Built in three stages beginning in 1885, the house at Cottonwood Ranch in Studley, Kansas, reflects not only the place and time in which it was built, but incorporates some traditions of builder John Fenton Pratt’s native Yorkshire, England, as well.
The center section of the house is the original core; flanking additions were built in 1890 and 1896. An earlier porch displayed modest Gothic revival detailing while the present porch, likely dating to the 1896 addition, is of Queen Anne inspiration.
The center core consists of a dining room and a bedroom; both rooms received updated woodwork in the early 20th century and reflect the Colonial Revival. Lived in continuously by the Pratt family until 1978, the house is now owned and operated by the State of Kansas which acquired it in 1982. Don Rowlinson, site curator since 1985, has written an historical timeline of the ranch which can be
read in part here. His in-depth knowledge of both the site and the Pratt family made his tour of the house both informative and memorable. Extensive restoration, including significant structural repairs, began in 1992. More about the history of the Pratt family may be found here.
From above, it is clear that not much aligns with the cardinal directions (not even the highway though it runs basically east and west). Image courtesy Google Maps.
Fence posts of cast concrete were made on site in 1924 and give the gates a bit of stature.
This antique image shows the original core of the house prior to 1890 when it was expanded. A two room bathhouse is at left. One of the sides was for a bathtub; the other contained a two-holer. The front windows appear to hold four-over-four sash.
Mrs. Pratt and her horse pose in the crook of the first porch, sometime before 1896 when the second wing was built. The brackets feature quatrefoil cutouts. Mrs. Pratt regretted her decision to come to America and tried numerous times to flee. Eventually she accepted her fate and lived in the house until her death in 1959.
The house and second porch as they appear today. The front door is to the left of the walk and enters into the dining room. The parlor is the room at left with the bay window; it has its own entrance from the porch. Yes — the colors are historically accurate! The masonry is of two types, both native to Kansas, for dramatic effect.
The dining room was modernized in the early twentieth century with new millwork and a pressed metal ceiling. The mantelpiece was likely ordered from a catalog.
The dining room also gained a modern “ cottage window” at the time, complete with an upper sash of leaded stained glass.
I was trying to focus on the hardware but botched the photo. The mortise lock for the pocket door between the dining room and a bedroom still retains its original folding key (folding so that it could remain in the lock when the door slid into the wall).
The ceiling of the master bedroom still retains its original rough plaster finish beneath (painted) wallpaper. This room also received updated woodwork.
Doorway between the master bedroom and the daughters’ bedroom. The thickness of the stone wall of the original house is evident in this doorway. The bedroom and parlor beyond still retain their original c. 1890 woodwork and wall-to-wall carpet.
The chimney in this room is supported by a wood closet rather than the more conventional triangular brackets which were typically hidden beneath plaster. The ceiling in the daughters’ room was installed in 1916.
A working drawing made by the Wheeling Corrugating Company of Kansas City for the installation of this ceiling.
A better view of the finished product.
The adjacent parlor has a similarly opulent ceiling.
Just a step up from the parlor leads one to the front porch.
The jambs of this door are unusually ornamental. The carpenter who did the work was apparently working on a nearby train depot and used the same kind of detailing on both structures.
A veiw of the generous bay window…
…and a detail of the brackets supporting the window sills.
Now we’ve crossed the dining room and entered the 1896 wing. Here the kitchen retains its original linoleum floor! Mrs. Pratt selected a stained glass cottage window for this room as well. Note that the door to the outside (far right) is painted. We’ll look at this door again when we go outside.
In the bathroom,the original tub has returned to the house after decades of outdoor use as a stock tank. The oak rim is a reproduction of the original.
Above the tub, a double-hung window was made from what appear to be two upper sashes intended for cottage windows.
Adjacent to the oak medicine cabinet, layers of wallpaper have been carefully and methodically removed to reveal finishes the bathroom had at different time periods.
An additional sink is found in the adjacent guest bedroom which is now used as an administrative office.
The guest bedroom was also given the most expensive window in the house (Mr. Pratt saved a lot of receipts!), the jamb of which was custom made of numerous pieces of wood in order to cover the great thickness of the stone exterior wall. The crude, but effective, solution typifies the resourcefulness of rural people at the turn of the century. Now let’s head outside for another look at the house and a view of the outbuildings…
The same window from the outside. The projecting keystone, which has significance within Freemasonry, is believed to have outwardly expressed Mr. Pratt’s Masonic affiliation. Here Jim is seen coveting the window. The aqua duplicates the original paint of the porch details. Colors like this do not often appear on contemporary “historic color collection” charts because they are not as marketable as more somber Victorian-era colors. The lower half of the window has a parting bead; this indicates the window is intended to pivot outward from the top for ventilation. Photo by Don Rowlinson.
Mr. Pratt left a less subtle mark on one of the quoins surrounding a window. Other smooth-faced stones on the house have been similarly inscribed by others.
Though virtually identical, there are slight differences between the two bay windows. Here the 1890 bay has panels of diagonal bead board and no drop finials. The gable shingles are mostly octagonal but with a few rows of round ones.
Here the 1896 bay has been scraped in anticipation of painting. The panels below the windows are plain. Drop finials enliven the eave corners while the balance of round vs. octagonal shingles is reversed in the gable.
These quoins flanking the front door still show saw marks from when the blocks were first shaped.
At the side of the house, this porch shelters the kitchen door. The interior side of the door is painted. I have a hunch that this may have been the re-purposed original front door from the original dining room core of the house prior to its expansion. Hmmmmmm….
Sighting down the rear wall shows waviness, especially at the center core section. It is rumored that during construction alcohol was regularly consumed.
Many changes can be perceived in the rear wall of the house. At the center, cold joints reveal a former door location. At right, differing masonry marks the addition of the bedroom and parlor wing.
Behind the house, a rather monumental wash house served the household’s laundry needs. A root cellar / storm shelter is below it.
An exterior sign shows the ranch as it appeared in 1893 — before the final wing was added. The barn at far right is no longer standing, the victim of a tornado in 1922.
The fronts of the outbuildings align with each other and the spaces between are filled with aligning walls which help to form pens. The technique is said to be typical of Yorkshire. A shop and stable are in the foreground and a bunkhouse/storage shed is in the background.
Inside the stable, a recess in the wall was used to hold brushes for the horses. A similar, but vertical, niche on the other side of the door was believed to have been made to hold a kerosene lamp.
The largest outbuilding accommodated the shearing of sheep. Both the triangular opening in the gable and the cupola-like structure on the roof were intended as dovecotes.
Inside the shearing shed, a bolt utilizes an old plinth block in order to secure the track of the sliding door.
A final look at the house through the beautiful woven wire fence.