PAOLA — A piece of Paola history is now up for sale.

Many Paola residents know it as the white house on the corner of Kaskaskia and Walnut streets.

Others may refer to it as the old McLaughlin or Sponable house.

When Kris Kurtenbach was a child, she simply knew it as home.

“I felt like I was living in one of the most prominent and historic homes in town,” said Kris, who now lives in Washington, D.C.

Most recently, Kris’ mother Colleen has lived in the home, but the family has decided it is time to sell. The decision marks another important milestone in the historic home, which has only had four owners in its history that spans more than a century.

Kris and realtor Lisa Burton have been working hard tracing all of that history in preparation for the sale. They’ve learned that the home was built in 1912 and first occupied by Carrie (Sponable) McLaughlin. Her father, John Warren Sponable, was an early Paola leader who was president of Miami County National Bank and responsible for the organization of the Paola Free Library, according to their research.

The home was later sold to McLaughlin’s nephew, John Sponable, in 1942. John and Lucille Sponable occupied it until it was sold to Max and Jeannie Foote in 1962 and finally to Denis and Colleen Kurtenbach in 1976. Max Foote and Denis Kurtenbach were officers in the Carrothers Construction Company.

But like many good history hunts, there are still some questions left unanswered.

The biggest of which may be whether or not the house was designed by famed architect George P. Washburn, who designed other historic buildings in town such as the Miami County Courthouse, Jackson Hotel and Paola Free Library.

There is some evidence pointing to Washburn. For instance, Carrie McLaughlin’s sister, Helen Washburn, built the house on the adjacent lot to the where the Kurtenbach house currently sits at 108 E. Kaskaskia St., and there is proof that Washburn designed that home. The house is no longer there, though, as it previously burned down.

The style of the Kurtenbach home has a contemporary West-Coast feel, which Kris said actually syncs with Washburn because he once took a trip to California specifically to see new kinds of bungalow-style homes being built.

What Kris and Lisa do know for sure is that the Kurtenbach home was originally built in 1912 by Fordyce Brothers, which was a Paola contractor that also built the library and one of the original buildings of Ursuline Academy.

The home was built for Carrie McLaughlin and her widowed mother, Myra, and it was constructed on the site of what was George Robinson’s boarding house.

Many of the home’s original features have been maintained during the past 107 years, including pocket doors made out of beveled lead glass, galvanized tin-lined window seats and a fireplace featuring stone said to be imported from England.

“They just don’t build houses like this anymore,” Colleen said. “We have preserved as much as we could of what Carrie and the Fordyce Brothers so thoughtfully built into the house in 1912.”

Kris said she was raised in the home to respect the history all around her.

“We certainly didn’t play ball in the house,” she said.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

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