The Cross House

Wanna Meet My Limestone?

The 1894 Cross House sits on a mighty limestone foundation. All the images enlarge if you click on them. Courtesy Walter Anderson Collection, ESU Archives.


This foundation is one of my favorite aspects of the house.


All the corners are “dressed” with margins. I had to Google that! A lovely detail creating a finishing touch. Nice. Most of the visible foundation is about three-feet-high.


I am soooooooo in love with this eyebrow window under the dining room. Tragically, it is not currently much noticed. But when the sash is restored and glossy black, and the surrounding trim painted green, and the water table trim above also painted green, this feature will POP, baby! POP!


Who knew limestone could be curvaceous?


YES! Oh so curvaceous! This is under the tower, and the stone leaps up to about six-feet-high! FABULOUS. And I adore the lattice of stone over the window. There’s another stone lattice around the sweep.


At the north porch the limestone is about three-feet-high on the left, about six-feet on the right, and it jumps WAY up to like eight-feet under the chimney. This is what I love about the architect, Charles Squires. He did not like things being static!


The north porch steps. Three words: drool drool drool. Oh hell, four: DROOL!


The columns on the main porch are mostly paired, and they sit on dramatic, tall, tapered, limestone bases. All this is a very Free Classic thing, and innovative in 1894. Thus, the Cross House is not just a Queen Anne-style house but is a Queen Anne Free Classic! Golly! Oh, and I love the chunk-o-solid-stone atop the base. Yummy. Note also the original wood lattice; I think I can restore this.


The main porch steps. More drooling.


The main porch steps have side walls and the north side has this damage. I do not know what has caused it and at some point this will have to be addressed. Otherwise all the stone looks in amazing condition.


The “big sweep” on the main porch. This image is truly a tale of two facades! The west facade is now mostly restored; the south facade is in scarily poor condition. My second grant application is to restore the south facade. Cross your fingers it gets approved! Anyway, the center stone base is not original and I look forward to removing it. I already have the railing for the sweep, and hope Doug will make, this year, the sweeping lattice under. Restoring the “sweep” of the big sweep is something I am intensely excited about. It is going to look I N C R E D I B L E.


On the south side of the main porch are two single stone bases which supported single columns. The bases were separated by a few feet, but this was filled in to create an outdoor cooker. This alteration will be reversed.


One of the more dramatic features of the house is this limestone wall holding up the porte-cochère. I am so in love with this. The wall is as straight and true as it was in 1894. Incredible.


I grew up in in a cheap-as-can-be 1950s ranch and this engendered in me a passionate appreciation for quality.

This is why, as I walk up/down the stone steps on the main porch I often think: I love these steps!

This is why as I open/close the massive sliding doors I often think: I love these doors!

This is why as I caress the eight gorgeous mantels or yet again kinda gasp at the beauty of the 42 stained-glass windows or gently drag my hand along the oak balustrade of the main stair I often think: I love all this!

Experiencing the Cross House on a daily basis makes me feel blessed. I still, after three years, walk though the house and think: THIS is mine?

I just cannot believe it quite. And suspect I never will.


21 Responses to Wanna Meet My Limestone?

  1. We all are blessed to have you share your journey with us.

    (What happened, north limestone wall? And who builds an outdoor cooker into the porch? No!)

  2. When you take down the column and rectify the space with the outdoor cooker are you going to repurpose the stone in another location? Maybe in the garden for some path ways, or around your future flower beds or something? Just curious… 🙂 I’m sure whatever you do will be lovely as always.

  3. Your limestone seems to be in excellent condition! The one we have where I live (Loire river castles valley in France), looks different, softer and is more prone to stone diseases and saltpeter because of water and humidity, and often the foundation is made of a different stone that is less “spongy”… Or not! in my 1875 limestone house we can see even on the walls inside that the bottom of the stones are humid (+ there is a stream running under the house 3m deep under only, for which we have a well, so this doesn’t help!). Also if you are in love with limestone, additionnally to our beautiful region (alert! chauvinism spotted!), check the Cotswolds area in UK, the limestone is yellower and shines in the sun. I would return there a thousand times and would not get tired of it. Absolutely gorgeous!

