The Charles Curtis home is very unique and is the work of Seymour Davis, a prominent architect of the time. It was built in 1879 and was described as "not surpassed by any residence in the city." The mansion has exceptional chandeliers, ornamental plaster, a grand staircase, parquet floors, stained and jeweled glass windows, and four fireplaces: two white oak, one solid cherry, and one of Italian marble. According to the Historical Society, the house has more intact parquet flooring than any other historical house in Kansas.
The mansion has a large collection of historical memorabilia and artifacts. It is furnished with antiques, some from the Curtis family, as well as some of the Curtis memorabilia. The mansion is fabulously decorated for the holidays every year from November 26th to January 1st. Every year on January 25th, the mansion is open to the public, free of charge, to celebrate Charles Curtis' Birthday. The Charles Curtis home is the official meeting place for the Native American Indian Chamber of Commerce. Charles Curtis' father, Oren Curtis, was born in Indiana in 1829 to William and Permelia Curtis (both were of English stock tracing back to 1621 in the good ship Elizabeth). Oren Curtis left Indiana in 1855 and moved to Kansas City, Kansas. He went to work first in Lawrence, then Leavenworth, finally leaving the Territory because his free-state sentiments caused pro-slavery advocates to threaten him. He traveled to Winterset, Iowa where he joined the party of Preston B. Plumb. This group of free-staters made their way to Kansas over the Lane Trail and arrived in Topeka, Kansas on September 26, 1856. Their objective was to bring arms and ammunition to free-state settlers. Oren Curtis, an ardent anti-slavery man and champion of James E. Lane and John Brown, remained in North Topeka. Preston Plumb moved on to hunt a townsite (now Topeka). Oren Curtis found employment with Pappan's Ferry, running a ferry across the Kansas River. He later married Ellen, daughter of Louis Pappan. Their son, Charles Curtis, was born on January 25, 1860. Charles Curtis' mother, Ellen, was the daughter of an Indian princess, Julia Gonville, of the Kansa or Kaw Tribe, the earliest historic inhabitants of Shawnee County. At this time their reserve lands were along the north side of the Kaw River (now North Topeka). Chief White Plume, the great-great grandfather of Charles Curtis, was a friend of Lewis and Clark and he helped them on their expedition to Canada.
Meanwhile the stirring days of the free-state war were occurring in Kansas and Oren Curtis took an active part in the struggle. When the Civil War was declared, he joined a volunteer Kansas unit and later rose to the rank of Captain. By 1860 the Kaw Nation had diminished to about one thousand, but from that scanty total they sent eighty-four men to the Union Army during the conflict between the states. Kansas bore a fervid part in the struggle and the Kaws did their share.
After the Civil War, a great number of African Americans migrated to Kansas in 1879. They called themselves the Exodusters. Many of the Exodusters arrived by train in North Topeka and remained there to establish a little village known as Redmondsville. The site had been chosen because of the close proximity to the Kansas Pacific Railroad (now the Overland Station). To house the great number of Exodusters, barracks were built. Land for this project was donated by Charles Curtis, a part-Kaw North Topekan who eventually became Vice-President of the United States. The map of North Topeka in 1887 shows all of North Topeka as Kaw Reserve No. 4. Charles Curtis' grandfather, William Curtis, deeded 165 acres, part of Reserve No. 4 to Charles Curtis in August 1878.
Nova Cottrell, Curator