The Cross House

Year Four…BEGINS!

Three years ago, as of yesterday, I took possession of the 1894 Cross House.

The house was terrifyingly huge. H U G E.

The house was, too, in terrifying condition. Y I K E S.

So, why in the world did I do something so insane?

Well…ummm…ahhh….love. Love, baby. I was in love.

And three years later?

This love has grown. And it’s not just a sweet kinda love but a crazy passionate all-consuming love.

Previously, I wrote that for my whole existence I had the feeling that I was waiting for something. Seriously. For almost six decades this nagging feeling was always there, kinda tainting everything and instilling in me an omnipresent sense of expectation.

The feeling though vanished after buying the Cross House, and has not reappeared since.

 

This is how the house looked when I purchased it. I have never shown this image before. See the fire-escape to the right? It was actually an impressive piece of industrial art, and scary/cool climbing it, but I removed it STAT as it blighted the house and visually compromised the porte-cochère. Oh, the horror! NOTE: see how the main porch is mostly held aloft by 6×6 posts? (Image courtesy Bob Rodak.)

 

Fast forward to a few months ago.

 

And last month. Restoring/recreating all the porch columns was one of THE most rewarding things, and infuses me with a silly puffed-up pride/joy. As you can see, I am now working on recreating the lost railings. Then….the lost lattice!!!!!!!!

 

The VERY first thing I did was to clean the fabulous basement eyebrow window, under the north-facing dining room. Three years ago I laid down in the snow and scraped way decades of dirt. And I have continued a regular cleaning schedule on the window! This year the sash will be removed and restored, as with the frame and trim.

 

Day one in 2014 began the demolition of a wall, built in 1929, to create two kitchens. In the process the VERY expansive staircase was shrunk by half.

 

There was no question: THE WALL HAD TO GO.

 

With the wall gone, the 1929 infill flooring was removed, restoring the 1894 expansive stairwell opening. And, see the triple stained-glass windows above and below?

 

The “below” windows have since been restored. F A B U L O U S!

 

As have the “upper” windows.

 

F A B U L O U S!

 

This, though, was their condition three years ago.

 

And today. FABULOUS!!!!!!!!

 

 

THE SURPRISE

While I knew what I was getting into three years ago, based on long experience, I was massively surprised by one thing: this blog.

The blog began about five months after I closed on the house, and I had no idea of how integral it would become to the process of restoring the house. While today I cannot image my life sans Cross House, nor can I imagine my life sans this blog.

I was told that the blog would attract about 500 views per month. This seemed exciting! But this blog is now experiencing over 90,000 views per month. This seems mind-boggling (mind-bloggingly?). Really, I am breathless.

Over the decades I have restored and renovated many houses and projects. But these have all been somewhat solo adventures experienced by me, or with clients and their families. But via this blog the Cross House feels like a global effort. And I am continually awed by this. People from around the world offer support and advice and, even, criticism. But even with the latter I am thrilled for it means that others, from around the planet, are engaged and interested and passionate about not just the Cross House but about preserving our architectural and historic fabric. This is powerfully nourishing.

I am not alone!

In short, what had always been a kinda lonely endeavor now feels deeply like a community experience.

And I have grown to adore this. And be nourished by this. And to love you.

 

THE PRICE

Before buying the house I worked 24/7 on my vintage lighting business.

HOW was I supposed to insert a massively time-consuming project into an already overloaded life?

Well, three years later I still have no answer.

Sigh. Argh. Moan.

The answer is a tangled mess. The restoration of the Cross House has been forced into a life which had no extra room, meaning that other parts of my life were, by necessity, ejected. In just one example, before buying the house I religiously listed thirty restored lights every month. Basically one a day.

Now? It pains me, powerfully, that I now get, maybe, ten listed a month.

Sigh. Argh. Moan.

And a vacation? WHAT is that????????

 

THE REWARD

Since buying the house my every available penny has been poured into the project, as with a significant bank loan. EEK! A Kansas Trust Heritage Grant, too, was awarded in 2015 (whoee!!!!!!!!), and this was also poured into the house. Last month, the house was awarded a second Heritage Grant! WHOEE!!!!!!!! This will also get poured into the house (mostly to restore the south facade).

All old house owners will viscerally understand the following statement: the Cross House consumes money. And, I will never ever ever ever see a return on my investment and time. Indeed, money worries, even with the two grants, are aging me.

