ZOUNDS! A day of discoveries!


I admit it.

And even though it is kinda scary coming out with such an admission…I am going to go for it.


Here I go.

Really, I am ready to admit my secret.


Ok, I am taking a deep breath.



Ok! Now, scroll way down…but prepare to be…shocked!

















Really, I do!


Whew! I feels SO good getting this secret out into the light!

Of course, I understand that some readers of this blog may, may have already suspected my secret. For perhaps I have, on occasion, been incautious in my words, and perhaps have, on occasion, been a tad too enthusiastic conveying my thoughts.

But I no longer give a damn. No more hiding!




Part of what I love is that old houses FASCINATE me. New houses have no history encoded within their fabric. There is no there, there.

With an old house, history abounds.

Often this history (and I really adore this aspect) is hidden, just waiting to be revealed. Sometimes this history is in plain sight, just waiting to be observed by a discerning eye.

Today, I only spent a few hours at the Cross House. But what a few hours I had!

When I woke today, I had no idea that the day would end with startling new discoveries!




The carriage house, around 2002, shortly after Bob Rodak purchased it. The house looks grim, grim, grim. The over-powering circa-1915 front porch is obvious. The remarkable thing about the porch is that SOME of its railing are from the 1894 carriage house porches. These railing are to the right. These rails are extant, and I will be reusing them.

The carriage house, around 2002, shortly after Bob Rodak purchased it. The house looks grim, grim, grim. When the 1894 structure was converted into a house in 1921, an over-powering front porch was built. The remarkable thing about the porch is that SOME of its railings were from the 1894 carriage house porch. These railing are to the right. These rails vanished, but I recently got them back.



After I purchased the carriage house two years ago, I immediately removed the 1921 porch (and the vinyl siding). The 1894 porch was tucked into the corner. But I have no idea of what it looked like. And when the structure was converted into a house, the front entrance was relocated to where it is today. Well, after much ado, I am at last building a porch! Whoee! It does not look like much now, but when the 1894 railings go back on, and the correct lattice, it should look pretty good. Image Scott Wiltse.



The entry set dates from 1921. Over time the trim got covered wth metal, plastic panels covered over the side-lites, and a vinyl screen door was added. Note how the latter was not high enough, so the door opening was reduced in height.



I have delicate sensibilities. So, now that I had something to stand on (the new porch), I just had to remove, STAT, the metal covering the 1921 trim, the plastic panels, and the vinyl screen door. The “reducing” strip proved particularly and amazingly difficult to remove. It was three layers of 2x4s, each with (I am not kidding) about ten LONG screws in them, and then all were glued together! GLUED! All this could have survived a atomic blast! The amount of work to remove this tiny addition was incredible. Well, it will be great fun, later this year, showing the AFTER of the entry set!




OK, so finding out what was under the metal trim, plastic panels, and vinyl screen door was but of mild interest.

But, rest assured, things got WAY better.

Just around the corner from the Cross House is 613 Exchange, which I have previously posted about.

This is my second favorite house in Emporia. Why? Because it was not only designed by Charles Squires (who designed the Cross House), but it was also designed by Squires AS HIS OWN HOME!

I would kill to own 613 and restore it.

613 was built, intriguingly, as a duplex (one unit down; one up). Squires, as I have learned, lived in the first-floor unit.

It appears that I will soon get a tour of this unit, and my excitement will be great. OK, yes, I will be FREAKIN’ OUT, man!

Today, young Brian came by. He casually mentioned that he was thinking of renting the second-floor unit. Then he casually asked if I would like to go see it?


YES, leapt from my mouth! YES!



613 was built in 1894, and it has a near-twin next door, 617 (built as a single-family house). This is an extraordinary image showing the twins in their original form. 613 is on the left. Image Lyon County Historical Society.


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Note the triple porch columns. So very Squires. Also note the raised detail/flourish above the columns. WHAT is that?????


By 1948 the triple columns were gone on 613, and replaced by over-scaled columns with scamozzi capitals. Note also how the front of the porch has been changed to a sweeping curve, and the stairs relocated. As Squires lived in the house until 1934, was he responsible for these changes? Image Lyon County Historical Society.

By 1948 the triple columns were gone on 613, and replaced by over-scaled columns with scamozzi capitals. The mysterious raised detail/flourish is also gone. Note also how the front of the porch has been changed to a sweeping curve, and the stairs relocated. As Squires lived in the house until 1934, was he responsible for these changes? Image Lyon County Historical Society.


A trio of Squires-designed homes. From left to right, 613, 617, and 626 Exchange Street, Emporia. Number 626 is a confirmed Squires design. The other two, near-twins, are likely by Squires.

Today, even the scamozzi-topped columns are gone, replaced with 6×6 posts.


The redwood columns. I am in love with them to an unnatural degree.

