Rachel Schober knows how much she's asking when she approaches owners of historic homes in her Midtown neighborhood to participate in the annual historic home tour.
For more than 30 years, the popular tours have been a major fundraiser for the nonprofit Historic Midtown Citizens Association to benefit community projects. The 2010 tour is next Saturday and Sunday.
Schober, now in her fifth year as chairman of the tour, is asking homeowners on the tour to open their doors to up to 2,000 eager strangers.
She's asking them to smile as people with all sorts of different sensibilities assess owners' restoration expertise, and perhaps, pass judgment on their personal taste.
She's even asking them not to fret — well, not too much — if the weather turns damp and visitors track in a little mud.
"Only one house this year has asked visitors to wear those little booties to protect floors," she says.
Yes, Schober knows what she's asking because she went through it all herself two years ago when she opened her own 1888 Queen Anne, done in coral with teal and cream accents.
"It's exciting. It's a lot of work. But it's worth it," says Schober, who admits that some homeowners need a lot of convincing before they find out how worthwhile it can be. "You spend so much time and effort on the restoration hoping to get it right that, when you see people appreciate what you've done, you feel validated."
Proceeds from the tours fund Midtown neighborhood projects, from restoring architectural elements in common areas to buying swimsuits for needy kids at a local swim club to providing college scholarships to neighborhood students.
"All the proceeds go back into the community. Home owners (on the tour) aren't paid. Nobody makes a profit from this," Schober says.
But a big bonus, she says, is that the tours give residents a chance to be ambassadors for Midtown.
"We don't just showcase the homes, we also showcase the neighborhood. A lot of people outside Midtown don't think it's a viable place to live, but we want to show them that we're full of friendly people who help each other out. We want them to experience it for themselves. We even want them to hear our organ grinder that's there for special occasions. We want people to see why they should consider moving here."
This year's tour showcases four homes in the 1000 block of North Market and a fifth one nearby on North Main; the houses date from 1887 to 1916. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 9 and noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 10. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children under 12. They are available during tour hours at Breakthrough Club at 1010 N. Main.
Parking is available at Breakthrough Club or on numbered side streets around the showcased block. Market from 9th to 10th will be closed to traffic. Eating, drinking, smoking and photography will not be permitted inside the homes or on the porches.
Because four properties are in the same block and the fifth is easily walkable one block away, there will be no trolley between stops this year.
Here's a look at the tour homes:
Amidon House (1887)
At 1005 N. Market. Now owned by David Crockett, this Queen Anne-style home originally was built for settlers Marvin and Kate Garver. It was sold in 1896 to lawyer Samuel Amidon and his wife, Alice. It's known for distinctive gables, bays, porches and unique round roof over the porch. No longer a private home, it has been converted into offices.
Bowers House (1906)
At 1004 N. Market; now owned by Jason Karber. This two-story brick American Foursquare was built for surgeon Charles E. Bowers, who practiced at nearby St. Francis Hospital, and his wife, Kate. It's an outgrowth of the Prairie style recognized by symmetry and a simple rectangular plan topped by a hipped roof with large dormers. Currently under extensive restoration.
Gill House (1916)
At 1010 N. Market; owned by Bill and Carol Powers. A fine example of the bungalow style popular in the first two decades of the 20th century, this house was built for Jay M. and Florence Gill. It mixes many styles, including Craftsman, Spanish eclectic, English cottage and Mission revival.
Basham House (1906)
At 1063 N. Market; owned by Becky Medicus. This two-story Neoclassical house was built at 824 N. Emporia for longtime Wichita physician David W. Basham. It was moved to North Market in 1978 to save it from destruction. Noted for four full-height columns supporting a pedimented portico and four pairs of twinned columns supporting the porch.
Dester House (1898)
At 1203 N. Main; now owned by the Midwest Historical and Genealogical Society. Pioneer carpenter Henry A. Dester built a one-story home with a full front porch at 1005 N. Water, then added a second story between 1905 and 1909 so he could take in boarders. Once left vacant for six years, it was acquired by the genealogical society in 1983 and moved to North Main, where it now serves as the group's library.