But joy? Oh…my…this has been amply hugely bigly nourished.

So, in short, all the financial worries notwithstanding, and the crushing burden on my time, there has never been a scintilla of doubt that buying the Cross House was the right thing. Indeed, buying the house, and getting my two books published, are the things I am most proud of during my now sixty years on Earth.

And now, now, year four begins!

I A M S O O O O O O O O O O O O E X C I T E D!

 

I have an open seat next to me. Wanna join in for the ride?

 

 

 

 

33 Responses to Year Four…BEGINS!

  1. I’m so glad you undertook this project, and even more glad that you’ve taken the time and emotional investment to share it with all of us. It is both educational and inspiring, and keeps me anticipating the next installment of the glorious saga.

    It’s good that you take time to look back at what you’ve accomplished. I get so focused on the next task, that I often forget to recognize what I’ve accomplished. When I do, it usually results in feelings of “wow, I really have done a lot” and “wow, how on earth did I ever do that?” I imagine you have those same wonderful and satisfying moments too.

    Looking forward to the next year of your progress!

  2. Shudder to think of what might have happened to the Cross house had you not bought it, well to be honest I had thought about it and it wasn’t positive and let’s not forget, you’re saving the carriage house too! One of the best blogs out there my friend.
    Continued good health and success.

  3. I’m one of these foreign readers from accross the ocean (France), and I am totally hooked on your blog. Not a single day without me checking what’s new! I just love how you write, explain, tell stories about your house and restorations, the sleuth work you’re doing, and how you mix a careful restoration to respect the house and a modern way of life, not turning it into a Victorian museum. I’m so looking forward to what will be done thanks to the new grant! Keep it up, wish you health and success to keep this mission and adventure going!

  4. Happy Anniversary Ross! Thank YOU for your humor, your generosity for sharing your life with your readers, and the example and encouragement you give to others. MWAH.

  5. Restoring a house like that gets into the blood. I got hooked when I was 14 when my father bought a historic Victorian not quite as bad as yours. The family Stripped paint and wallpaper off 12 rooms and a 3 story staircase

  6. You’ve come a very long way in three short years…and we are thankful that you have allowed us to tag along with you. I read several old house blogs; like so many others, I discovered you and your house through Kelly’s Old House Dreams. I initially came for ideas and tips about restoring my own old house, but you and your blog are just…well, you’re just so dog-gone special! I can be having a rough morning at work (like today), and you let me come to Emporia for lunch, to see what you’ve accomplished or uncovered since yesterday. Happy Anniversary to you and your ol’ gal! 🙂

  7. You have added such a joy to my life with your house. I just loved old houses and the refurbishing that is being done to preserve these grand ole ladies. My house was built in 1928 and Victorian in nature. Being retired and not able to restore it, my joy comes from visiting such sites as yours and dreaming. Thank you!

  8. This is like a good book. Every chapter gets a little more exciting, and we know the ending. Ross lives happily ever after in the Cross house.

  9. Happy fourth-year anniversary, Ross.Your passion and dedication in restoring the Cross House and blogging about the process have educated us and showed us a great example of careful, loving restoration. You inspire us to do well, not only in restoring houses, but also to be better human beings. Thank you for all that you do and will do. Wishing you another creative year, good health, lots of love and warm hugs. Am with you as well for the ride of a lifetime. Cheers!

  10. I don’t comment very often, but I want to tell you that your blog brings me much joy. Thank you for it and for the wonderful work you are doing on the Cross house. The difference between the “before” picture and the “now” picture is amazing!

  11. Thank you for letting us come along for the ride. I am sure we all enjoy seeing the progress and eagerly anticipating the next big surprise, but it really is sharing this with a friend. To what is new with our friend, hoping all is going well. Do well Ross, stay well and carry on.

  12. It seems like just yesterday when the Cross House was posted on Old House Dreams and you were weighing the decision to purchase it. There were so many comments of encouragement and I think I vowed then and there to be your first groupie! Well, I’m still here and I have to say that I look forward to each and every post and am slightly let down on days when there is none. Occasionally, your choices are questioned, but in the end I’m won over to your way of thinking (exterior colors for example). I imagine a lot of your followers feel as I do that there are times we feel like residents of Emporia, KS because your musings put us right there in the thick of things. (Maybe Emporia’s population data should reflect that!) So congratulations on all your accomplishments, thank you for sharing with us and I wish you all the best in this fourth year. Stay healthy, solvent and sane, for what would we do without you?

