Starcke House

Located at 306 W. 5th St. in Junction City, the Starcke House is Geary County Historical Society's period house museum, showcasing the lifestyle of Mr. and Mrs. Starcke, who ran a local jewelry store in the early 20th century. Tours are available upon request.
Location: 306 W. 5th St., Junction City, Kansas
Visitation: Call the museum to schedule your tour

In December 2000, the GCHS completed and unveiled its newest attraction, the newly restored Starcke House located immediately south of the museum at 5th and Adams.  The one story brick structure, for over a century the home of one of Junction City's prominent merchant families, has been rehabilitated to serve as a "period house museum" in which the GCHS furniture and household goods collections can be displayed in a natural setting.

The restoration by the GCHS museum of the old Starcke house at 306 West 5th Street is only the latest in a long series of metamorphoses that has marked the history of this unpretentious little cottage.  Built in the 1880s by pioneer jeweler and watch-maker Andrew Vogler as a home for his young German bride, the original structure was described in a 1938 Junction City Union article as a "squatty red brick house" which made "conspicuous" the corner on which it sat for 52 years.

When it was originally built, however, the four-room house with a lean-to kitchen attached to the back offered the latest in comfort and modest amenities for it's inhabitants.  Based on the period photographs in the museum collections, this must have been a very popular architectural style in Junction City during this era, for there were many such one-story square homes built here.  Each featured deep tall windows and a wide, shaded front porch or veranda, replete with the characteristic scroll work and "gingerbread" details that marked Victorian homes.

A white picket fence surrounded the spacious corner yard, which held outbuildings and a small barn for the horse and buggy, and perhaps a cow and chickens.

Vogler, who was 52 when he married 27-year-old Amalle Valk in 1874, soon found he had a potential partner when Amalle's sister, Anna, and her husband, Bernhardt Starcke (who were living in Ohio at that time) sent their son, Reinhold, to learn the watch-making trade from his uncle.  Andrew Vogler soon induced the elder Starke to come to Junction City and assist him with the business.  Thus in 1883, the rest of the Starcke family immigrated to Kansas.  This included their son, Walter, and a daughter, Ida.  Here, Bernhardt, who was a minister by vocation, kept the books for the jewelry store and sons Walter and Reinhold learned the trade.

The family partnership ended abruptly in 1885 when Vogler died suddenly of a lung ailment, leaving his wife with two young children and a newly completed home to oversee.  The young widow decided to return to Germany and quickly sold both the house and the business to her brother-in-law.  In 1889, Bernhardt Starcke withdrew from the business, leaving it to his sons, and returned to the pulpit, taking a position in California.  He entered medical school a few years later and graduated at the age of 64.  He was then active in the medical profession in the Kansas City area until his death in 1916.

In the meantime, son Walter became the soul proprietor of the Starcke Jewelry store and the sole occupant of the house at the corner of 5th and Adams, when his brother Reinhold married Ada Diehl of Abilene in 1892 and then left the area about 1900.  Walter, however, brought an end to his position as one of Junction City's most prosperous merchants and most eligible bachelors when he married 30-year-old Eunice Willoughby, the oldest daughter of Francis and Teressa Willoughby.  The family had come to Junction City from Indiana when Eunice was a young child.

Under the influence of his energetic and determined bride, Walter's life underwent some major changes and so did the house at 5th and Adams.  For over 30 years, Eunice and her husband ran the jewelry store, and after the couple divorced around 1935, she operated it on her own for a number of years.  She had a reputation as a hardworking and creative businesswoman and was well respected by other merchants and colleagues here.

She was also creative in updating and remodeling her home.  Sometime after Eunice first came to the home as a bride, the lean-to kitchen was removed and the wing of the house that now holds the bathroom, the dining room and kitchen were built.  Later she added a back bedroom, and in 1937, the sunroom on the east side and the north or "back" porch completed the perimeters of the house as it now stands.

This last remodeling was the subject of an extensive write-up in the local newspaper in May 1938. At that time the remodeled 52-year-old house was cited as an "outstanding example of home-beautification that should serve as an inspiration to others."  The most noteworthy change that had been made, according to this article, was the painting of the red brick.  "The house is, perhaps, the only red brick building in this community that has been painted."  The justification for this shocking change was then made clear.

"Feeling that the weather-beaten old red brick walls of the house did not properly blend in with the fresh white woodwork of its interior and to tie the various additions together, Mrs. Starcke conceived the idea of having the house painted white.  It was, of course something new to this community, but with painting the house soon assumed a much more attractive appearance with its black screens and green shutters.  Now it arrests the attention of passersby and at once commands the admiration of everyone who sees it."

Walter and Eunice with Jiggers the horse
A major portion of this facelift to the property included extensive and creative landscaping that reflected Eunice Starcke's gifted "green thumb" and her willingness to try new ideas.  The old barn, which had stood for half a century and had been the home for Eunice's steed, Jiggers, a registered thoroughbred who was, according to the article, one of Junction City's most famous horses, was removed and in its place stood a modern two-car garage.  According to family members, Jiggers, who had lived to be 34 years old, was buried in the barn and now rests under the garage.

The yard also included a 6 foot fish pond with a spray of water running continuously, a large rock garden containing fossil rocks and an assortment of indigenous plants and flowers and "numerous novelties including an old stone hitching post taken up from in front of the Starcke Jewelry Store and preserved for posterity."  Among the many kinds of flowers adorning the north side of the lot were 28 varieties of Iris, poppies, tulips, mountain mist, old-fashioned pinks, Shasta daisies, hydrangeas, Columbines and Sweet William.  The drive was lined with eight varieties of hardy lilies and a hedge of pink roses fronted by lavender Iris and tulips marked the boundaries.

Inside the house, Eunice Starcke had made liberal use of family heirlooms and vintage furniture.  These were prominently displayed and mixed with more modern and functional pieces in a most attractive way, in an era when antiques were neither fashionable nor collected.