Limestone estate restored, reimagined as vacation rental

By Megan Moser

Before it became a luxurious vacation rental, the StoneHouse was, quite literally, a pigsty. And before that, it was the estate of one of Manhattan’s early settlers.

The historic limestone structure, a dignified two-story house surrounded by several outbuildings, is the latest project by the owners of Prairiewood Retreat and Preserve, Kail and Becky Katzenmeier.

Like Prairiewood’s first place,the Retreat House, it’s been carefully remodeled, decorated and stocked to fulfill the varied needs of the guests who stay there. But the Stone-House, just off of Anderson Avenue west of town, must balance modern amenities with respect for history.

The StoneHouse complex originally was the estate of Samuel Kimble Sr., one of the city’s earliest residents. (His son, Judge Samuel Kimble Jr., built the well-known Kimble Castle on Poyntz Avenue near Manhattan High School.) Sam Kimble Sr. owned close to 3,000 acres in the area. The Stone-House was built in 1860 with an addition in the 1880s.

The estate includes a freestanding ice house and spring house, built over a spring that runs through the property, as well as a building that served as a garage or equipment barn.

“It would have been quite impressive for its time,” Kail Katzenmeier said.

At some point, though, the place fell into disrepair, and it was vacant for decades. When Bob and Joan Page bought the property in the 1970s, Katzenmeier said, a neighbor was keeping his pigs in the empty structure.

Bob Page cleaned and restored the house, repairing the limestone walls, landscaping and removing the silt that had collected in the basement.

Therefore, Katzenmeier found the place in a much-improved state when he decided to buy it, but it still needed updating. Katzenmeier and his team were up to the task.

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Katzenmeier wasn’t trained as a builder or architect. He studied human development at K-State, and after graduation, he and his wife owned a canoe and kayak business.

Eventually, they started buying a couple of rental properties in town.

“All we could afford at the time were ones that were kind of old and dilapidated,” he said. So he did much of the needed repair and remodeling work himself, and he found that he had a knack for it. He liked figuring out what needed to be done and where the money should go in a project. He liked the process of transformation.

That undertaking became Capstone 3D, which has grown to include not just remodeling and restoration projects but also custom homes and commercial buildings.

Their other business, Prairiewood, came from a related desire to create great spaces and share them with others.

Sixteen years ago, Katzenmeier and his wife moved to a house on Wildcat Creek Road. They began to notice more houses starting to pop up on the previously empty hills as Manhattan expanded westward.

“I’m not against development,but communities do well when there’s preserved open space,” he said. “Especially when it’s so beautiful.”

The Katzenmeiers, who now have three children, started to purchase land as they could.

Then they bought another property with a house on Wildcat Creek Road previously owned by Darlene and Joe McGraw. (Their son, Jon, was a safety for the K-State football team and is now an NFL player.) The Katzenmeiers looked at the view of the hills and thought, “What if we could share it?”

In 2010, that house became Prairiewood’s original rental property, the Retreat House, which sits on about 400 acres of mostly untouched tallgrass prairie.

At the time, vacation rental sites like VRBO weren’t as widely known. And they knew they didn’t want it to be a bed and breakfast.

But in their travels, Katzenmeier said he and his wife had found that “The places that are the most magical are the ones that are all yours.”

So they made Prairiewood a place where guests get the four-bedroom home to themselves for anything from a casual weekend with friends to a family reunion or corporate retreat.

The team has grown, too, to include not just Kail and Becky, but also hospitality coordinator Vicky Bell and business administrator Nancy Herpich.

The Retreat House seems to be quite successful—it’s booked almost every weekend (and many weekdays) for the next year.

And recently, Prairiewood completed a renovation of an old equestrian barn on the property to accommodate weddings and other large events. Now called Blue Sage Barn, it has bathrooms and a kitchen and can hold up to 250 people.

Katzenmeier hopes the Stone-House, sized for more intimate gatherings, will add to that success.

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The StoneHouse is not exactly accurate to the period in which it was built, but its design and finishes honor its roots.

In the kitchen, a dark metal refrigerator looks more like an old-fashioned icebox than your average appliance.

“I thought, ‘I can’t just put a big, modern stainless-steel fridge here,” Katzenmeier said.

The rest of the kitchen, too, looks more like an old-fashioned icebox than your average appliance.

“I thought,‘I can’t just put a big,modern stainless-steel fridge here,” Katzenmeier said.

The rest of the kitchen, too, looks like a 19th-century home recreated for a Restoration Hardware catalog, with a big gas range and a rustic, counter-height table as an island.

The floors on the first level were replaced with wide planks of reclaimed oak; the floors upstairs are original.

“It’s not historically accurate, but it’s kind of a nod to old farmhouses,” Katzenmeier said.

He said the straightforward nature of the house meant the remodel had few surprises.

“It was sort of this very primitive architecture, so you could almost see everything,” hesaid.“It’sallthere out of necessity. Even in things we modernized, we tried to honor that idea.”

In the upstairs living room area, which has a sitting area with a television, a big table and shelves stocked with books and games, the ceiling was taken down to expose hand-hewn beams and provide space for a visible air-conditioning vent across the top of the room.

“We decided not to try to hide it,” he said, though it was difficult to figure out how to redo the plumbing and electrical systems because they couldn’t go through the stone walls.

The house has four bedrooms, all done in soothing earthtones, with nature photos by Manhattan photographer Autumn Shoemaker.

The bathrooms, too, are done in sleek stone and wood and have deep soaking tubs. The tub in the master bath, though, is a giant thing with a rain shower.

Outside is a deck with a hot tub and an old barn structure whose roof burned down that is now used as a patio and gathering area.

A wide lawn in front of it, which many guests use for small receptions or parties, was previously a gravel parking lot. Katzenmeier and his team replaced it with grass and carefully unearthed a trickling stream fed by the spring nearby.

The entire project has included a fair amount of excavation as Katzenmeier tries to blend the past and the present.

That the StoneHouse is a contemporary of historic sites in Manhattan like the Goodnow House is not lost on him.

“I feel like this is a community asset I’m temporarily managing rather than something I own,’ he said. ‘This is going to be here long after I’m gone.”









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