Ennis-Handy House: A declaration of prosperity
For more than a century, this lovely two-story Queen Anne style home has graced the northwest corner of 13th and Center. Mary (Seaman) Ennis purchased three lots on the site in December 1906 and contracted with local builder Fred Hunt for a 1,768 square foot three-bedroom, one-bath house. The house at 202 W. 13th was filled with modern conveniences, one of Sherman County’s first to be wired for electricity and telephone service. It featured indoor plumbing and hot water radiators for heat.
Goodland had suffered in the economic depression of the mid-1890s. In 1905, the Rock Island Railroad had invested $200,000 in its Goodland facilities. The town also boasted the largest stockyards between Topeka and Denver. This house was a declaration that Goodland’s prosperity was on the rise again.
The March 1, 1907, issue of the Goodland Republic celebrated the house’s impending completion. The newspaper said, “It means that Goodland is a … thriving metropolis where quite large investment ($5,000) is perfectly safe.” In 1907, $5,000 was worth 125,000 in 2014 dollars.
Mary Ennis lavished money on the house. All the woodwork is fine oak. Elaborate decorations adorn the first floor. The paper praised the Corinthian columns on the staircase.
Hunt was a well-known master builder, responsible for numerous Goodland buildings in various architectural styles. He also built the 1905 bungalow at 1312 Main; and 1908 American Foursquare house on the corner northwest of Carnegie Arts Center, 120 W. 12th. Hunt built that Italian Renaissance style building in 1913. Sherman County Fairgrounds’ Grandstand and Agricultural Hall was a 1927 Hunt project. But only the Ennis house provided him with a wife and a home. Shortly after the house was finished, he married Lyda Seaman, Mary’s sister. Mary and the Hunts continued to live in the home until 1917.
The Seaman sisters did millinery (women’s hat making) work and the sewing room upstairs pays tribute to that. Look for the package of fabric still in its Millisack’s store wrapper. (C.M. Millisack owned an early Goodland store and provided funds for “coffee mill houses“.)
House passes through many hands
After Mary sold the house, it became a boarding house for gentlemen and married couples. Sherman County Treasurer Roy Heston bought the house in 1930, returning to a home. His daughters Gloria and Twila Heston’s room is now called the Children’s Room. In that room, see the model of the house that Ken Yoke built.
In 1939, the house became Bower Funeral Home. They held funerals on the first floor. The mourners sat in the house’s living room. In the living room, look for the charioteer on the chandelier and find a tissue box cover that looks like an Easter Island sculpture.
Calvin T. Handy bought the house Oct. 6, 1956. He owned Handy Chevrolet. Handy family retained the house until Edythe Handy died in August 2000. The Handys lived in the house so long that it became known as the Handy House.
Ennis-Handy House becomes a museum
Sherman County Historical Society purchased the house in March 2001. To recognize the original owner, they restored the Ennis name to the house. It became known as the Ennis-Handy House. By the time of SCHS’ purchase, the house had been painted white and had lost its front porch and balcony spindlework, as well as its gables’ gingerbread. Most of the original wrought iron fence was gone. The only original fence portion remaining was six posts running east to west on the northeast corner. Sherman County Historical Society replaced all the missing details. On July 12, 2006, house received National Historic Register status. The society also commissioned Elwyn Vatcher to make a stained glass window in the front staircase in memory of Ruth and Selby Soward. Ruth was longtime editor of the society’s newsletter. The “SCHS” on the window stands for Sherman County Historical Society.
House’s kitchen is now the gift shop. Souvenirs of the house and many publications about Sherman County are available. Suggested donation is $5 for adults aged 12-59, $4 for senior citizens and $3 for children aged 2-11.
House stands on one of the original brick intersections from 1921.
See more of Vatcher’s work at “History of the Opera House” mural.by