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!
I LOVE OLD HOUSES!!!!!!!!
Really, I do!
I LOVE OLD HOUSES!!!!!!!!
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!
I LOVE OLD HOUSES!!!!!!!!
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
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.
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. 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.
Today, even the scamozzi-topped columns are gone, replaced with 6×6 posts.
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.
THE WINDOW THRILL
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!