When you know company is coming, you usually spend some time spiffing up the house.
“And quite the company it will be – all of Wichita is coming through,” said Greg Kite, president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County. The alliance owns what has become known as the Betzen house, a large historic home that had a highly publicized move last November from 715 N. Topeka to 1247 N. Emporia.
Kite and a group of volunteers have been cleaning and fixing up the house for the past several weeks. It is one of four properties – all on North Emporia Avenue north of Via Christi Hospital St. Francis – featured on this year’s Historic Midtown Citizens Association’s home tour.
They’ve ripped up carpets to expose original hardwood floors, hung period-correct light fixtures and staged the 1905 home with period furnishings from Kite’s personal collection. (Earlier reports indicated the home was built in 1902, but Kite said the alliance has discovered that was incorrect.)
The annual Midtown home tour, dating back to 1974, draws as many as 1,000 to 2,000 visitors, organizers say. Besides walking through the homes where period-clad docents will share the histories of the dwellings, visitors can also see vintage cars and bicycles along the block, enjoy refreshments and listen to live music.
The oldest home on the tour is the Pratt-Campbell house at 1313 N. Emporia, built in 1887 by lumberman George Pratt and later purchased by stockman M.C. Campbell. Listed on the Wichita Historical Register, it’s considered Wichita’s best example of a Victorian home. The three-story, 5,200-square-foot home had been converted into a boarding home for World War II aircraft workers and also served as a group home. It has been owned by Steve and Janie Krull since 1997 and was on the home tour in 2000 and in 2007.
“The favorite thing about this home for me is that it’s so unique,” Krull said. Among its distinctive features: what is reportedly the first laundry chute built in a Wichita home; seven fireplaces, six with original tiles; three wooden wall safes that now serve as electrical junction boxes; a grand, intricately carved oak staircase that has no central support; and the honey birch wood in the dining room. Authentic honey birch is hard to find, Krull has been told.
With so many floors and rooms, including a little nook where the elevator and back staircase are, the home has been the perfect place for the Krulls’ 12 grandchildren to play. “They know all the best hiding places,” said Krull, who will be on hand for the tour, dressed in a period costume. All but the third floor, which serves as storage, will be open.
Arts and Crafts style
The home next door at 1323 N. Emporia was built in 1915 for the Campbells’ daughter, Jeda, a singer, and her husband Claudius Stanley, a lawyer. It is an example of the Arts and Crafts style. The design of the large living room is one of its most interesting features for Jerry Dooley and Leroy Clark, who have owned the house since 2014. The ceiling is curved to enhance the acoustics of the room. Jeda Campbell Clark would hold recitals for herself and other musicians and give music lessons in the 18-by-35-foot room.
Clark noted that Jeda wanted her home to be more open and bright than her mother’s home next door, so the house features plenty of natural light and natural wood. Even the pocket doors are made of light-colored wood and window panes, rather than solid, dark wood. The home was originally decorated by Louise Murdock, an interior designer and patron of the arts in Wichita.
Another example of the Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman, style is the home at 1247 N. Emporia, which Dick and Carol Rohloff have owned for 25 years. This is the first time the Rohloffs have opened their home for the tour, Carol Rohloff said.
The three-story home was built in 1913 and features several built-in cabinets with leaded glass in the living and dining rooms, typical of Craftsman homes. The Rohloffs have renovated the kitchen and their master bedroom.
“We’ve tried to keep the presence and feeling of the house,” Carol Rohloff said. Dick Rohloff owns a restoration business and has worked on several Midtown homes, including the Pratt-Campbell home.
Almost all the original lighting fixtures in the home are a combination of gas and electric, Carol Rohloff pointed out. The original gas fireplace in the living room has tiles depicting a Dutch man and woman. In the basement, visitors will find the home’s original boiler, although it’s no longer in use.
“It looks like something from Stephen King,” the horror novelist, Rohloff said.
The stained glass window in the stairway is original, but the decorative stenciled glass windows hanging in the kitchen and in the living room are not. Those were salvaged from a mission in Carmel, Calif. The non-working fireplace in the basement was salvaged from a Friends University building.
The Betzen house is what Kite calls a transitional home, since it represents the transition from the Victorian era to the Craftsman style
“It’s a stunning, magnificent home,” he said.
Among its more elegant features are the carved, wooden Corinthian columns that mark the entrance to the formal parlor at the front. Other distinguishing features are the leaded glass around and within the over-sized front door, three sets of double-hung stained glass windows along the staircase and curved bay windows.
“The opulence is overwhelming,” Kite said.
Historic Midtown home tour
Where: 1247 N. Emporia, 1250 N. Emporia, 1313 N. Emporia and 1323 N. Emporia
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25
What: An annual home tour sponsored by the Historic Midtown Citizens Association to benefit neighborhood projects and a scholarship to Wichita State University for a Midtown resident. Vintage cars and bicycles will be displayed along the block; the event includes refreshments and live performances.
How much: Tickets $13 (children age 12 and under admitted free), available at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1356 N. Broadway, during tour hours.
No street parking will be allowed on the 1100, 1200 or 1300 blocks of North Emporia. Parking is available at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s lot at the corner of 13th and Topeka and at 1150 N. Broadway, in the lot of the former Midtown Community Resource Center.