The Curtis House

(Frank) And we’re back. And today, of course, we do this in the Dillon House, which of course, is right across from the Capitol. You can see the Capitol behind us, isn’t it gorgeous? (Deb) Still there, still there. (Frank) Come visit it. I mean it really is. But anyway, the Dillon House is also a beautiful, beautiful historic house, but it’s available for all kinds of events that you want to have. So, you can talk to the people here about that. (Deb) Have a party for your lobbyist, yea, right here. (Frank) Yea. But anyway, I’m talking about that because there are a lot of great historic houses around town. And I know that you’ve been doing some stuff on the Vice President Charles Curtis, who of course was from Kansas, was from Topeka. And you went to visit the house. You know that all the time…(Deb) Right down there. Just right down the walk. (Frank) I know. And I’m ashamed of myself because all of the time that I have lived in Topeka, I have never been in that house. (Deb) Well, you’ll have to go with us. And this is your opportunity to go Frank. Because January 25th which is the Vice President’s birthday, they have an open house. So normally where they charge for tours, this will be free and an open house. So, that is your opportunity to go. Monday, January 25th. So, y’all come to Topeka and you come and see the Curtis House. Like Frank said, it’s just down the block from the Capitol Building. Curtis had a beautiful view of the Capitol from his home and within walking distance. And of course another WREN connection, the house next door to Curtis when he was a U.S. Senator was the home of Arthur Capper, who was also a U.S. Senator. So, you had, I think it’s reported to be the only corner in the nation at that time where you had two senators living side by side. And so there’s a wonderful photo of Capper and Curtis standing there in front of their houses. And then that of course became WREN radio later on right? (Frank) Right. (Deb) Or WIBW, what was….? (Frank) WIBW was on Topeka Boulevard. WREN when it moved from Lawrence over to here was on 10th Street… (Deb) OK. (Frank) …in an upstairs studio and then they moved, of course on down the road on 10th Street. You know, sometime we might do a story on the power brokers of Kansas at that time. Because you’re right, there was Arthur Capper, there was Charles Curtis, there was Alf Landon. (Deb) Huge. (Frank) I mean… (Deb) William Allen White. (Frank) I mean, Kansas.. (Deb) It was huge. (Frank) Yes, it was. (Deb) It was huge. Had a tremendous impact on the nation. And that’s one of the things we’re talking about with the documentary film that we’re working on on the life of Charles Curtis. But in the meantime, let’s take a look at his beautiful home. Charles Curtis was born in a cabin that no longer stands on the north side of the Kansas River in 1860. He lived in various homes, and maybe even a tipi, throughout his colorful life. In 1907, as he became more successful as a lawyer and politician, he purchased a mansion on the corner of 11th and Topeka Boulevard, a home possessing a fine view of the Kansas statehouse. His neighbor on the corner to the north was Arthur Capper, publisher, governor, and U. S. Senator. The Charles Curtis Home is an example of a rather unique and distinctive residential architecture incorporating bulbous domes, Romanesque arches, and Renaissance massing. It is an early example of Eclecticism in Kansas building. Though he did not originally design the house, famed Philadelphia architect Seymour Davis made later alterations. The mansion has exceptional chandeliers, ornamental plaster, a grand staircase, parquet floors, stained and jeweled glass windows, and four fireplaces: two white oak, one solid cherry, and one of Italian marble. According to the State Historical Society, the house has more intact parquet flooring than any other historical house in Kansas. It was once described as “not surpassed by any residence in the city.” Its purchase by Don and Nova Cottrell likely saved it from the fate of many of its sister mansions along the boulevard that have fallen to the wrecking ball. The mansion has a large collection of historical memorabilia and artifacts. It is furnished with antiques, some from the Curtis family, as well as some of the Curtis memorabilia. The Cottrell’s maintain the house as a museum to Curtis’s legacy. It was placed on the National Register in 1976.

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