Conrad Snider and Diane Sorensen are making final preparations for a day to show off a home they have spent the last couple of years renovating — one of the oldest houses in North Newton.
"We both have a love of old and interesting houses," Sorensen said.
Snider and Sorensen moved into 510 W. 24th Street, North Newton, about two years ago. And it fits the bill as interesting. One of four homes on the 51st Annual of the Charles Olson Memorial Scholarship Foundation's “Harmonies in Holiday Homes” home tour on Dec. 8, it has nooks and crannies to explore — and a hidden staircase.
"It is behind a bookcase," Sorenson said. "It is Nancy Drew's hidden bookcase."
"You pull a book, and it opens," Snider added.
The home, often referred to as the “Koppes House,” in reference to the family who built the house and continually owned it until the early 2000’s. One of the first homes in North Newton, the house was built in 1883, one year after the red barn — which is located just to the north of the house — was built.
"Conrad's dad bought four acres, not the house, but [the farm] several years ago," Sorensen said. "When the house came up for sale, pretty inexpensively because it wasn't being well taken care of, he decided because it was continuous to the land to go ahead and get it."
The house originally was 2 ½ stories tall, but the top story was removed and the roof lowered in the 1930s, with the lumber then used to build a small home east of the original house. In the past several years, the couple has worked to transform the old farmhouse into a warm and friendly space that works for the way they want to live. The home now features an open floor plan, with the kitchen at the center, and tiles handmade by Conrad, who is a ceramic sculptor.
"We like the sense of history," Snider said. "I have memories of riding my bike up and down the street here, and hearing cows back in the back."
While there is no longer a dairy farm on their 4 acres, there are egg-laying chickens and a working windmill.
In addition to Snider and Conrad's home, the “Harmonies in Holiday Homes” tour features the Newton homes of John and Debbie Robinson, William and Mary Beck, and Richard Stinnett and Charlie Robinson.
Each home will host a mini concert of holiday music. Musical performances include the Newton Unified School District 373 String Ensemble, under the direction of Kara Tann, at the Stinnett/Robinson home. Musicians include Rai Angolo, Hanna Brown, Olivia Oiler and Keaton Wetschensky. The father-son trumpet duo, Greg and Josh Bergman, will be at John and Debbie Robinson’s home. Vada Snider, flute, and Karen Loucks, keyboard, will perform at the Beck home. Ethan Moulds will play the piano in the afternoon at the Snider/Robinson home, while Jonah Schloneger will play in the evening.
Advance reservations are required and may be made at Prairy Market and Deli (formerly Prairie Harvest), 601 N. Main in Newton, for a suggested donation of $13 per person. All proceeds go toward scholarships for Newton High School instrumental students.
The Charles Olson Memorial Scholarship Foundation for Instrumental Music Lessons was established by Erwin and Gertrude Olson in memory of their son, Charles, a musician who wished more students had access to private instrumental music lessons.
For more information on the tour, call 316-727-4533.
Home descriptions by homeowners
John and Debbie Robinson, 610 Stone Creek Drive
This ranch style home was built in 2000 by Harder Construction, and is situated in Stone Creek Addition. The location was chosen because of its calming lakeside view and cozy neighborhood. The spacious backyard has been a perfect setting for a variety of gatherings for the Robinson family and friends.
In 2017, the kitchen was gutted and remodeled. It features stunning custom cabinetry from John Jantz, of Wheat Country Cabinets.
During the holidays, the Robinson home is adorned with sentimentality and includes décor from four generations of Christmases. The stair rail is illuminated with bells from Debbie’s grandmother. A Santa Claus collection includes Santas from both Debbie and John's parents. The tree is embellished with handmade ornaments, and includes ornaments purchased for the Robinsons' children by their Grammy every year for the past 25 years.
William and Mary Beck, 1621 Hillcrest Road
Dr. William and Mary Beck have lived at 1621 Hillcrest Road for 29 years. The two-story home has 55 windows and the original wood/parquet floors. The home sits on 1 acre of land and was built in the 1930s by Mr. Brodhagen and his 18-year-old son for the Dotson family. Unfortunately, Mr. Brodhagen died during construction and his young son finished the project himself.
The walls were made from 2x6s, not 2x4s, and have 1-inch-thick boxing on both inside and outside walls! The limestone pillars on the front porch and columns leading into the driveway come from a stone quarry in Sedan, Kansas. These columns are a distinctive part of the house; each December multicolored lights are added and they “turn into Christmas trees,” as the neighbor children say, because of their unique shape.
There is an Art Deco influence in the house and some of the lights are the original fixtures repurposed during our remodel seven years ago. At that time, the floor plan was redesigned to expand the kitchen/family room area and to add a master bedroom on the first floor. The natural light and open, airy space modernized our home while still keeping the essence of its original beauty.
Richard Stinnett and Charlie Robinson, 509 Normandy Road
With its distinctive shape and roof lines, this beautiful Mid-Century Modern Ranch built in 1957 by Chuck and Susan Koehn combines character, a spacious lawn, mature trees and manicured flowerbeds to present a distinctive and welcoming curb appeal.
Upon entering, visitors are welcomed by the hallmarks of Mid-Century Modern design, textures, colors and lines. The simple yet sophisticated texture and colors of the wallpaper are carried up the entry wall to a showcase light.
You’ll notice that the roofline and beams are carried into the house and when paired with the oversized windows bring in light to complement the spacious sunken living room.
Some renovations have occurred to enhance the openness and lead visitors from the front of the house all the way through to a spacious covered patio and manicured backyard retreat.
Colors, styles and decor are representative of the current owners and, combined with form and function, create a welcome and comfortable space.