Wanna Meet Frank and Esther?

In 1960, the Cross House was purchased by Frank and Esther Toms. The house was later inherited by their son, Bob, who sold it in 1993.

This thirty-three-year period of ownership is the longest in the 123-year history of the house. Even longer than the thirty-one-year history of the Mouse family.

I have been told by neighbors that Frank Toms loved roses, and the south side of the house had many flowering rose bushes. Today, a single rose bush exists, and I have been careful to protect it. Is this the remaining Frank rose?

So far, I have not revealed my garden plans, but do intend an oval-shaped south-facing rose garden in honor of Frank.

A while back I heard a story about Esther, and her great love of doing puzzles. I was told that when a puzzle was finished she hung them on the walls of the dining room, which the Toms used as a family parlor.

Was this story true?

Today, while looking through the hundreds of images Rob Rodak graciously gave me, I was startled to find something extraordinary:


Bob purchased the house in 1999, and took this image of the dining room, looking into the stairhall and entrance doors. And…look! Puzzles on the walls! (Image courtesy Bob Rodak.)


Bob also gave me this wonderful image, which had been printed in the Emporia Gazette, of eighty-year-old Frank repairing the porch roof!


Frank Toms. At eighty!


Frank died in 1991, and Esther two years later. Their son, Bob, died in 1998. (Image courtesy Becky Doan.)


During their long ownership the Toms ran the house as a motel and boarding house. They also leased most of the house to a fraternity and sorority (although not at the same time!), while they resided in an L-shaped apartment on the first floor. The apartment comprised the 1894 dining room, kitchen, and library.

Without the long ownership and care taken by by the Mouse family and the Toms family, I doubt the house would exist today. Those years, 1929 to 1993, were vulnerable years for big old house and many countless thousands were smashed to the ground with nary a thought.

When Frank and Esther purchased the house it was 66-years-old. A huge, wood, 66-year-old house. But I have never seen any images during the Toms years where the house did not look neat, cared for, and loved.


And this is why I look forward to the oval rose garden. A garden honoring Frank and Esther.





  1. Barb Sanford on March 19, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Such a kind and gracious gesture. I will help you dig.

    • Ross on March 19, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      You are so sweet. BIG hug!

  2. Carla Windsor Brown on March 19, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Frank had Toms Motor Company down at Cottonwood and 6th on the southwest corner. My folks always thought very highly of the Toms and their family; I love that you’ve plans for a rose garden. I was in Emporia this morning and drove by, the house is looking so good!

    • Ross on March 19, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Was Toms Motor Company where Bob Crawford is today?

      • Carla Windsor Brown on March 20, 2017 at 7:47 am

        I actually just had to pull it up on Google and see it, I never go further east than Exchange St on 6th. Yes! That is the same building and the two drives are still there even though they’ve bricked over the service door. Question, I took time to just cruise around the hometown yesterday and I am curious if any of those homes on State, West or Rural are Squires’ designs? I always admired those homes….

        • Ross on March 20, 2017 at 10:06 am

          There are hundreds and hundreds of Squires-designed homes and building in Emporia. The man was nothing if not prolific!

          Indeed, Emporia may have more structures designed by a single architect than any city in America. This is quite a distinction, but few people are aware of this.

          I am compiling a list of Squires structures. When I can find some time I will do a very long post!

          • Carla Windsor Brown on March 20, 2017 at 10:26 am

            Wouldn’t that be a neat project for a group to take on, so you can focus on a more important house, then put together a tour of Squires architecture in Emporia!! Have a great day, it’s glorious out there!!!

  3. pk on March 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    What a lovely gesture-I am sure the oval rose garden will be magnificent!

    • Ross on March 19, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      I hope so! For, I know nothing about roses!

      But, it seems important to create such a garden.

      • Marjie Harnack on March 19, 2017 at 10:18 pm

        Greetings Ross from Iowa!

        I have been so absorbed in your blog for several weeks and I almost loathe to be caught up, haha! Im so impressed by your attention to detail and ability to see beyond! I have learned so much and look forward to learning even more!

