Charles Curtis Home Celebrates
The Curtis Home:
The land at S.W. 11th and Topeka Blvd. where the Curtis House stands first made public record Aug. 10, 1859, when the Rev. Samuel Young Lum was given a warranty deed to the property from the city of Topeka.
Several people owned the property before May 1878, when Joseph C. Wilson bought three lots for $120 each. Tax records from 1879 indicate he built a very large house on the site.
The structure is believed to be the work of Seymour Davis, a prominent architect of the time, although no actual construction records have been found. At the time it was built it was described as "not surpassed by any residence in the city."
The Curtis residence is an example of the eclectic style of architecture popular in Kansas at the time. The two-story structure is irregularly shaped with a full basement.
The home's plan projects a free-flowing appearance, with rounded corners and gently curved lines. It is built of red brick in a common bond pattern. Trim is white, with horizontal white stone bands accenting the first and second floors and the roof line. On the second-floor these bands form sills and lintels for the windows.
Covering the main portion of the house is a roof with two four-sided bulbous domes, each with a spire. These domes rest on a decorative cornice, featuring a broad overhang.
A picture window facing east displays beautiful jeweled and beveled glass. A large bay window faces north. Several windows have semicircular tops with arches of radial brick. All second-floor windows have stone sills and lintels. Attic windows are narrow eyebrow-like openings around the perimeter of the bulbous domes.
A large porch on the east side is supported on square masonry columns. Keystones are used in some of the arches.
--Historical text is adapted from an article in theTopeka Capitol-Journal, Saturday, February 24, 1996, p. 13-CC, written by Nova I. Cottrell.
The Charles Curtis House is listed on the Topeka Partnership web site.
A story about Curtis Home in the Topeka Capital-Journal, 01/221/2011.
Arrival of United States Vice President Charles Curtis at Bryant's 1930 Commencement [video].
All photos © 1998 by Carol Yoho
After retirement, Don and Nova Cottrell took on the project of saving the historical Charles Curtis House at 11th Street and Topeka Boulevard in Topeka in 1993. Now known as the Charles Curtis House Museum, it is one of the historical attractions of Topeka. Nova enjoyed giving tours and telling the history of Charles Curtis. She and Don became friends to all who toured the house.
Don passed away on December 1, 2019. Nova passed away on April 5, 2020. Nova's obituary is available online. The Topeka Cemetery has offered honorary grave space for the Cottrell's near the grave of Vice President Charles Curtis where the family plans to place a memorial stone.
A Brief Biography of Curtis:
Charles Curtis was Vice President of the United States under Herbert Hoover (1929-1933). He is the only Kansan to hold the office of Vice President, and the only Vice President of Native American heritage. He also served as U.S. congressman and senator.
Curtis was one of the first supporters of women's suffrage, and was influential in passing Native American and farm legislation.
Curtis was born in North Topeka on January 25, 1860. After his mother died in 1863 he lived with his father's parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Curtis, in North Topeka and with his mother's mother, Julie Gonville Pappan, on the Kaw Indian Reservation in Morris County.
Kansas was named for the Kanza Indians, and Pappan was the granddaughter of Kanza Chief White Plume.
Curtis worked as a reporter for the North Topeka Times from 1877 until he began studying in Topeka law office of A.H. Case in 1879.
At age 21 he was admitted to the bar. He became interested in Republican politics and was elected as Shawnee County Attorney in 1884. He was reelected in 1886.
In 1903 Curtis began representing Kansas in national offices--serving in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1908 and in the Senate 1909-1913 and 1915-1929.
Curtis served as Vice President during the Hoover administration, (1929-1933). Hoover and Curtis lost the 1932 election and Curtis retired from public service after leaving the Vice Presidency. However he remained active in party organizations until his death Feb. 8, 1936. (Visit Charles Curtis' Topeka gravesite.) See also: Curtis Cemetery.