Advance tickets are currently available for this year’s Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour. The tour date is Sunday, December 8th, from 1 pm to 7pm, organized in conjunction with the Leavenworth Vintage Homes Society. The tour is a favorite of not only local residents, but of visitors from out-of-county and out-of-state. It has become a Leavenworth Christmas tradition and this year’s slate of historically significant homes, adorned in their holiday finery, will not disappoint.
Headquarters will again be the Carroll Mansion Museum, home of the Leavenworth County Historical Society, beneficiary of tour proceeds. Here, tickets can be called for beginning at 11am on tour day. The Victorian Gift Shoppe will also be open and holiday breads, baked in some of the best kitchens in Leavenworth, can be purchased. Live entertainment is scheduled throughout the day at the museum which will also be featuring an Edward Carroll Family exhibit throughout the house, decorated for the holidays. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the Carroll family Christmas china, a gift to Edward Carroll and his bride, Mary Ellen Hunt, on their wedding day in 1872. On temporary loan from the family, a festive mood is set in the dining room.
Six additional vintage homes will be on this year’s tour and include the grand 1201 S. Broadway home of Patsey and Robert Hessenflow. Constructed in 1932 by Leavenworth’s premier architectural firm of Feth & Feth, the Hessenflows have resided here since 1974. The home features many of its original fixtures, an impressive fireplace and three screened-in-porches. The home will also highlight favorite family mementoes and quilts.
The home at 1036 Third Avenue is a recent purchase of Kelley and Jeff Perry. The two-story Queen Anne, situated on a spacious lot, was originally owned by U.S. Senator Lucien Baker and his wife Mary. It was acquired by Fred and Elenora Reyburn Wulfekuhler in 1910, the year of their marriage. They purchased the adjacent lot and built a lovely gazebo, a focal point of the expansive shaded yard. Original to the house are two fireplaces, ornate double oak doors and oak floors.
The Colonial Revival home at 605 N. 6th street was built in 1900 by Louis Vanderschmidt, who came to Leavenworth in 1868 and resided here his entire life, becoming a partner in the William Small and Company Dry Goods store. The three-story home with fireplace was purchased in 2001 by life-long Leavenworth residents, Gail and Fred Bergman from Robert and Robin Frank who had owned the home for 12 years. Memories were made here for Fred. At the time of his birth, the home was owned by Dr. Gerber who delivered Fred at the old St. John’s Hospital, just a few blocks away. The doctor’s address, 605 N 6th, is listed on Fred’s birth certificate. The back room of the home, which is now a T.V. room, had been used as Dr. Gerber’s office. One of Fred’s not too fondest memories is that of getting his childhood shots in this room.
In 2005 the stairway and all but one of the upstairs bedroom floors were refurnished to reveal the original beautiful oak floors which are throughout the home. All the floor and ceiling moldings in the home are original.
When it comes to decorating for Christmas, Susan and Michael Garner are enthusiastic about transforming their circa 1880 home at 819 N. 6th street into a magical celebration of the season. In the old northern section of the city, this pastoral two story brick Italianate home with picket fence is situated on the southwest corner of 6th and Dakota streets. The area, which was once in the shadow of the Old Cathedral from back in the early settlement days of Leavenworth, is historically significant. After being bought and sold among early land investors, the property came under the ownership of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Founded by Sister Xavier Ross, a small group of nuns came to Leavenworth in 1858 and established a school, orphanage and hospital at the request of Bishop John B. Meige, who built the magnificent Immaculate Conception Catholic Cathedral. The present structure was likely built in the early 1880s by John McCormick who came to Leavenworth in 1858 and established his brick manufactory. The homes was later owned by the William and Agnes Dawes family. William worked as maintenance foreman at the U.S. Military Prison at Fort Leavenworth and later as a general contractor. He built the parish house at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Kickapoo, St. Joseph of the Valley Catholic Church (9 miles west of Leavenworth, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year), The First Missionary Baptist Church at 120 N. Broadway, and numerous other structures and private residences. William and Agnes raised nine children, one of whom was Joseph Jerome Dawes, who later became Judge of the District Court of Leavenworth County.
