Mike Plenert isn’t quite sure what the story of the house he jus bought includes, but he knows one thing — he intends to renovate the structure to showcase its historic architecture for its next residents.
“The history of it is still pretty much unknown,” Plenert said.
Plenert’s appreciation for the architecture of the previous century led to him buying, fixing up and flipping houses starting in 2012.
According to his research, the house at 201 S. Maple St. has only had four owners since its construction.
“It took four years to complete — from 1914 to 1918,” Plenert said. ”It cost $40,000 to build.”
The house was built to be the home of Izora “Zoe” Plasket Armstrong, who had widowed when her husband, Samuel L. Armstrong, died in 1912. The couple were married in 1892 — he a former principal at the schools in Windom and she a teacher in the McPherson schools. They had one daughter, Ruth Irene Armstrong, and also adopted one of Zoe’s nephews.
Samuel Armstrong, who first moved to Kansas from Pennsylvania in 1871, later moved to Hillsboro before moving to McPherson. He left education to work at First National Bank, becoming vice president the State Bank at Lehigh and president of the State Bank in Durham.
“Organic heart trouble” plagued Samuel Armstrong ever since 1872 when, according to his obituary in the McPherson Daily Republican, he had pitched hay in Franklin County “too long and too hard in a blazing sun.” He and his family moved to the West Coast in the months before his death, hoping the change would do him good, but their efforts were in vain. After his passing, a special car was attached to a freight train to bring him back to McPherson for his funeral.
Zoe Armstrong bought the lots on the southeast corner of Maple and Elizabeth streets in 1913.
Her home was designed by architect Frank Scrackengast, who had completed the Kuns-Collier home at 302 S. Walnut in 1909.
The 4,000 square-foot house was built with Tuscan columns on its porch, a sleeping room with windows on three sides on the second floor and a vault behind a hidden door in the basement.
“They found, in the attic, the original land deed from 1872, when McPherson was founded,” Plenert said. ”We also found a sales slip for a 1918 roadster — it was sold, brand new, for $365.”
The main level has a large entryway, library and dining room area that can be separated from each other by large oak pocket doors.
Oak trim not only runs throughout the house, it was also used by for moldings around light fixtures, framework for the wall sconce lamps in the library and to cover the radiators on the first floor.
“Even a trash can was made out of scrap wood,” Plenert said.
Flocked wallpaper of different colors still remains in several rooms in the house, nearly all of which have their own closet. The master bedroom also includes a sink.
“In the old days, the high-end homes had a sink in every bedroom,” Plenert explained.
While the majority of the house appears much like it did 100 years ago, its kitchen was renovated in 1968 — something Plenert will work to revert.
Plenert also plans to rewire the home, update much of its plumbing, add two HVAC systems, redo its exterior, add storm windows and refinish the basement.
When he is finished, an estimated six to nine months in the future, Plenert has a pencil drawing of the house done by a McPherson native Susan Sundahl Ryan that he’ll hang in the library.
“It’s going to be fun, doing this,” Plenert said. ”I want to take everything back to original as much as I can.”