Couple’s eastern Lawrence home, built in 1913, is their ‘own little time capsule’ of original woodwork and eclectic decor

photo by: Mike Yoder

Sarah and Mike Randolph live at 1643 Rhode Island St. in an East Lawrence neighborhood. The couple moved there in 2001 and have restored and decorated the home, built in 1913, with many pieces of eclectic artwork.

Mike and Sarah Randolph’s past 20 years living in their three-story home at 1643 Rhode Island St. have been rife with full-circle moments.

After all, they both grew up in Lawrence — Mike across town from their current home in the Barker neighborhood of eastern Lawrence, and Sarah in the home right across the backyard. The Randolphs’ home backs up to the home Sarah’s parents have lived in for more than 40 years.

It’s only fitting that the couple ended up in a home with a rich history, a home that Sarah calls their “own little time capsule.” It was built in 1913 and had never housed any children or pets until the Randolphs became the homeowners in 2001, following a decade living in Atlanta. Their return to Lawrence, and to this home in particular, meant their children could effectively grow up with two childhood homes.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The backyard at 1643 Rhode Island St. butts up against the backyard of Sarah’s parents’ home.

“Our kids got an experience that a lot of kids don’t now, where they grew up with my parents intimately involved in their daily lives,” Sarah said. “They were doing scavenger hunts for them. They were very, very involved.”


The home has its original woodwork, and its first and second floor have their original push-button light switch covers. The couple love living in an old home, despite the extra work that brings.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This view from the home entryway into the living room shows off the original wide walnut trim work.

Mike said each old home has its own look, and the craftsmanship required to build them differs from what it takes today. Homes had to be built with a lot of thought, he said, and for form and function first and profit second.

“I think the feeling, too, that you get with these older homes is you feel like you’re a steward of them, just because of the longevity and the history that happened before you,” Mike said. “You want that to carry forward.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

A light in the living room is an old mobile operating room light, which the couple said is likely from the 1950s. They found it at a pop-up antique store at Ninth and New Jersey streets.

The home does have one addition: A third level was added in 1994 by its previous owner, artist Myles Schachter. That floor is where the Randolphs chose to locate their bedroom, and it also includes a bathroom and a small balcony overlooking the back yard.

But the bathroom wasn’t always a bathroom; Mike said Schachter previously had that space filled entirely by a 500-gallon hot tub. Schachter had installed screws in the exterior paneling that allowed it to be removed so the hot tub could be taken out on the balcony side. Mike said the family decided about 10 years ago to rent a crane and remove the massive tub altogether, allowing the space to became a bathroom.


Some of the home’s most interesting elements might be its eclectic decorations, starting with artwork from a list of more than a dozen local artists. The list includes paintings by the couple’s good friend Geoff Benzing, cut paper artwork by Alicia Kelly and photography by Ann Dean.

Other decorations are reclaimed items, such as the lighted “cashier” sign that hangs from the tin ceiling in the home’s kitchen. The Randolphs suspect the sign could have come from an old Woolworths or Ben Franklin store. In the nearby dining room, there’s an old church pulpit in the corner that Mike said has been in the home for around 15 years.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The couple’s kitchen features an old cashier light, which they surmise could have originated from a Woolworths or Ben Franklin store.

Then there are the eye-catchers on the front porch — a “Select-O-Rama” vending machine, which still works and is filled with toys, some of them the original prizes, and part of a train station sign that the couple’s friends found in a dumpster and has since been turned into a railing leading up to the front door.

photo by: Mike Yoder

One feature on the Randolphs’ front porch is a “Select-O-Rama” vending machine from the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was given to the couple by their friend, Tim Cast. It came with original prizes, accepts pennies and quarters, and still works.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Randolphs’ friends found this sign, now used as a front railing, in a dumpster. The couple said it likely originated from a train station.

Many items that decorate the home were found through Mike’s work flipping houses, such as the pair of post office boxes stationed in the living room. Mike said they were originally located in Baldwin City’s post office. They found a new life at the Randolphs’ home as decorations — and as a place for the couple’s daughters, who are now adults, to stash items while playing with their friends.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Antique post office lock boxes, lower right, are positioned near the home’s original built-in fireplace and mantel, which now serves as a spot for a television.

The couple’s collection of dozens of bowling balls is perhaps the most noticeable decor, given that those balls decorate both the front and back yards. Mike estimates there are upward of 80 of them, some of which are mounted to poles. The first set of balls was recovered from a home Mike flipped that previously belonged to a family who owned a bowling alley in Holton, a small town north of Topeka.

There were 10 or 15 bowling balls in that garage. They went on display in the front yard, and the Randolphs’ small collection roughly doubled in size over the years. Then, about five years ago, Mike said a woman knocked on their door and asked if they’d like even more bowling balls. She was moving out of the state, and she gave the Randolphs another 40 or 50 balls that she wouldn’t be able to take along with her.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Passersby can catch the Randolphs’ large and decorative collection of bowling balls on the entrance sidewalk and in the front yard. After buying a house to rehab 15 years ago, the couple found about 10 bowling balls in the garage. Over the years, they’ve been given many more balls and now have dozens.

Sarah’s favorite item in the house — a gift from Mike for her 50th birthday — is a plated dinner from a leftover cafeteria display the couple found in Sparks, Kansas. It’s positioned at one of the four seats at the dining room table, complete with its own “Reserved” sign. Sarah said it reminds her of meals with her grandmother at Furr’s Family Dining, which closed its doors in Lawrence back in 2002.

photo by: Mike Yoder

One decoration in the Randolphs’ home is a plated dinner from a leftover cafeteria display the couple found in Sparks, Kansas. The table and chairs are Scandinavian and from the 1950s or 1960s era, found in a home the Randolphs bought to rehab.

With that many conversation pieces, it may not be a surprise that the couple don’t have a lengthy list of items they’re hoping to add to the current roster of decorations.

“We don’t really know what we want until we see it,” Sarah said. “We’re kind of on the down side of collecting, where we don’t want to add a lot more to our house and our stuff.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

An old University of Kansas marching band hand-painted drum head hangs in a second-floor landing.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Randolphs have an extensive collection of odd and eclectic signs and objects hung throughout their home.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to clarify that the home is in eastern Lawrence but not within the traditional boundary of East Lawrence.


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