A Visit to the Koester House

The majority of house museums scattered throughout the country rely heavily upon conjecture and the acquisition of period pieces to recreate the past.  The Gothic Revival style Koester house is delightfully different, and doesn’t feel overly curated or over-restored.  It feels believable.

Completed in 1876, the house depicts life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and conveys Victorian-era life more accurately than many museums by virtue of the fact that it retains its original furnishings and artifacts.  The house remained in the builder’s family until the 1970’s when it was donated to the city of Marysville, Kansas, and restored as a museum.

Built in stages – and updated by the family over the years – the house conveys the past in a manner impossible to re-create. The grounds are as intriguing as the interior.  While the porch is not the original, and its posts not of the period, the Gothic scroll-sawn embellishments are sympathetic to the character of the house.  I had the opportunity to visit the house last summer… twenty-seven photos – primarily architectural details – follow:


The house is surrounded by a brick wall which was built to prevent flooding.


Yes; you have to step up, then down, to approach the house.


The section of house to the left (with the widest gable) was the first section to be completed.


A beautiful pedimented window hood above two segmentally arched windows.


Interior door and wainscot with original painted (grained) finish in the dining room.


A cased opening frames the dining room’s bay window.  An original lambrequin still hangs above the windows!


Light plays upon the curved corner – revealing its construction.


Detail of butt-jointed door casing with mitred backbanding.


The hall adjacent to the kitchen still retains its original pump.  The walls and wainscot are both of beadboard.  The red linoleum floor was among some of the last updates to the house.


This door was modified when new to allow for ventilation while the door is closed.


The top sash of this window – also in the kitchen – was similarly designed.


The handsome walnut newel post is quite memorable. Carpet rods on the stairs are original.


Detail of newel, camel-back handrail and balusters.


Detail of curved stair brackets.



Wall niche at top of stair.


This upstairs closet door was never painted over and still retains its original grained finish. Note ceramic knob and matching keyhole cover. The extraneous strike plate on the jamb is a result of the door swing having been changed; the door formerly swung into the hallway rather than into the closet as it does now.


Detail of baulustrade rail as it intersects the molded plaster corner and terminates into the backbanded door casing of closet.  Note the hinge leaf which provides evidence that the door previously swung into the hallway.  It now swings into the cloest (below) which makes more sense from a practical point of view.


Interior of storage closet. Note that the plaster has never been painted.


Balustrade of service stair.



Transom with cut (or engraved) frosted glass.


1870’s or 1880’s linoleum – an incredibly rare survivor. The threshold shows the various paint choices made over the decades.


Outside, bracketing distinguishes a covered walkway supported by chamfered posts.


Exterior of the top-of-the-line outhouse.


Outhouse interior.


Chamfered post flanked by latticework in walkway.




One of several statues gracing the lawn.








7 Responses to A Visit to the Koester House

  1. Very neat. Thanks for sharing!

    It appears to be well-kept, and the exterior looks like it’s been freshly painted.

    It is nice in a different way to see a museum house that tells the story of its life, rather than just one point in time.

    • Always happy to share interesting architectural anomalies! This place is really worth visiting; they’ve done a great job with a shoestring budget and deserve attention and support. It’s about the closest you can get to physical time-travel. And it’s only about 2 1/2 hours from either Kansas City or Omaha!

  2. I have had to visit Marysville several times over the years with work while living in a KCMO & KS suburb. I have seen the outside –but never the inside:-)

  3. Those are great pics! I love to see the details of a place. I am pretty envious of those kitchen window and door modifications. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Hegeler Carus Mansion in LaSalle, IL. It is an enormous Second Empire pile that is in a pretty remarkable state of completeness, and non-restoredness. You can take a special end of day tour and go through 55 of the 57 rooms – it was what I got for my birthday! Anyway, if you get a chance to visit, it is really great. You can also see HABS photos if you Google them.

    • The Hegeler Carus Mansion transcends “stunning”… why had I never heard of it? The HABS photos – all 109 of them – are highly addictive! What a great birthday gift… one of the most memorable ideas I’ve heard of. Thanks for making me aware of it!

      • Tricia, our tour guide, is local. She was a real treat, and a great sport. She knows a ton about the house, and the area. I can’t recommend the long tour or the house enough. I am still thinking about it. If you go, Starved Rock State Park is within 15 minutes or so and is a wonderful place for a short hike.

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