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  • Debbie J. Elder

Introducing the Italianate Apartment

My landlord in Fort Scott, Kansas owns 35 units in town and has a local property manager. His name is J.R. Since I arrived, J.R. has become my BFF. He is a 50-ish maintenance man with every tool in the backseat of his pickup truck available to repair things. He knows plumbing, electrical, painting, air conditioning/heating, landscaping, refrigeration, where to go to dinner, and much more. He has been very helpful. J.R. agreed to find movers to move my furnishings into the apartment (which turned out to be he and his "on-disability" 70-year old friend, Hap). They did a good job getting my heavy furnishings and boxes into the house. Whenever I call, J.R. is always positive and available to answer my questions.

Dining room with square bay window and front door

Front doors and Walk-in Closet in Dining Room

The first day when we arrived at the Italianate Apartment, I loved the charm of the property. I realized in advance that the building would be very old (built in the late 1880's) and that it would have some issues. Since I had never seen the home nor even visited Fort Scott, I was relying on photos when I selected it. Price had a lot to do with it as well. The cost of my rent is ridiculously low. A couples night out at Steak 44 in Phoenix would equal what I am paying in rent. The home came with quite a few nicks and dings, which can mostly be repaired with time.

The Living room with round bay window

J.R. had just replaced the plumbing in my unit, with new pipes, a kitchen sink, and facets. I can't complain about how hot and fast the water flows. The unit is very spacious, 1,600 square feet with three good-sized rooms, four closets (one walk-in), a laundry room, a large eat-in kitchen, and bath. The unit also has access to the basement, but after one visit to this original rock walled dirt-floor area, I won't being going down there ever again. There are an abundant 4 doors leading in and out of the apartment. I only use one of them, the back door. Two bay windows (one square and one round) flank each side of the house. A cedar closet sits off of the kitchen. Floor-to-ceiling dark pocket doors separate the three large living spaces. Carpeting is in two of these rooms, and original wood floors in the third space.

The bedroom

Cedar closet

Original pocket doors in need of restaining

The kitchen has dated 1950's maple cabinets with copper handles and wood paneling on the walls. There is not a dishwasher, nor an ice maker in the refrigerator. Luxuries that I had taken for granted until now. The bathroom has an original cast iron tub (it needs to be refinished), a makeup area, good lighting, a small sink and toilet. Kitchen, laundry and bath have linoleum floors.


Kitchen bookshelves and cabinet before painting

The previous tenant was a college student and you could clearly see that the unit has had a some abuse over 130 years.The original very dark woodwork needs restaining. The white walls and built in bookcases are marred with black marks, nail holes, and scuffs. When I expressed my disappointment in the appearance of the walls and woodwork, J.R. suggested that Hap could be available to paint. After negotiations, J.R. also agreed to buy the paint, and I agreed to pay Hap $10 an hour to repaint the apartment. So far, it has been over a week, and Hap has worked a total of 6 hours! He has painted two doors (granted they are very large), and two bookcases. The walls will all be getting a new shade of tan versus white. He is due back tomorrow so this is going to be a slow process.

Dining Room Bookshelf after Painting

Four tenants live up above me, a mom, boyfriend and two teenagers. I am surprised at how little noise I hear coming from that apartment. I certainly can hear footsteps, but never any voices, music or tv sound. I appreciate how polite my neighbors have been. So far I have met one family next door. There are two twin historic fully restored homes across the street from me that host a popular bed and breakfast and the other, a weekend-only restaurant called Nate's Place. They are owned by the same family, the Lyons Family. https://lyonstwinmansions.com

Lyons Twin Mansions, Fort Scott, KS

My unit is cooled by two wall air conditioning units. I may need a third one for the kitchen. It gets extremely humid here in Kansas, so the air conditioners have been constantly running. The three ceiling fans also help a great deal. Although it sits on a major street, the house is sound and quiet. I am adjusting and canceling out the noise from the train three blocks away that goes by 20 times a day.

I've set up my new home with the bedroom being in the coolest room, a living room in another, and the third large room is my dining room. Most of my time so far has been spent scrubbing the cabinets, laying down shelf paper, and deep cleaning the floors and wallboards. Plus, numerous trips to Walmart for supplies and groceries. Walmart is the only grocery in town.

Stay tuned for photos of my progress as I place my second-hand furnishings, decorate and get further settled. Thanks for following along!