Restoring a piece
Dick Varenhorst pointed out the half-inch wide notches visible on the western wall of his home at Second and Santa Fe streets in Marion.
The notches were a reminder that his house would be impossible to replicate today. Each mark was the relic of a chisel held in the hand of a man who formed each stone one by one. In the latter half of the 19th century, that stone work cost a little more than $20,000, the equivalent of $475,000 today.
As Varenhorst glanced further up the wall, he remarked on the flowing, looping tendrils of hand carvings that adorned the top of each window. Near the base of the roof, the carving stretches across the length of the wall and a carved acorn rests between flowing ribbons. In the 1870s, an acorn was a sign of good luck.
On the front portion of the house facing Santa Fe Street, a large bubble-lettered 1879 is carved into the stone. It was the fashion of the time to place the year a house was built obviously visible on the outside.
Varenhorst described himself as a history buff. It is these touches, illuminations of the history of his house, that make the money pit that it can be worth the financial hassle.
He has recently made a number of improvements to the outside of his home. The porch roof, separated in two sections in front of the building, has been repaired. It was nearly falling down last year. Varenhorst put up new roofs and new pillars. The pillars glisten bright white in the sun, but the deep red roof is not yet complete. One part of the porch roof Varenhorst restored were the fish scale shingles that dip down over the porch.
The porch was one of the unique elements that made the house an architectural landmark in early Marion. The house, along with several other homes, was featured in a railroad brochure. The advertisement attempted to entice railroad executives to move from Chicago to central Kansas.
Varenhorst loves talking about the house’s history. He said he consistently has people ask about his home. He always treats them with few tidbits of historical information.
Varenhorst has lived in the house off Santa Fe for 30 years. He grew up in Marion at a different residence. He can trace his roots back to his great-great-great-grandfather who was a blacksmith and marshal.
The house fell into disrepair under Varenhorst’s ownership the past 30 years but he is bringing it back to its former glory. Its history is something he remembers and treasures.