  4. Cindi M. asked my question, and I’m happy to hear your stones will be repurposed, I’m guessing, in your garden retreat. You will deserve a calm, pleasant outdoor space to celebrate all your achievements with the house.

    I am crossing my fingers and hoping you hear the results of the grant application soon (even if it DOES make it hard to type). When might you hear about the results?

  5. Sounds like true love to me!????
    I am so grateful to be able to read about and enjoy all those little details that make your beloved Cross House so special. Many thanks for your generous sharing of the joyful spirit of this house AND its owner!

  6. I asked this once before but I think it got lost since it was in “The Ross”. Like I said I live in an 1886 home in SE Kansas and I have five beautiful stained glass windows. Nothing compared to the Cross house. But I wondered if you knew how to find out who the artist was who did certain windows and how they chose the designs. It seems rare that there are Windows from different homes that have the same patterns.

  7. I had a fireplace once with the same dressed corner margin deals! It was a beauty carved out of local Chuckanut Sandstone in a gorgeous 1907 house a few blocks from the college in Bellingham, WA. I put the past and current owner together to save the house from demolition (old landlord sold it to new landlord for $1, who moved it and re-rented to me) but the fireplace and chimney came down before the move. The stones are currently a landscape boarder, and the new owner has no intention to restore this detail. I beg her for them before I moved out but it was a “no”…If there were ever a time I considered theft, this would be it! But somehow carting off a fireplace wort of stone might be a little conspicuous.

  8. Glad to hear the “light” hasn’t gone out in your love for this home. I am reno/restoring a large victorian (with less funds!!) and it can get quite daunting.

    • Thank you!

      My “light” for the Cross House only intensifies with time.

      And finances are an endless struggle for me, too. The house is SO huge and needs SO much work. I would never have purchased it without knowing about the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund, which helps historic houses. Luckily I was approved for a major grant in 2015, and have applied for a second grant to complete X exterior work.

      • No grants up here in Maine. I’m into my eighth year on this. Only jumped in because my father in law was a contractor. Sadly he passed away suddenly just over a year ago. Luckily I had paid attention when he was here!

        I do practically all of the work myself and it can get intimidating at times. But……I walk through the house and like you, I’m inspired.

        They don’t build them like this any more!

    • I wondered that, too. But why there, and only there?

      The stone bases for all the columns are even more exposed, and none of them exhibit the same damage.


      • Could they be stressed from sag that I notice on north side of front steps? Could the limestone taken from old barbecue be fit in to damaged limestone like a puzzle?

  9. I’d bet your lovely foundation is made of Cottonwood Limestone! In your fourth picture from bottom, the stones at the top of the photo are full of tiny fossilized sea creatures called forams (fusulinids, in fact: A quick search revealed that the upper bed of the Cottonwood Limestone is characterized by abundant fusulinids and is a commonly used, high-quality, locally available building stone.

    The wiki page for Cottonwood Limestone gives a good overview of how the limestone formed (between 280 and 300 million years ago when Kansas was a shallow sea), the characteristics of the formation (light gray or buff color, crops out in long, thick blocks, presence of fusilinids, etc.), and its use as a building stone from the time of white settlement through the present.

    The Cross House is in good company — notable buildings constructed of Cottonwood Limestone include the Kansas State Capitol, the Chase, Riley, Shawnee, and McPherson County (KS) Courthouses, and the Campanile at KU (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!). These websites list many other buildings: and

    This Kansas Geological Survey site has a map of outcrop locations (the Cottonwood Limestone is part of the Council Grove Group) and a stratigraphic section (the drawing above the map) showing where in relation to other formations the Cottonwood Limestone occurs.

    This KGS website says that Cottonwood Limestone “has been quarried for building stone at three localities in Lyon County and several large commercial quarries were formerly active in adjacent Chase County.” I couldn’t find the quarry locations, but your foundation may have come from very close to home.

    And, finally, the National Park Service has a nice little flyer about the Flint Hills Geology (including a section mentioning Cottonwood Limestone).

    Ok, that’s probably way more than you ever hoped to know about limestone…

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