Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Two Kansas Mansions

As we entered Coffeyville from the south, we caught sight of a magnificent home. A welcome sign beckoned us.

Mrs. Margie Marang appeared as we entered ready to answer any questions. We could have taken a tour but were in a time crunch by then. Mrs. Marang told of a two-story entry, parlor, music room, conservatory, great hall and more on the first floor. The second floor had five bedrooms and three full baths. The entire third floor was a ballroom or gymnasium. Mr. W.P. Brown owned oil and gas interests as well as a lumberyard. Date of completion of the three-story 16-room mansion was 1906.

It was a magnificent home and it prompted us to remark it reminded us of the Seelye family home in Abilene, Kansas. Built in 1905, this 25 room three-story mansion also had a music room complete with a Steinway piano, a third floor ballroom, and a bowling alley in the basement. Dr. A. B. Seelye was a patent medicine magnate. His family manufactured over 84 different products such as Wasa-Tusa and Ner-Vena.

Both homes boast Tiffany of New York designer items.

The architectural firm of Wilder and Wright of Kansas City designed the Coffeyville Brown mansion but the brochure indicates both Wilder and Wright studied with the famous New York architect Stanford White.

Impressed with an article about an architect and pictures of his work in a New York magazine, Abilene’s Mrs. Seelye hired the featured architect to design her home, although I could not find his name. Because the style of both homes is similar, one has to wonder about the Stanford White influence.

There is an additional connection between Coffeyville and Abilene. Mrs. Marang, the Brown mansion docent and Coffeyville native, told us this story. In the early 1930s, a salesman came to town. He advertised a talent show to take place on the back of his truck. Mrs. Marang was then five-year old Margie Fortner. When it came time, her daddy lifted her up on the back of the truck. She tap danced to Turkey in the Straw and won the one dollar first prize. Her mother bought her a new pair of shoes and socks with the money.

The man with the truck was selling patent medicine.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Coffeyville Flood

Coffeyville, Kansas, population 11,000, is located on Hwy 169 on which we were traveling on our way home last weekend. The small town suffered a terrible flood last summer that made national news.

A Kansas Traveler newspaper article refreshed my memory. The Verdigris River overflowed the levees. It flooded more than 400 homes and 70 businesses. Then a oil leak from the refinery combined with the flood waters.

It was hard to believe how high the water marks were on the buildings, most still standing like skeletons. We visited with an old friend from Chanute, a similar sized town nearby, yesterday. He said the oil refinery purchased many of the devastated buildings and land. Our friend also told us the refinery crews worked around the clock building back the facility after the flood.

I was astonished to learn from the Kansas Traveler article that the flood affected one of the two grocery stores and six of the seven motels in town. It is amazing how many businesses were built in the flood plane. Although
any town along a river, with enough rain, has the potential of a flood. Clinton Lake, the Corp of Engineer lake near us saved Lawrence from flooding several years ago.

We stopped by Brown Mansion, Although we did not take the tour, we heard the history from a docent. More about that tomorrow.