Editor's note: From 2-4 Sunday, July 13, Cindy and Bill Naeger, owners of 117 Clay Street (one of this year's Preservation Award winners), will graciously host a benefit open house for Historic Topeka, Inc. The open house follows the 1 pm Preservation Awards Ceremony which will be held at neighboring Ward-Meade Park. "Potwin Drugstore" at Ward-Meade Park will also be open for touring from 2-4 pm. The following article was originally printed in the Winter 1992 issue of Historic Topeka News:
Many large wood frame Victorian house dating from 1880 to 1905 have come to be called Queen Anne in architectural style, especially those with eccentric traits that borrow from and combine other styles. To be sure, the Stuart monarch Queen Anne (1702-14) had nothing herself to do with the popular dwelling type named for her reign.
Indeed most such Topeka houses of the period can be classified as Queen Anne, reflecting a definition of the style by Virginia and Lee McAlester in their authoritative Field Guide to American Houses. They describe that such buildings are characterized by "steeply pitched roofs of irregular shape, usually with at dominant front facing gable, patterned shingles, bay windows, and other devices used to avoid a smooth-walled appearance; and asymmetrical facades with porches usually one story high that extend along side walls."
In Topeka, memorable examples of this style are the Munn House at 315 Topeka Avenue, the Clark-Hughes House at 235 Greenwood Avenue, and the former T.B. Sweet House, and former Governors Mansion, both razed.
The HTI-awarded Evans House at 117 Clay elegantly typifies the style. The composition displays a soaring, cross-gabled roof; the middle bay that is cut away on the sunny south facade for dramatic views and reflected light inside; an enchanting porch; scrolled corner brackets; and shake shingles in a band of syncopated rows across the second floor. The accompanying photograph of the house (discovered by the writer in Topeka, Kansas 1911) reveals the square, tower-like bay that once anchored the third-story gables.
The Evans House is located on land that in 1854 was a part of the Anthony A. Ward farm. Although its builder and date of construction are yet to be discovered, research to date indicates that the 1889 house next door at 127 Clay is the oldest on the block. The John H. Evans family owned 117 very early on, having a listing in the 1893-1894 Radges City Directory. He and his wife Sarah had four sons and one daughter, and the children were all raised in the large house. Mr. Evans was a prominent real estate broker. His daughter, Maude, became a stenographer, and the sons all worked for the offices of railroads in Topeka: the Santa Fe; the Rock Island: and the Union Pacific. Upon Mr. Evans' retirement to California, the house was sold to the charitable Children's Home Society.
Following that organization's tenure, new owners and renters came and left. Though the house was never carved into multiple apartments like so many of the city's large Victorian dwellings, it had been converted to duplexes in recent decades, having one unit on each floor. The rear bedroom on the second floor had been a make-do kitchen; the steep back stair rerouted for a quick rear exit, and and the bathrooms "modernized" in a 1950's fashion. Further, the original front porch was at some date repaired by the once popular amputation method. Fortunately, and not a moment too late, William and Cynthia Naeger then entered the scene.
To preface, it seems that early married life in a fine, older Manhattan, Kansas house convinced the Naegers that living in such a place would be ideal. They were especially anxious to fulfill their old-house dreams after living in very cramped quarters during Cynthia's graduate studies in Lawrence. When Bill, an architectural engineer, obtained a position with a firm in Topeka, they began to compose a wish list for their new "old house." By their decree, any such house would have to possess ALL of the following: 1. a double door front entry; 2. one or two fireplaces; 3. an open stairway; 4. restorable oak woodwork; 5. hardwood floors; and 6. pocket doors to the parlors. In brief, it just had to be a Queen Anne! They looked and looked, and so it was that otherwise strong candidates in some categories would of course be filled with paint encrusted woodwork. A century of foul, laborious paint stripping had long been a nightmarish though for them both. Eventually a local real estate broke found what would become their dream house. The property was not then on the market, but in a sneak preview was found-at first- to have failed criterion #6, but that it exceeded #2 with three wonderful fireplaces.
However dark and dingy at every turn inside, and encrusted not with paint but with decades of petrified grim, Bill and Cindy were entranced by intricately carved double front doors before the vestibule. From there another set with original plate glasses opened into the front hall where a handsome three landing stairs with finely turned balusters rose to the bedrooms. High ceilings, and mahogany and maple trim and mantles would lend grace and color to the rooms. They envisioned the possibilities, and their growing family would appreciate five comfortable upstairs rooms.
Soon, fortune smiled on both the house and the Naegers when owners agreed to sell. Soon also did typical problems of 19th century dwellings bare their weight, such as board-miles of blackened varnish, decayed plaster, broken chimneys, and antiquated wiring and plumbing. Through their years of rigorous efforts, guided by Bill's technical expertise and Cindy's gifted eye, major projects are now complete. The entire first floor is a delight. A pretty paint scheme envelops the house, and the new roof, rebuilt chimneys and reconstructed porch (designed by HTI member Vance Kelley) demonstrate commitment to the whole. The royal purple of the shingled skirt all around the house may not be in tribute to her former majesty, but it certainly says that I'm a Queen Anne.
