WITH DESIGNERS, DECORATORS and fabricators located well over 500 miles away, pulling together Trail End’s interior was a Herculean feat. Since John and Eula Kendrick acted as their own general contractors, it was up to them to coordinate all activities. Fortunately, they had help.
CHARLES A. LINDNER
Charles A. Lindner was hired in late 1909 and quickly gained the respect of the Kendrick family. John referred to Lindner as "one of the most satisfactory men with whom I have dealt," and was glad to have someone with whom to share the responsibilities:
The question of our interior woodwork has given both Mrs. Kendrick and myself an endless amount of anxiety, but since our talk with you we have a feeling of complete assurance as to the outcome so that we have practically dismissed it from our minds.
From his base in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Lindner supervised the manufacture and installation of all the woodwork in the house, matched the furniture finishes to the wall finishes, located a stained glass firm, and coordinated the efforts of all the other interior vendors.
When building a house, it is common for changes to take place between the time the blueprints are drawn and when work actually begins. The same held true at Trail End; dozen of changes altered the original plans, perhaps nowhere more so than the Butler’s Pantry. In 1912, Eula Kendrick expressed a wish to enlarge the pantry; there wasn’t enough storage. Architect Glenn Charles McAlister hesitated, knowing that the safety of the upper floors might be compromised: "Remember that the brick wall between the Pantry and Kitchen supports the floors above and that ironwork will have to be substituted should you wish to move this partition."
In the end, the room was expanded two feet to the west, the sink moved from the east wall to the west, and the door relocated. A multi-drawer unit was installed in the original door opening and a floor-to-ceiling cabinet placed adjacent to the remains of the load-bearing wall (finished in white ceramic tile). Structural ironwork was placed above the dropped-ceiling to replace the original brick wall.
For more about Eula's changing vision for the house, see our article Save the Foundation
TELEPHONES & INTERCOMS
John B. Kendrick was a progressive man. If a modern piece of equipment or a new technology made a task easier or less expensive, he wanted to make use of it. It is not surprising, therefore, that he incorporated modern technologies into Trail End. This included communications.
Kendrick could have chosen a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system that combined telephone and intercom functions into one unit. Thought quite versatile, PBX had a few problems that contractor Wilbur Burgess thought could be distressing to the homeowner:
You can talk out of the building from any point or you can communicate to any station in the house or Garage without getting Central [Exchange]. The only disadvantage to this system, the servants can listen to any conversation if they want to and can also monopolize the use of the ’phone.
Instead of a PBX, Kendrick went with separate telephone and intercom systems. The latter, powered by three dry-cell batteries, was manufactured by Kellogg Switchboard & Supply of Chicago and installed by Burgess & Granden of Omaha. We don’t know for sure who supplied Trail End’s "candlestick" telephones, but it might have been Chicago Telephone Supply of Elkhart, Indiana, a firm that corresponded with the Kendricks in 1912.
HEATING & COOLING
A pair of steam boilers manufactured by the Kroeschell Bros. Co. of Chicago, Illinois, heated Trail End. One of three parent companies of today’s Carrier Corporation (known worldwide for its heating and cooling equipment), Kroeschell was a premier manufacturer of furnaces and refrigerators in early 20th Century America. The heating plant burned tons of coal a year, all of which had to be moved from the coal bin (under the back driveway) to the boilers. This was hard, time-consuming labor. Manville Kendrick recalled that an automatic stoker – a device that supplied fuel to the boilers by mechanical means – was installed in the 1920s.
In 1911, a large "Special Refrigerator" was installed in a walk-in cooling room that extended out of the basement and under the exterior stairs on the west side of the house. Ordered from the C. W. Kettering Mercantile Company of Denver, Colorado, the ice-cooled unit, also referred to as a "cooling box," was quite expensive: $349 (that’s about $8,000 in today’s money). Ice was delivered through a window near the room’s ceiling.
The dumbwaiter is one of the many household conveniences built into Trail End. In consists of a wooden platform (accessed by doors on each floor) that could be raised or lowered through a vertical shaft by a simple rope and pulley mechanism. The pulley’s wheels are located in the attic. Using the dumbwaiter was both easier and safer for the maids who worked at Trail End. Instead of carrying heavy loads up and down the stairs, they could move punchbowls, trays of food, stacks of laundry or buckets of water and cleaning supplies from one floor to another without fear of tripping. Since "dumb" is another word for "silent," the word dumbwaiter literally means silent waiter.
One of the best labor savers available to the early 20th Century homeowner was electricity. Sheridan got its first electricity in 1893, so by the time the Kendricks built twenty years later, they could use electricity for anything they desired. At Trail End, electricity powered many devices: vacuum cleaner, light fixtures, intercom system, annunciator, servant bells, curling irons and vault alarms. The lights and vacuum cleaner were turned on and off by push-button switches.
THE FIRST PARTY
The Kendricks moved into Trail End on July 25, 1913; they gave a party for Rosa-Maye on July 28, in honor of her 16th birthday. But that wasn’t the first party held in the new house; that would have been the dance held on May 23. According to local newspapers:
The magnificent ball room of the Kendrick home was the scene of a brilliant gathering of the younger set on Friday evening. This, the first dance in the new home, was given by the High School Glee Club, of which Miss Rosa-Maye Kendrick is [president]. … The room was alight with myriads of Japanese lanterns – in great numbers suspended from the lofty ceiling – and with the pretty summer gowns of the girls made a pleasing picture. … The music to which the young people gaily danced away the hours was furnished by Tynan’s orchestra.
The electricity hadn’t been turned on in the home yet, so the Japanese lanterns contained candles rather than light bulbs. The dance was called "the opening of the Commencement festivities," meaning it was the first in a series of events honoring graduating seniors. The thirty members of the all-girl choir invited six additional girls to the dance, plus thirty-six young men (a partner for everyone!). They were chaperoned by Rosa-Maye’s aunt, Edith Severn Wulfjen, plus three female teachers.
DELAYS, DELAYS, DELAYS
Although Trail End took five years to build, work was not in progress that entire time. The first major work stoppage came in 1909 when a delay in the delivery of foundation materials caused John Kendrick to advise architect Glenn Charles McAlister:
I cannot conceive of a more exasperating situation than this. We have the workmen engaged, the weather is fine and our time in which we can safely build is running short. Unless [the granite] reaches us [soon], every man on the building will be paid off and the work entirely stopped.
In 1910, the work was halted again for nearly two years when a drought caused such serious reversals in the cattle market that Kendrick had no extra cash to spend. 1912 brought even more problems: a misplaced rail car full of woodwork, labor disputes in the Grand Rapids mills, a fire at the chandelier manufacturer’s factory, tornado damage to the interior decorator’s Omaha warehouse, a bankrupt plumbing company.
Finally, the electricity was hooked up and the family moved into Trail End in July 1913. Although some furniture was on backorder, workmen were still popping in and out, and the grounds wouldn’t be finished for another year, the Kendricks were home at last.
State Historic Site
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2013 - December 2013
(Trail End Collection)