Brief History of Marvin Gardens


My dad was R. Marvin Schadt, a Professor of School Administration at KSTC (now ESU) and building houses was his hobby. We moved to Emporia in 1959 and to find good housing was a problem so he decided to build again. My siblings and I were old enough to participate and Mother, Florence M. (Kirby), did a lot of the painting.

R. Marvin & Florence M. Schadt in the 1960s

Dad sometimes hired professional contractors, but he was a die-hard do-it-yourselfer who knew how to keep expenses down. He was among the first repurposing builders and used good salvage and new materials. You might be surprised, since the house is professionally constructed with many customized touches. Commercial builders have marveled and puzzled at things he did.

Marvin working.
Notice salvaged sub-siding on the right exterior wall. 

In 1960, the entire shell appeared to be finished from the street, but our family of six moved into the lower level walk-in basement where we lived for six years. Mother and children had lived in an unfinished basement with Dad before, so she insisted he finish this one first. The upstairs was mostly storage and construction zone where Dad worked in his spare time. I often helped by being his tool gofer. The trouble was he also did moonlighting as a consultant for small rural school districts. In 1966 my parents decided if they didn’t hire help the kids would be grown and gone before moving into their dream bedrooms. Dad had a carpenter friend help finish in six weeks and we moved upstairs.

1965 Roses in the planter below the staircase.

Why do I call it Marvin Gardens? Dad was also the gardener in the family and he planted trees, roses, lilacs, forsythia and shrubs. In the front is a Silver Leaf Maple and I remember the day strong winds broke one sapling limb. I can show you where the new limb sprouted in this gorgeous 50-year-old tree. He also planted a Sycamore for quick shade, but oh how I get to clean up after it now. He planted a row of Barberry Bushes along the retaining wall that I have worked to revive but they need more sun.

Dad lived out his latter years in the house. In 2004, soon after he armchair-supervised the planting of six poplar trees in an aging terrace garden, he passed at age 93. Mother later hired a landscaper to repair the terrace, also added more roses and daylilies.

After living 33 years away from Emporia, in 2007 I came back from Alaska when I was very ill. I moved back into the basement with my 92-year-old mother upstairs. After I recovered I stayed to help mother, like she had helped Dad, to live out the rest of her life at home.

I walked the lot and was stunned with how much the gardens had suffered through years of drought. After decades of living places where I could not garden, to take this on was daunting. Every inch desperately needed attention. Mother was too old and I was overwhelmed. Mother paid for hoses, sprinklers and regretted the days she refused to let Marvin put in an underground sprinkler system. I simply began to water, just water everything as much as possible. I progressed by planting one small bare spot that bugged me most.

In a few places Dad never quite figured out how to solve the unique gardening problems of living on the side of a hill. Mother and I were tired of seeing the erosion on the curbside slope and she paid landscapers to help me transplant Vincas from what had grown rampant in the planter. Mother paid to have Iris planted in the back terrace from what we chose together at Toad Hollow Daylily and Iris Farm east of Emporia. I have so many more gardening stories to tell…

After Mother passed in 2013 at age 98, I hired a gardener friend to put in daffodils next to the Barberry and transplant English Ivy along a bare strip. We did a lot, but there is so much more it still seems endless. Now I’m on my own, doing it all. That’s one reason why I chose Airbnb, so the house will support itself and I can afford to create a gorgeous garden worthy of its name to honor my parents.

I have always dreamed of sharing my home with others. I never dreamed I would live here again, but after a couple years I saw Emporia through new eyes and rekindled my love affair with the Flint Hills. Nor did I dream I could buy out my three siblings’ share of the property. Sometimes our hearts desires are dreams we dare not dream but they can come true when we finally dare to live the dream. Marvin Gardens is a dream-work in progress, inside and out, and I live the dream one day at a time. Thank you for choosing to share my dream. Your stay here helps me stay here.

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