The Naegers restoration work has inspired Historic Topeka, Inc. to present them with a 1996 Preservation Award for their house. Topekans will be pleased to view the results on Sunday, July 13, when the couple generously opens their grand double doors to the hall for viewing and refreshments following the HTI Preservation Award Ceremony at Ward-Meade Park.
Preservation Projects Approved by Legislature
Three major preservation projects were approved by the Kansas Legislature during the 1997 Session. Those projects are:
1. Rehabilitation of Cedar Crest, the Governor's Mansion
2. Restoration of House of Representatives ceiling murals and Chamber
3. Funding for rehabilitation of Memorial Hall was resolved.
Friends of Cedar Crest, Inc. led a lobbying effort to provide $1.0 million for the rehabilitation of Cedar Crest, the Governor's Mansion located in northwest Topeka. Repair and renovation work would include exterior building repairs, window replacement, interior repairs, plumbing, electrical, ventilation and air conditioning replacement, ADA compliance, and security improvements. Further, Friends of Cedar Crest have pledged to match dollar for dollar the funding provided by the state. These funds would be used for interior finishes.
House of Representatives Ceiling Mural and Chamber Restoration
Several years ago during a repainting of the House of Representatives Chamber, four ceiling murals were discovered under several layers of paint. The paint was removed on three of those murals for further study. A consultant's study showed that the murals could be restored and funding was added to this year's budget to do so.
Additional work will also include the ceiling, walls and columns within the House Chamber to make them more in tune with their original decor.
Memorial Hall Rehabilitation
Memorial Hall, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the former home of the Kansas State Historical Society, has been in a state of limbo for the past two years, as it was undecided who would be moving into the hall once it was refurbished. The building is located on the northeast corner of Tenth and Jackson in Downtown Topeka. The decision on who would be moving into the building was reached this past legislative session, and a $4.7 million rehabilitation of the hall is expected to start by the end of this year.
Boy Scouts Play Integral Role in Ross Row House Restoration
by Mark L. Burenheide
Historic Topeka, Inc. should be able to move into the front parlor and entry hallway of the Ross Row Houses by this fall, thanks to efforts by many people who have donated their time to this community preservation project.
Five Topeka area Boy Scouts working on attaining the rank of Eagle Scout have been busy at the Ross Row Houses over the winter and spring months. In order to obtain the rank of eagle, each scout is expected to complete a service project that benefits the community. Five scouts have chosen the Ross Row Houses for their projects. The majority of that work has been aimed at assisting Historic Topeka, Inc.'s effort to restore unit #2 for use as their home office and House Museum.
Dennis Hofstetter of Scout Troop 59 was the first scout to work at the Ross Row Houses. Dennis and approximately 20 members of Troop 59 spent over 300 hours to remove debris, plaster ceilings and walls and wall paper in Historic Topeka's future office space. The work was done to prepare the space for future finishing work.
Anthony Henderlong of Troop 249 has worked the past few months on removing plaster and construction debris from middle two units of the Ross Row Houses. He had 5-6 scouts assist him in his eagle project. This project will go a long way in helping Historic Topeka, Inc. market these units.
Ben Capoun, also of Troop 249, has agreed along with his father to hand drywall and do plaster work in the future Historic Topeka, Inc. office. This work will start as soon as the electrical, heating/AC and plumbing work is complete. While HTI will initially be moving into just the front parlor and entry hallway, Ben's project will go a long way in assisting HTI turn the rest of the unit into a turn-of-the-century Urban House Museum.
Joe Zimmerman and scouts of Troop 177 will be responsible for the landscaping work out in front of the Ross Row Houses. Henrynk's Greenhouse of Topeka has agreed to donate the landscaping supplies for the work. Expect Van Buren Street to include a few more trees and be a little greener when Joe is done with his project.
Adam Tritsch and members of Troop 52 have taken on a huge and very important project for Historic Topeka, Inc. Adam is responsible for the finishing work in the HTI office. This work includes plaster repair, sanding and painting. On top of that they have been working around electrical contractors, etc. to get the job done. When they are finished, the Historic Topeka, Inc. office and front parlor will sport a blue color scheme similar to the Historic Topeka, Inc. blue used on our letterhead. The entry hall will be a subtle tone of green.
Without these scouts' help this restoration project would be impossible. Many other Topeka businesses have also contributed to this project and they are listed under the Ross Roster above. Please support them. Watch the next newsletters for details on the celebration to open Historic Topeka, Inc.'s office in the Historic Ross Row Houses.
1. TOPEKA'S HISTORIC SCHOOLS:
2. FIRE STATION #5
3. TOPEKA STATE HOSPITAL
4. HISTORIC GRAVEMARKERS, STATUARYAND MAUSOLEA
5. PAXTON HOUSE
6. CONSTITUTION HALL
7. OLD POLICE STATION & ANNEX
8. KANSAS NEWSPAPER UNION BLDG. (1888), 118 W. 8th St.
9. NORTH KANSAS AVENUE HISTORIC COMMERCIAL DISTRICT
10. EASTLAKE VICTORIAN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
Historic Topeka, Inc. gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following to the restoration of the Ross Row Houses:
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