The College Hill Architectural/Historical Garden Tour will let you gawk at all the stately, pretty and fascinating houses in the 200 and 300 blocks of South Clifton without looking nosy or suspicious — distinct possibilities when you’re just out taking an evening stroll.
That stretch of neighborhood, running south of Douglas down the west side of the College Hill pool, is rich in architectural detail, lovely garden spots and variety. You can take a walking tour of the houses from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 15. Tickets will be $6, available at any house on the two blocks. The walk is free for children under 12.
Celia Gorlich, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, expects about half of the backyards to be open for touring. But this tour covers not just gardens but architecture and history, and tour-goers will be able learn more about those facets of the houses thanks to notes from Kathy Morgan of the city’s historic preservation office that will be part of the ticket. Proceeds from the tour will go to the neighborhood association.
Pat Butterworth knows what it means to have people gawk at her house at 314 S. Clifton — she herself used to do it before she and her husband, Bill, bought it. The red-trimmed yellow house is on the edge of College Hill Park and is notable to many for its Asian feel. Morgan said that she herself didn’t see the Oriental influence, but said that the impression could be from the open rafter tails on the front porch.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
At any rate, many people who walk through the park stop the Butterworths when they’re outside and tell them, “Your house is my favorite in College Hill,” or “If you ever sell your house I want to buy it,” Pat Butterworth said.
She was in their shoes about 40 years ago when she and her husband were renting a house on South Crestway and the city started talking about widening Kellogg, Pat said. She owned a lot of antiques, so the Butterworths started shopping for a house that would have tall ceilings and good wall space. They’d been looking for about a year when they drove by the house at 314 S. Clifton. It was at dusk, and all the lights in the house were on.
“There are 54 windows in this house, and it was absolutely beautiful,” Pat said. “It’s like a fishbowl. I said to my husband, ‘I’d really like to see inside that house.’ The architcture was so unique.”
A few months later the Butterworths were still looking for a house when Pat reminded their Realtor of her requirements for displaying her antiques. The Realtor told them to meet him at a house that had just gone on the market; the sign wasn’t even in the yard yet. When Pat saw the address, “it did not register,” she said. “When we pulled up here and it was this house, I couldn’t believe it. I came in the living room and I stopped and I said, ‘I have to have this house.’ I didn’t have to look at the rest of the house. We had four children, and it was just perfect.”
Butterworth said the house was built in 1924, and while there is no evidence that the architect was an understudy of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, it’s possible, Morgan said. “You can see the Wright flair in this house,” Butterworth said.
“I think it’s supposed to be Prairie style. I think you get the Oriental feel because of the way the trim is on the house. We have that red trim. …These are the colors the house was painted when we purchased it.”
Butterworth said that people will want to check out the water garden in front of the north front entrance to see the fish swimming around. She said she used to be on pond and garden tours but hasn’t had as much time to spend on her gardens lately.
“They’re not as spectacular as they used to be. I used to have all of them named. I had an English garden and an angel garden and a Western trail and a seaside garden.”
Among the eight doors that go in and out of the house, two sets are French doors, and there’s a sun deck upstairs where the kids used to lay out all summer, she said.
“There are two porches in front, two in back. There’s just lots of extra things about this house.”
Except, unfortunately for the rest of us, a for-sale sign.