room and instead call it the Ouzo Room!”


I took an image of one slide, showing the sauna flue which Louis installed through through a window!


Fast forward four decades-plus and Louis was pointing out several things and…


…the location where a swing had been installed. A swing!


Phyllis and Louis absolutely loved their time in the Cross House and have promised copies of their images. When they arrive I will do a long post: A trip back in time!

During the tour, Jim peppered me with a lot of questions, revealing his experience restoring great old houses. He and Cindy own a fabulous old house in Lawrence and I look forward, excitedly, to a tour! At one point, as Jim and I were talking about old theaters, he got an odd smile on his face and I stopped in mid-sentence and asked: “What are you smiling about?” He looked to his wife and said that Cindy had a long history with old theaters and had even written a book on the subject! At this point I laughed and said: “You are all FOUR the coolest people!” And they each nodded assent, smiling broadly.


As they were leaving to head to Radius restaurant, Louis mentioned that he had painted the huge mural on the side of the building…


…in 2003, with…


…Stan Herd (right). The mural has faded in the intense south sun so it was exciting to see the original vision.


And I look forward to visiting with the coolest people in Lawrence!



9 Responses to Visitors!

  1. Wow! What a fabulous visit down memory lane— blast from the past! Book about theatres! Wow! I bet she will love talking about the 1900 Theatre in Strong City! Sound like you had a really fun visit!

  2. What a wonderful post. I love the fact that this meeting resulted in a whole new era of the building being revealed. Looking forward to seeing the photos. Colin

  3. I love how old photographs, drawings, house parts, critters, and people all contribute to the ever-unfolding story of this great home. It’s like a living movie. What fun!

  4. So many visitors to the Cross House seem to bring much delight with them. The house seems to positively revel in them and reveals a little more of herself each time, most coquettish of her. What wonders will the NEXT visit uncover? Very much looking forward to a lovely long post full of old slides, too! *happy sigh*

  5. Pictures from past residents could be added bonus material for another chapter in your book! Talk about an egg hunt! What a blast it would be talking to the students, patients, and previous residents to get a feeling about how the house has been loved. The history of that whole town can be understood by the story of that particular house. I know you enjoy the hunt, Ross, and revel in every exciting discovery. Have you talked to the library folks for articles written about Cross House? My library still has manila folders of articles cut from newspapers back in the day. They’re like scrapbooks of many notable places in town. What a great way to spend a free hour. ( Not that there are any in that house!)

  6. Phyllis is my cousin, and I am always amazed at her’s and Louie’s adventures. This was a great story!

  7. Interesting houses attract interesting people! I anxiously await the next post in this evolving story… thanks for bringing the Cross House back to life in a way that we can all share in; it’s a story too interesting to not be told. This post makes me miss the 70’s even more than I already did…

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