When Elizabeth Winterbone moved back to Wichita seven years ago, it was because of a sweet two-story brick house built in 1925 along the Little Arkansas River.
She hadn’t planned to come back to town. She’d been on the East Coast since she was 10 years old, when she and her brother went to live with relatives after the deaths of their parents, Wichita State football coach Ben Wilson and his wife, Helen, in the 1970 crash of the team plane.
In 2005, Winterbone was selling real estate in New Jersey when, on a visit to Wichita, she and a friend drove by the house at 12th and Pearce that had a for-sale-by-owner sign in the yard. They dropped in, and Winterbone fell in love with the house, updated with lighted cabinets, oak leaf trim in the kitchen and Craftsman-style lighting. She was drawn to one room in particular – a library, where she could picture her many books on its floor-to-ceiling shelves.
“I had no intention of moving,” Winterbone said, but a year later, the house was still on the market, and things simply fell into place for her to buy it. So she did. And now she knows why.
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“It’s become a really healing thing to be back in Wichita,” Winterbone said, to make a home where her family had last lived together. She now works as a personal assistant and last year received a master’s degree in communication from Wichita State. Her brother, John, lives in Charleston, S.C., and she has two sons – one who lives in Florida and one who lives in California.
And her library? It is filled with books, an old Wichita State football helmet, family photos and vintage furnishings. “It’s kind of my favorite room,” Winterbone said.
You can see it – and the rest of the first floor of the house – as part of the Midtown house tour next weekend. Also on the tour will be the Historic Campbell Castle across the river, along with the Fresh Air Baby Camp, under renovation in Oak Park, and the 100-year-old Spanish-mission-style Park Villa in North Riverside Park.
The area of the tour – which is walkable if you don’t mind a hike – is in a bend of the river that Midtown and Riverside actually share. Proceeds from the tickets, which are $13 this year, will go toward the restoration of the baby camp and toward the building of a pony barn at O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd.
The latter project got included as a trade with the city of Wichita in exchange for use of Park Villa for the tour. The seven ponies that give rides at Watson Park spend most of their time in an old lean-to, and money is being raised to build them a barn, said the city’s recreation superintendent, Karen Holmes.
Costumed docents will lead guests on tours of the four buildings, and there will be refreshments. Tickets can be purchased at the castle or at Park Villa during the tour. Those 12 or under get in free with an adult.
Winterbone’s house at 1233 N. Pearce is a jewel in her neighborhood.
“I have a lot of people who stop and say, ‘I love your house,’ ” she said. “It really is the most heavenly spot.”
Historic Campbell Castle
The old Campbell Castle was the Castle Inn Riverside for 18 years before owners Terry and Paula Lowry decided to put the place on the market last year. The Lowrys live in the 125-year-old castle, and it is still for sale. Bagpipers will play at the castle on the afternoon of Oct. 13.
There is a connection between the castle and the Fresh Air Baby Camp. The daughter of the original castle owners, Eleanor Christie Campbell, was a nurse, and she was a founder of the camp for babies. The idea for the camp came from her husband, Howard Norton, who was a pediatrician. He also donated his services at the camp.
Fresh Air Baby Camp/Girl Scout Little House
The building at 1221 W. 11th St. in Oak Park was constructed in 1920 as a Fresh Air Baby Camp for low-income babies who were ill and/or better-off babies who were brought out of the hospital for some fresh air. It served that purpose until 1926, when it became a gathering place for Girl Scouts until 2001.
The building is one of only a few baby camps left in the country, the city says.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
A group called Friends of the Historic Fresh Air Baby Camp is raising money and working to repair the building, which the city owns and which will be used for rentals.
The story of Park Villa
Beccy Tanner told the story of Park Villa in 2011 in The Eagle:
More than a century ago, there weren’t many trees in Wichita, and the summer brought hot, dusty winds. That’s when Laura Ford Buckwalter, the wife of dentist Oliver Buckwalter, started a campaign to bring a shelter to Riverside Park.
She went to the City Commission and told city leaders this was something that should be done for the people, according to Linda Smith-Rogers, author of the book “Laura Ford Buckwalter of Wichita, Kansas – the Woman Who Built Park Villa in Riverside Park.”
Buckwalter was instrumental in the construction of the Park Villa shelter at 10th and Bitting.
At the turn of the 20th century – before electricity and air conditioning – the main relief for people from the heat was to go to the river bank and try to catch a breeze from the Arkansas River. The summers were so hot, infants and the elderly were dying.
The Spanish mission-style structure was a design Buckwalter chose after a lengthy battle with the City Commission over funding.
She obtained old cobblestones from the streets served by the city’s trolley system for the shelter’s construction and got prisoners from the jail to build it.
When city commissioners refused to provide guards for the prisoners, Buckwalter sat in a rocking chair with a rifle draped across her lap, watching the construction.