Renovations made to Eudora landmark
Despite all of the work Sue Fulcher-Pearson has put into the interior of Eudora’s historic Charles Pilla House, she surmised that the part she most loved lay beyond the walls she has inhabited since 1976.
“Right before I shut the front door at night, I love to look out over the park (Pilla Park),” she said. “It’s just so peaceful.”
As of Monday, Fulcher-Pearson, her son Kevin Fulcher, and her husband Monte Pearson completed work on the steeple, which had been absent from the 115-year-old Queen Anne home since the 1960s.
During the last 18 months, Sue and Monte added new railings to the front deck; restored and installed 76 shutters; and have done masonry work on new limestone that encompasses the base of the house.
Sue and her first husband, Norman, who passed away 10 about years ago, bought the home in 1976.
Sue, 68, and Monte, 69, had known each other since childhood when they attended Pinckney Elementary School in Lawrence. They remained friends throughout life and Monte was the best man in the wedding for Sue and Norman. Likewise, Norman was the best man in the wedding of Monte and his first wife, Mary, who passed away about two years ago.
Sue and Monte began dating and one year later were married.
All of the recent restoration has literally been a labor of love, as the couple began work on the deck railing soon after their first date.
The railings had rotted off and as Sue and Monte sat on the porch at the end of the date, Monte said he could fix them.
“I had no idea that he really could, so he and I actually built them together,” Sue said. “I thought he just wanted my heart.”
Monte, who calls himself “a hot-rodder” is a retired fire battalion chief in Lawrence and enjoys restoring classic cars. He has restored 1934 Ford coupe, a 1961 Corvette, and a 1947 panel van.
“Monte’s been the driving force behind it all,” said Kevin Fulcher last Thursday as he pulled a sheet of wood onto the roof. “I’m just helping him with this (job) because it’s a more than a one-man jobs.”
Sue and Monte estimated that 400 man-hours were spent on the intricate railings and about 456 man-hours were spent on the shutters.
Monte designed the steeple, which took about two weeks to assemble on the ground and then about three hours to bring each piece to the rooftop using a pulley system. The steeple then was topped with a finial.
“It’s been like playing with a giant erector set,” Monte said.
Though the slew of projects don’t always allow them to have a relaxing retirement, their marriage doesn’t have any of the typical issues that can arise in most new marriages — such as finances, in-laws and raising children.
“Finding someone for companionship is completely different,” Sue said. “We have the most fun all of the time.”
During their time living in the home, Sue and Norman done extensive work on the interior of the 3,500-square-foot home. They wallpapered each room, upgraded the ceiling surfaces and replaced woodwork throughout the home.
However, Sue is not totally convinced that there are underground tunnels running from the home to the site of the bank Charles Pilla owned at 702 Main St., which now is inhabited by Madame Hatter’s Tea Room.
The possible existence of the tunnels is one of Eudora’s more enduring pieces of folklore, and it has been widely held that Pilla had tunnels built from his home to the bank for safety reasons.
Sue has seen bricked up portions of wall that resemble entrances of tunnels — identical sections of wall exist in the basement of Madame Hatter’s.
The only other piece of evidence that points to tunnels was found under the deck of the home. After a cave-in some time ago, the Fulchers found a mound with a wooden hatch that covered a brick-walled hole about 10-feet deep, but there was no apparent way to go from there.
In any case, Monte said verifying the story would cost a lot and be too dangerous.
“I like to think it’s true, but I’m not about to tear out a wall and start digging,” he said.
He said his next project for the house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was to replace the overhangs on the porches.
The Interstate 70 interchange at Tonganoxie likely will begin to bring more traffic down Main Street, which could alter Sue’s favorite part of living in the Pilla House. But Sue said it would take more than increased traffic to get her to vacate the abode.
“It would take death,” she laughed. “My kids love it; my grandkids love it, all family functions are here — we just all take a lot of pride in it