Todd Gaugler’s 1911-built mansion is a bit incongruous with the surrounding block.
Located right along South Broadway, the three-story, 7,800-square-foot home stands out among the used car lots and run-down motels that populate the street.
It was built by Henry Schnitzler, the son of Fritz Schnitzler – a German immigrant who opened Wichita’s first saloons in the late 1800s. Henry followed his father’s footsteps in the liquor business, though he later broadened his interests to real estate.
The mansion at 1002 S. Broadway cost $20,000 to build in 1911 – more than $475,000 in 2017 dollars.
The Colonial Revival home has five bedrooms, two full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms – not including a now-unfinished bedroom and bathroom on its third floor. All of the original woodwork and lighting fixtures – save three – remain in the home, as do the carved plaster walls and ceilings.
The mansion was a Jazz Age destination for Wichita socialites, who flocked to its third-floor ballroom for dances and other merriment hosted by Albertina Schnitzler, Henry’s wife.
It was furnished with quarters for a maid and servants – who communicated with residents via phones throughout the home and a dumbwaiter to ferry meals and other items.
Henry Schnitzler volunteered the home as the first official meeting place of the Wichita Elks Club.
The Schnitzlers sold the home in 1938 to the Women’s Home Mission of the Kansas conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which converted it to a dormitory for working girls.
It was called Esther Hall, and at one point as many as 30 girls were living in the house.
Some of those girls were even married in the home.
Remnants of Esther Hall still remain in the home: when Gaugler was renovating the master bedroom, he said he pulled out the baseboards to find about 30,000 bobby pins, presumably from the house’s dormitory days.
“It’s amazing how many fell behind there,” he said. “I had a huge jar just full of bobby pins.”
In 1982, it was sold to an energy exploration company, which converted the home into office space.
Little more than a decade later, Sharon Gaugler and Conner Lindsey bought the home and began restoring it to its former glory.
Their son, Todd, purchased the home in 2001.
Motivated by a love of history, Gaugler, his wife, and two children moved from their Riverside home to the Schnitzler Mansion – repainting walls to match the original colors, and even acquiring some of the original furniture from 1911.
Todd Gaugler made contact with one of Henry Schnitzler’s granddaughters in 2012 and invited her from California back to Wichita to return to her grandfather’s home. She brought with her those original pieces of furniture – which were sitting in her basement. Gaugler purchased them for the home.
Despite living on a major thoroughfare, Gaugler said his family has never experienced any major problems.
The location is meaningful to him, he said: decades ago, when he worked as a Wichita police officer, his beat area included the Schnitzler mansion.
Gaugler, who now works as a private pilot, said he enjoys living in the home – though he would consider selling it to the right buyer.
“This is really a time capsule from 1911,” he said.
Every month, the Eagle will publish a video tour of one of the Wichita area’s most unique homes.
We’re calling the series “My Home.”
Until then, enjoy an exclusive tour of this history-packed mansion at Kansas.com/keeper.