• The setting sun over the Flint Hills casts shadows across the wide expanse of tallgrass prairie.

    Tallgrass Prairie

    National Preserve Kansas

Virtual Tour Ranch House

house

Stephen F. Jones named his ranch the Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch for the springs found on the hill west of the house. The main ranch house is located two miles north of Strong City, Kansas, facing east. It was built on a hillside with a two-story exposure on the upper side and a three story on the lower level. The architecture represents a blending of Renaissance influence and Plains Vernacular. It is a Second Empire style of 19th century architecture with a mansard roof enclosing the upper story with dormers and projecting mansard gables, cornices, brackets, and stone quoins at the corners of the house.

The builder was Contractor David Rettiger of Strong City, Kansas, co-owner of Emslie, Rettiger & Company. They had "probably the finest quarries in the state." (Strong City Independent, November 2, 1881). Rettiger also built the Montezuma Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico in the mid 1880s according to the Chase County Republican, February 25, 1888. Rettiger worked on the Chase County Courthouse in 1871-72 (Strong City Independent, December 24, 1881).

 
house

Carpenters for the home were William Asher Magathan of Cedar Point and L.P. Jenson of Cottonwood Falls, KS, "one of the best carpenters in the state." (Chase County Historical Sketches, volume 2, page 136) Jenson also worked on the Chase County Courthouse in 1871-72. William Asher Magathan worked on the house as a carpenter. His tools and photo are featured in a barn display.

The native limestone used in the building was quarried and dressed at the Rettiger home quarry, north of Strong City. Individual building stones are square cut on all bearing surfaces and have a rough hewn face. The stones are all the same size. The expensive hand-cut stone would be impossible to reproduce today.

The cost for the Spring Hill Ranch was $40,000; $25,000 for the house and $15,000 for the barn and outbuildings. According to local legend it took "20 men working night and day to complete the home. There was so much activity during the construction that travelers often thought they had reached Strong City and "tried to put up for the night."

There are cornices in ten of the eleven rooms and the wooden doorway into the front of the home is handcarved. The staircase and newel post are walnut, constructed off-site. The staircase pieces were installed on-site using the Roman numerals marked on the underside between the seams. The staircase is still as true today as it was when it was first installed.

 
fountain converted to flower bed

The front yard was terraced and planted with lilac and rose bushes. What a fragrant and palatial site it must have been. In the front yard there was a fountain supplied with water piped through the home from springs located on the hill behind the house. Loutie Jones used the fountain as a "resort for gold fish" when she lived in the home. The fountain was eventually filled in by Erma Slabaugh (resident) after her son's dog drowned in the fountain. For many years it was used as a flower bed, but today the preserve has removed the dirt so that its inner features may be seen.

Explore Level 1

Did You Know?

The ranch house at the Spring Hill Ranch is made of limestone blocks.

The limestone blocks used to build the historic house, barn, and outbuildings weigh over 160 pounds per cubic foot. Limestone was quarried locally, faced or quoined, then brought to the ranch for building purposes. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve