Virtual Tour Ranch Business & Family Space
Mr. Jones' business office was located on the third level, as well as the family's dining room, pantry, and informal living room. Without the actual building plans from the time of construction, clues to each room's use is based on oral history interviews, historic newspapers and photographs, and architectural clues found in the woodwork and limestone. Even a small nail hole or scuff mark on the floor will provide clues to a room's use and its interior finishes and furnishings.
Family Living Space
This photo was taken in 1935, revealing that the space was utilized as more of a living room by today's terminology. In the photo we see a victrola, bookcase filled with books, telephone, and relaxing chairs and rugs. All items that give a sense of an evening's entertainment. From oral history interviews, we know the occupants during this time period weren't using the two parlors on the lower level of the home. The rooms were empty. This aids in giving a sense of how the home's interior was used during this timeperiod.
Family Dining Room and Pantry
More photos from 1935 show the family dining room and pantry. In 1935 the Benninghoven family were compelled to sell, due to financial difficulties caused by the Great Depression. Building interior photos were taken for insurance documentation. It is interesting to note that some of the interior furnishings and plants show up in several photos. A Christmas cactus is one of those plants that is transported throughout the home as photos were being taken.
When viewing the home today, take note of the wall with the built-in cabinet as seen in this photo. Sometime after 1935 the entire wall was moved south to accommodate a larger pantry/kitchen area and the wall cabinet removed. At this time a skillful carpenter replaced the top shelf to match the doorway, but note the quality of the faux wood painting. One can see a difference in the true, original artist and the faux wood painting completed later; all very interesting clues to the past.
Dumbwaiter, Pantry, and Back Staircase
Historic photos help in understanding how earlier occupants utilized the home's spaces. Through historic newspaper accounts during Jones' occupancy and later oral histories, we know that the house utilized a "dumbwaiter" to hoist prepared food from the original kitchen downstairs to the dining room upstairs. Oral history memories of this contraption somewhat differ, but they all agree that the dumbwaiter originated in the downstairs kitchen with its final resting location in the pantry area. After the wall was moved outward, the dumbwaiter's path changed somewhat.
A narrow staircase comes upstairs from the original kitchen and around to the dining room to accommodate Mrs. Jones, Loutie, and niece Becky Dean. The stairs keeps a separation between living space area and more formal space, plus it is a shorter distance.
In the photo take note of the cherry sideboard, flue cap on the wall, and the little gas heater on the floor. The gas heater is no longer here, but the piping for the line is capped. Throughout the home there are capped pipes in the floor showing where heaters were once placed. In the 1930s natural gas was located on the property and was utilized not only by the ranch, but also the nearby towns. The site of origination became known as the Davis Gasfields and the pasture took on the name "Gas House Pasture." Part of the preserve's collection are the paper gas meter reels showing the levels of gas that flowed through each gas well.
Differences in flooring can also be seen. The original flooring was 5 1/4 inch soft pine. The pine flooring can be seen in this photo. Sometime after 1935 a narrow oak flooring was placed in the home, most likely due to termite damage found during later investigation. If you look closely, the original pine boards can be seen under the oak flooring as you travel the main staircase down to the lower levels of the home. Look at the base of the bannister posts as you are on the staircase. Please use the handrail and be careful as you search for clues to the past.
Did You Know?
Cattle can gain up to 2 pounds per day grazing on the prairie grasses of the Flint Hills. The calcium found in the limestone erodes into the soil, making the prairie plants more nutritious for grazing animals. Cattle grazing is still the main agricultural use of the Flint Hills today.