  13. Dear Ross,

    Happy anniversary! You and your passionate commitment and love for this house are inspiring. I truly enjoy every single post about this adventure and sincerely hope you continue to share your thoughts.

    Your cat stories, as declared crazy cat lady, warm my heart.

    I wish you all the best for the next years and good luck in further fundraising for your plans.

    Warm greetings from Vienna, Austria.

    Lis

  14. Ross,

    I love watching the progress and seeing the pictures. Several years ago before the house sold to the folks you bought it from a realtor called me to go look at the house as he wanted it in good hands of someone who could restore and care for it. I toured it and fell in love with it. Unfortunately my husband didn’t share my enthusiasm, as he is a contractor and builder in Emporia, and knew EXACTLY what would be involved in the restoration of this treasure.

    I am simply thrilled every time I drive by, especially at night, to see the progress, the beauty of the windows, and the majesty of this one-of-a-kind house coming back.

    Keep up the good work, I know EXACTLY what your doing and what you dealing with, you have bitten off a big bite, but just know that there are those of us out here cheering you on. So very glad you tore out that wall!!!

  15. Happy 4th Anniversary Ross. Your enthusiasm, dedication and sheer joy in this endeavour shine through in each post. As others have said, we wait in anticipation of the latest instalment and often feel part of this massive undertaking. That’s the power of your writing.
    Keep up the good work, and keep us enthralled.
    Colin

  16. I especially responded to the “not feeling alone”. I love to restore houses, and it is really hard when everyone, friends/family/contractors just thinks you should gut/vinyl window everything. I am constantly refreshed in my efforts when I read about yours, and I have learned a lot from this blog. It is quite a service. Thank you and congrats on your 4th year!

  17. I concur with everyone. I have only recently become a ‘follower’ having stumbled on your website ( yes you may thank me for being one to boost your blog to 9000 followers). I am really excited about the details who could have known that some pictures of door trims/missing handles could get me intrigued. Living in Australia we have different styles of housing and issues and were in our 5th and hopefully last big renovation. It just makes it more enjoyable to be part of someone else’s adventure. Ps I would prefer a more sedate ride like the merry go round with old fashioned attractions.

  18. Your blog has has sustained my inspiration and commitment in faithfully restoring my own beautiful folk victorian. Being naturally impulsive and exhausted by my three little ones I have been sorely tempted to cut corners, but seeing these, in my mind, pricless bits of history painstakingly brought back to life renews my determination to, “do right”, by my beauty. It is a privilege to have these homes and become a part of their great stories, you recognize that and tackle every new challenge with seemingly boundless enthusiasm and affection. I adore your work!
    Thank you, so much.

  19. Happy Anniversary Ross! I will join you but on the carousel please! Breathtaking the before and after pictures– actually mind boggling! Eyes popped out of my head! Loved the excitement of the Bo visit and posts up to the present. I felt your pain when he left. I could imagine the depression????????you and Bo are such kindred spirits that I think he had just as amazing a visit! Again congrats on entering the 4th year of your process & labor of love:-)????

  20. A vacation is the reward that people, (who don’t love what they are doing), need to justify that their work is worth the time spent and the money and benefits that they receive. Your blog is a vacation for many.

  21. Four years ago you bought Cross House. Four nights ago I started reading your blog. I watched amazed at all the beautiful jewels in Cross House. With more than a little amazement as houses as fine as this were an absolute rarity in Australia as in the 1890s we had less than a million people and there were very few who could have afforded such magnificence. So I figured tonight was a perfect night for me to comment on what an incredible house and how fortunate it is that you fell in love with it and bought it. And if I ever make my way to the US, don’t be surprised if I turn up with a bottle of something nice in my hand and a stout pair of socks to help polish the floor.

    • Thank you, Annette!

      I love the idea that people around the globe are enjoying the adventures of the Cross House! Wow!

      And what a thrill it would be to meet you, and your socks, one day!

      Much love,

      Ross

  22. I wonder if there are any grants available in Pennsylvania. Yes, old houses do nothing but eat money. You are doing a fabulous job and your home is magnificent.

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