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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Back-tracking on the yellow brick road years ago

HANDBOOK OF MARION COUNTY, KANSAS, BY C.H. BURCH PUBLISHING CO

What’s now Dorothy’s Coffee House and Tea Room at 3rd and Santa Fe Sts. began as a doctor’s office and residence in 1887, housed a succession of some of Marion’s most prominent families, and in 1895 was described as “probably the most valuable residence in the city.”

The 2½-story frame home, to which a veranda and southern addition later were added, was designed and built with separate entrances for home and office by itinerate architect Norman K. Aldrich (1856-1933).

Aldrich briefly worked as a builder in Iowa, Marion, and California and as a gold prospector in Alaska before settling in Galesburg, Illinois, where he designed several historically notable structures.

In Marion, he also did most of the carpentry and installed the original stained glass windows in what is now Valley United Methodist Church across the street from Dorothy’s.

The home was commissioned by homeopathic physician Frank H. Spence (1839-1926), who also had connections to Alaska.

Spence left Marion just seven years after the home was built, moving first to Michigan and then to Alaska, where he served for many years as a Methodist missionary.

After Spence left Marion, the house was rented to Samuel Frisby Sacket (1848-1914), partner with fellow transplanted Missourian William Wellington Loveless (1840-1908) in the burgeoning Loveless and Sacket Mercantile, which dominated Marion retail trade for decades.

In 1895, the house was sold to prominent attorney Joseph Thomas Dickerson (1864-1954), who went on to become district judge in Marion and a federal district judge in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, where he later served in other judicial posts and was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate.

Dickerson, brother-in-law of Record editor and eventual Kansas governor Edward Wallis Hoch (1849-1925), sold the house three years later to Hoch’s rival editor, John Wesley Moore (1846-1919), a former Marion County treasurer and Iowa legislator whose Marion Headlight, by then under different ownership, was merged in 1909 into the Record.

At the time Dickinson bought the house, Hoch described it as probably the city’s most valuable residence and reported that the sale price — $3,200, the equivalent buying power of nearly $100,000 today — represented “not half its value.”

Many of the early owners of the house were Methodists and strong supporters of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a group opposed to alcoholic beverages.

WCTU rallies and church events frequently were conducted there.

Curbing, landscaping, and sidewalks were added in 1904, but the home sustained considerable damage in 1905, when an upstairs water pipe burst on a cold December night.

Moore remodeled the home in 1907, repairing the water damage and replacing a small standard window on the west side of the structure with what later became known as a large picture window, improving the view from what was his library. A large veranda connecting two porches may have been added around the same time.

The building sustained substantial damage in a 1917 flood the day after Moore, by then in ill health, had sold it. Since then, a procession of owners have lived there, many of them attempting to bring the house back to its former glory.

The 2½-story frame house includes two half-moon attic windows, a widow’s watch, an impressive stairway, and, behind sliding double doors, an octagonal dining room with slate fireplace. The southern addition added 200 square feet to the original floor plan.

Last modified June 12, 2019

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