My mind has yearned to know what the original columns of 613 Exchange looked like. In the archival image they look sorta kinda somewhat like the columns on the Cross House. Sadly, I knew that I would never have the answer to this burning equation. Or…so…I…thought! PREPARE TO BE ASTOUNDED!



ZOUNDS!!!!!!!! A single column has somehow managed to remain in situ during the last 122-years! ZOUNDS!!!!!!!! And I never noticed before! Hiding in plain sight! The minx! AND LOOK WHAT IS ABOVE THE COLUMN! An extant flourish!!!!!!!!



ZOUNDS! And I deserve a pat on the back for my admirable self-control in not rushing over this minute to strip off all that caked-on paint!



The Squires-designed column capitals remind me of the poppy capitals designed by Louis Tiffany for his estate, Laurelton Hall.




Brian and I stepped into the second-floor unit.

And I was yet amazed again.

I expected something simple.

I walked into rather elegant.



The living room, and adjacent bedroom (originally, I believe, the dining room) had a pair of beams (purely decorative), lending a surprising elegance to the rooms (not obvious in the image).



The brackets are richly detailed. They, and the beams, appear to have been varnished originally. I ache, ACHE, to restore them, and to scrape off the textured wall finish. WHAT fabulous original finish or wallpaper is hidden under layers of later finishes?



The two front windows in the living room each originally had a stained-glass transom. One is extant. I stared at it. It looked VERY familiar. Then I shrieked. I know, men should not shriek. But who could blame me when I realized that…



…I had the exact same window in the Cross House???????? I have now toured a great many Squires-designed houses, and this is the first example of repetition I have found. Wow. Wow! (The above window in the Cross House had a twin across the room. This twin is the only window in the Cross House to have gone missing. For a while today I suspected that the window in 613 might be my missing window! But archival images prove that the windows in 613 were original. This is good, because otherwise I would have to sneak into 613 at 3AM and steal the stained-glass window.)




Golly. What an afternoon.

To many people, 613 Exchange is just an old house needing a lot of work. If the house went up for sale, most buyers would pass without hesitation.

To some people, 613 Exchange would seem a a nice old house deserving of some attention.

To me, 613 Exchange is an incomparable treasure.

If I owned 613, I would copy the lone extant original porch column and recreate the 1894 porch.

I would also copy the lone stained-glass window so its adjacent twin, long gone, would be back.

I would also ever-so-carefully peel away that many layers on the walls to ascertain what the original finishes/wallpapers looked like.

I would also demolish an addition to the rear, which converted the original duplex into a 3-unit building.

I would then recreate the original layout of the second-floor.

And I would recreate the original exterior colors.

But I would need to win the lottery for any of this to ensue. Oh, and I guess I would need to own 613, too!





  1. Sharol on April 2, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I do share your extreme emotions for all things Squire and daydream of what it would be like if someone with a never ending source of funds would buy and restore all of the Squire homes in Emporia and share their enormous history and beauty with us all. Thank you for sharing your portion of Squire history…I love what you do.

  2. Tony on April 2, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I really know nothing about Squire but I have to say I love his use of curves around the upper windows. You have several of those yourself Ross. One of my all time favorite things about old houses.

    • Tony on April 2, 2016 at 11:44 am

      And if you zoom in on the picture of the house currently, you can see more of the columns flanking that window.

      • Ross on April 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm

        OMG! You are right! I did not see the columns adjacent to the third-story window of 613!!!!!!

        • Tony on April 2, 2016 at 8:30 pm

          617 has them as well! Even the columns on the second floor balcony no longer have them. Do you know the family that lives in 617? Do you know what the inside looks like?

          • Ross on April 2, 2016 at 10:05 pm

            Don and EJ live in 617, and they are a delight. They showed Brian and I 613 (they manage it for the owner), and I have had a partial tour of their home.

  3. Andi on April 2, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I have spent the last two days reading every entry! I think this is my new favorite blog. I’m starting ESU in the summer for a second Masters degree and will be in town twice a semester. I must drive by and see this for myself!

    • Ross on April 2, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      Every entry? Golly! That certainly deserves a grand tour of the house! Stay in touch and let me know when you will be in town!

      • Andi on April 3, 2016 at 10:02 am

        Every entry! I have a love for renovations, especially older homes, so this intrigued me! I’m so happy that a historic home is getting the love it deserves!

      • Andi on April 3, 2016 at 12:42 pm

        Oh! And I would absolutely love, love, love a tour! How kind of you! Thank you.

  4. Carlyn on April 30, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Ross, I LOVE old houses, too! Every time I see one for sale that needs work, I want to buy it and restore all the original details. Unfortunately, we can only afford the house that we currently own. We’ve been in this 1920 house for 5 years and are still working on it. It hasn’t needed nearly as much work as yours, but the previous owner glued and screwed things in to withstand an F-10 tornado and it’s been really, really hard to undo his work to get back to the original. I know how you feel. Love reading your blog.

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