Historic preservation is a labor of love.
Historic preservation is a labor of love.
Sometimes it involves searching through hundreds of ancient photographs and trying to identify what and who they show.
Other times, it may require a nationwide search to find just the right lumber and glass to restore a home to its past glory, not to mention risking life and limb on rickety scaffolding to apply just the right paint.
For their efforts, Susan Marchant, Kathryn Parke, Randy Roberts and Janette Mauk were recently honored by the Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation in observance of National Preservation Month.
“May is National Historic Preservation Month, but historic preservation has been a year-round effort by our foundation for the past 17 years,” said Laura Carlson, foundation executive director. “We also applaud the Colonial Fox Theatre Foundation as its members work to restore the theater.”
She said that “preservation” and “sustainability” describe the goals of the people being honored this year.
Theme of National Preservation Month is “This Place Matters,” also the name of a photo-sharing campaign that was created to help people share the places that matter to them, to illustrate that heritage is local and that history is all around.
“This is what Randy Roberts and Janette Mauk did in their book,” Carlson said.
The book and postcard set are part of the “Images of America” series published by Arcadia Publishing. The firm first contacted Carlson, who referred them to Roberts, archivist and curator of Special Collections at Axe Library, Pittsburg State University. Mauk also works in Special Collections.
They were in exactly the right place to compile the book — Special Collections has a huge number of Pittsburg photos.
“We started a massive search and found way more photos than we could use,” Roberts said in an earlier interview.
“What was hard was deciding which ones to exclude,” Mauk added. “We could have easily doubled the size of the book, but the size of the format was 128 pages.”
There are a little over 200 photos in the finished book, the earliest image dating from 1887. Some of them had never been published before. All but about 15 photos came from Special Collections.
“The home which Susan Marchant and Kathryn Parke have has been diligently and beautifully rehabilitated, which certainly adds to sustaining that historic section of Pittsburg in general and that house in particular,” Carlson said.
“We first got to know this house as the First United Methodist Church parsonage,” Marchant said. “I believe that many people in Pittsburg will always think of it as Dr. Lloyd H. Rising’s house.”
When the Victorian house, built in 1880, came on the market, she and Parke thought long and hard before they purchased it.
Dr. Gene Vollen, former Pittsburg State University music department chairman, assured them that buying the house was a mistake, then proceeded to graciously share everything he’d learned in restoring his own historic home.
“Dr. Vollen has been a great resource and teacher,” Marchant said.
The two women did much of the work on the house themselves.
“Susan hand-sanded floors,” Parke said. “We built six different levels of scaffolding to do the exterior painting. I’m not afraid of heights but I was afraid of ladders — I got rid of that in a hurry.”
Their restoration project took them to a few out of the way places in search of suitable materials.
“The glass was about to fall out of the windows, so one of the first things we had to do was find a place that makes curved glass,” Marchant said.
They finally located a place in Oklahoma.
“You go down a dirt road, turn at a dance studio, and there’s a national glass factory,” Parke said. “They got to know us by name there.”
They also had a few surprises in their restoration work.
“Susan was scraping on the second floor, and suddenly her scraper hit open space,” Parke said. “There was some decorative molding there that had deteriorated. I felt inside, and found that somebody had stuffed the space with old gym socks. It was actually rather creative — it never would have occurred to me to do that.”
The two women have learned some valuable lessons.
“I never want to do a tin ceiling again,” Parke said. “And when we need the exterior painted again, we might have somebody else do it.”
The work on the house continues.
“We’ve gone room by room on the first floor, and now we’ll do the same procedure on the second floor,” Marchant said. “This house needed somebody who would obsess over it.”