Home offers a magical step back in time

Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Dunbar’s dining room sports an oak parquet floor and a built in china hutch that reaches to the sky-high ceiling. A stained glass transom glows above the picture window and a nearby door leads to a private porch on the side of the house. The Dunbars used vintage railings from their home in Colony to restore the porch.

Gail and Jon Dunbar have only lived in their home at 310 East St. for a year, but they have been restoring it for a year and a half.
The house is deceptive. From the street, it appears unassuming and almost puny compared to its three-story-high neighbors. Once within, though, each doorway leads to a spacious, stately room warm with the glow of old oak and original Victorian features.
“One of the things about it is it’s so open and that’s very unusual in Victorian homes,” Dunbar said.
The 2,500 square foot house was built by Mary Northrup — “the widowed mother of the sons who built each of these houses,” Gail Dunbar said, referring to the prominent structures either side of her dwelling. The houses behind the East Street homes were also Northrup houses, built for children of the two sons, she added.
Dunbar’s home was built sometime between 1896 and 1903 and retains much of the original character.
Parquet parlors and an arched entry topped with original gingerbread work delight the eye upon first entering the home.
Hefty round-windowed oak doors lead to the front parlors from an original-tile work entryway.
“This tile floor is a feature that is very Victorian,” Dunbar said. “The fact that it’s in very good shape was a selling point for me.”
In the lady’s parlor, a petite brown graniteware tile fireplace rests in a corner. An oak stairway leads upstairs, to that part of the house not yet restored, Dunbar said. Her son and his family use the rooms when they visit. Eventually, she would like to have an exercise room upstairs as well.
“This is the third home that we’ve restored,” Dunbar said. “The first home we did we were able to get on the National Historic Register.”
The Northrup house should be no different.
“It was livable but dated when we got it,” Dunbar said. “They wallpapered all the walls in florals,” she said by way of example.
Now, those same walls have been redone with an English textured wallcovering painted muted earth tones. The colors, mellow and soothing, add to the elegance and refinement of the stately home.
Dunbar’s color choice “is the same as my house in Colony,” she said. Until recently, the couple lived in the burg 10 miles north of Iola.
She first saw Mary Northrup’s house on a tour five years ago when the home was still being used as a bed and breakfast.
“I thought, if I were going to move to Iola, this would be perfect.”

AFTER purchasing the home, the Dunbars gutted the kitchen and bath. “Everything in the kitchen is new.”
Nonetheless, the couple matched the spirit of the home with quiet cream cabinetry, a “Portofino gold” granite island that reflects colors in the fireplace tile and a leaded glass window “purchased at Architectural Salvage in Kansas City,” she said.
The vintage window looks like it was made for the house.
Dunbar favors the home’s original look, including the high ceilings. The main floor bathroom had been modernized, however, so her husband cut through the dropped ceiling to see, structurally, what could be done.
“He looked up there and said, ‘I think you’re going to want to take this ceiling out’.”
Above the tile was a plaster medallion two feet in diameter and a curved wall/ceiling junction.
The couple also removed the floor to discover original hexagonal tile. Much of it was missing, however, so they replaced it with the closest modern replica they could find.
Despite the home’s size, “This is downsizing for us,” Dunbar said.
“We had a 3,600 square foot home in Colony plus a couple acres.
“It took me four hours on a riding lawn mower to mow the lawn,” she said.
“I don’t miss the mowing.”
But Dunbar did bring a bit of her country home with her. All the furniture in the house, and the color choices, came from her home in Colony, she said. They look perfectly placed on East Street.
Even her curtains fit the Northrup windows.
“It’s like it was meant to be,” she said.