The residence of John & Beverly Lynch at 303 N. Esplanade is being brought back to life, after years of neglect. Built in the late 1850s during the ownership of Major Jacob Bloom, this original two-story red brick Italianate home saw its first major addition in 1865-66 by Richard Rees. Having acquired the home in 1876, Judge Edward Stillings hired premier builder, J.A. McGonigle, for an extensive upgrade adding an indoor bathroom, new kitchen, library, 32 gas sconce lights and 15 overhead gas lights. H.S. Burr, who built a large shoe manufacturing company in Leavenworth, called this his home from 1895 until 1903, prior to the ownership by the very colorful Ferdinand “Jesus” Mella, proprietor of the National Hotel. Current owners purchased the home a few years ago and began a complete renovation incorporating modern insulation, electrical, and plumbing while maintaining the original character of the home. The original floors, moldings, and doors are being restored. Of particular note, are the restored, original ten foot high, 6/4 double hung windows that allow the lower windows to be raised into the wall above the upper windows. With 4000 square feet of living space, the house comprises 14 rooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 fireplaces, and 5 bedrooms. Four of the original 5 double chimneys remain. The centerpiece of the home is an elaborate three-landing winding staircase and 10 foot high pocket doors from the parlor to the dining room. As the renovation continues, plans for the home’s exterior include the replication of the southern porch, the original deck on top of the eastern porch, and a widow’s walk.
Another residence on North Esplanade is that of Paul and Susan Backs, at 219, built back in 1869. Paul and Susan met while students at CGSC and before the end of the first semester the Marine jet pilot and the Army nurse were married. While participating in many runs and Volksmarches in Leavenworth, the newlyweds fell in love with the Victorian homes on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. One of the oldest of these homes, at the corner of Miami and North Esplanade, was their favorite. Years later, when it came up for sale, the Backs purchased it without hesitation. What is today a handsome two-story Italianate brick home was built in 1859 by Marcus Parrott, a Leavenworth attorney who served in the Kansas Territorial Legislature. Elias H. Durfee, a Fort Leavenworth sutler and Indian trader, purchased the home in 1868. Subsequent owners were John Richards and Orsino Giacomni, a well-known hotelier in Leavenworth. Over the years alterations incorporated Georgian Revival details. Victorian restoration began in 1984 and has continued under the Backs ownership. An addition doubled the house size to 4600 square feet, blending old with new. Today, the visitor can view a Victorian conservatory, new master bedroom, a completely remodeled kitchen and a two-car garage.
Last stop on the tour is the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Leavenworth at 423 ½ Delaware Street, which is a fine example of preservation of architectural integrity. The three-story, symmetrical brick building features classical terra-cotta ornamentation with brick pillars separating the upper story bays. Construction of the Historic Masonic Temple first crystallized on September 1, 1893. At this time plans and specifications were authorized and prepared by Brother Mason William P. Feth, noted architect, who designed numerous buildings in Leavenworth, now listed on the Federal Register of Historic Places. Work commenced on March 1, 1914, and the Cornerstone laid by the M.W. Grand Master, Charles H. Chandler on May 10, 1914. Occupying the upper floors, the Masonic Temple interior offers many examples of detailed craftsmanship in its architectural elements. Portraits on the walls are those reverenced by the members of the order and are those who were instrumental in the growth of the order in Leavenworth and across the state. One of these portraits is of Richard R. Rees, Leavenworth Probate Judge, who was one of the state’s pioneer Masons. He was elected grand master of the grand lodge of the state of Kansas when the body was organized in Leavenworth in March 1856. If you have always wondered what was above Leavenworth’s street level, now is your opportunity to visit this magnificent building’s upper floors. It’s handicap accessible!
Advance tickets for the tour may be obtained for a $12 donation at the museum and the following businesses: Candle Queen, dorMail, Ginny’s Antiques, June’s Northland, Leavenworth Antique Mall, The Pot Rack, and 5th Avenue Frames. Tickets will also be available for purchase on tour day at the museum and each of the homes on the tour for a $17 donation. The tour goes on regardless of weather. Homemade holiday breads will be available for purchase at most tour stops. For more information on the Carroll family or the homes tour, contact the museum: 682-7759, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or the website: http//leavenworthhistory.org.