Home & Garden

Midtown Tour takes walk back in history

Jerome and Sue Streit like opening the doors of their historic landmark house to the public, and in that they are like the first couple who lived there starting in 1913. Marc and Florence Clapp received the house at 1817 Wellington Place as a wedding present and invited the public to walk the one-acre grounds every year. Members of the public can join in the tradition today and Sunday — and also go into the house — during the Historic Midtown Citizens Association Walking Tour of Homes.

The house was a wedding gift from Lewis Clapp, the 18th mayor of Wichita, to his son and new daughter-in-law. It was built right next to his own house, known as the L.W. Clapp house, at 1847 Wellington Place. That house, built in 1887, is also on the tour today, under new owners and revamped since it was on the tour last.

Two other houses, on Park Place, round out the annual tour under the title "Welcome to Our Place."

It's one of the best tours in years, according to Rhandalee Hinman of the neighborhood association, and will also include people in period dress, refreshments, riders of vintage bicycles, vintage cars and music as well. Tickets are $10 for adults, free for those under 12, and the proceeds benefit the neighborhood.

The Marc Clapp house was built during the Eclectic Movement in architecture, reflecting mostly the Colonial Revival style but also Italian Renaissance Revival and Prairie influences. Its walls are adobe brick 19 inches thick, its floors solid concrete. Sue Streit assumes that parts of the house that do not have these fortress-like underpinnings are rooms that were added later.

The house was redone extensively in 1985 when it was a symphony showhouse, and the Streits have been improving it ever since they moved in.

The Streits pretty much raised their kids in the house, and now that the kids are grown, they won't stand for any suggestion that their parents downsize.

"It's our house," Sue Streit says they say.

The horticultural roots of the Marc Clapp house have been nurtured through the years. The second owner, Robert Kellogg, had a seed business and won awards for his gardens, gaining mention in a national publication in the 1950s and 1960s.

These days, owner Jerome Streit is a master gardener who has not only planted a lush landscape on the acre property but has built an outdoor fireplace and a pergola. The yard also has an in-ground swimming pool.

Huge windows in the house offer sweeping views of the gardens, especially from the second-floor sitting room.

"When it's cold, we have a fire going," Sue Streit says. One of the things they'd like to tackle is redoing a bathroom off the sitting room. The only current "door" the bathroom has is drapery.

But "every time you start a project in a house like this it's always more" than you planned, Streit says.

The house's endearing elements include a window seat in the kitchen, quartersawed oak woodwork, a split staircase and a little passageway under the stairs that allowed someone easy access to the back door for fetching firewood.

"That is the charm of these old houses — they have so many nooks and crannies," Sue Streit says.

And the Streits enjoy sharing them on the Midtown tours.

"It really is a way to get some of those projects done," Sue Streit says.