        The reason I jumped in on this part of your thread is because I know a little about roses and I have a suggestion for you regarding your rose garden…. If you plan on planting your roses yourself may I suggest a nursery supplier called Jackson and Perkins. There roses are unbelievable gorgeous and well worth the investment…. Roses are actually pretty easy, lots of sun, a little water, lots of weeding and love and they turn out just fine. Plus, they are pretty forgiving if you ignore them for short periods of time, haha!

        Best wishes for today and always!

        • David Gervais on January 11, 2019 at 5:57 pm

          Also, add compost. I don’t grow roses, I live in the wrong climate for them, so I don’t remember if it should be spring or fall or both. Other people have suggested getting a local garden club to help with grounds. There is a good chance that someone in Emporia is a rose expert.

          • David Gervais on January 11, 2019 at 6:02 pm

            I thought I was at the end of the posts but now I see that other readers are already on it.

  4. Kerri on March 19, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    That is such a sweet story and a really nice gesture on your part to honor Frank. I have no doubt that you will up on the roof when you’re eighty too! By the way, I think I’m seeing mystery doors in that first picture!

    • Ross on March 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      …mystery doors????????

      • Kerri on March 19, 2017 at 9:20 pm

        Hey! The white doors by the fire extinguisher

        • Ross on March 20, 2017 at 10:07 am

          Ah! They do not seem to be from the Cross House.

  5. Vicki F on March 19, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Who knew you were such a sweetheart? I bet Frank and Esther are keeping good watch over the Cross House and will appreciate your garden (good luck with that). You’ve got to love looking at these vintage images of your house and I’m sure you meticulously study every little detail. I’m in love with your dining room, by the way. There are so many things in that picture that cause my heart to ache with longing! Yes, I’m envious.

  6. Connie in Hartwood on March 20, 2017 at 6:18 am

    It’s impossible to separate an old house from the families who called it home. I love meeting the former owners of the Cross House. The photo of Mr. Toms on the roof is priceless!

    Roses are my thing, as you know. When the time comes for your rose garden, let me put you in touch with a garden friend of mine who lives in Kansas. (Local advice is very important when it comes to most all types of gardening.) He has experimented with, and killed, many different varieties of roses in his time, and he knows what he’s doing with Kansas’s challenging seasons. He can guide you to varieties that will do well in your climate and will provide the look that you see in your imagination.

  7. djd_fr on March 20, 2017 at 7:58 am

    At first I was thinking crossword puzzles. 🙂

  8. Mike on March 20, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Ross, have you had any contact with the Tom’s daughter-in-law or grandson? I did a little genealogical search, and it appears that they still live in Emporia…

    • Mike on March 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Correction: Their daughter-in-law, Nancy Toms, passed away in 2012. I do believe that their son may still be in the area, tho…

  9. Julie Fuller on March 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    A bit of advice about roses. I garden extensively, and I love roses. But I hated to grow them for a VERY long time, until someone gave me the best advice EVER: Only buy own-root roses, NOT grafted. Be aware that virtually ALL the roses you see at grocery stores, etc, are grafted. I’ve had very good luck with roses from heirloomroses.com. Where I live is supposed to be awesome for roses of all kinds, but I’m in a nasty micro zone that gets bad freezes and ice, you know, just often enough that I have to replace my figs, artichokes, and roses every few years. Ugh. But with own root roses, they can die back to the ground, and I don’t lose them!

    I love your idea for a rose garden. Every old house should have a few roses. And camillia, and rhubarb, and hydrangeas, and and and……*grin*

  10. Melody on March 20, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    It’s sounding like you need to spend some serious time studying all those old photos you have. You keep finding gems!!

    That photo of Frank on the roof could easily be my Grandpa, he would have been right up there too!

  11. Karen Anne on March 23, 2017 at 1:44 am

    It is impossible to say how much I love that house.

  12. Jonathan W on August 14, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I know I am rather late, and there may be posts later on about it but in the first picture there’s a chandelier, it may or may not be original, but its there..

    • Ross on August 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Hi, Jonathan!

      The chandelier in the foyer was there when I purchased the house. It is from the 1950s, and now in storage.

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