Three Lawrence Sites Nominated for National Register of Historic Places

A house, a church and a block in Lawrence are under consideration for the National Register of Historic Places. All three nominations are awaiting review by the National Park Service. 

On November 17th, the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review considered eight nominations to National Register of Historic Places. Three of the nominations were for historic resources located in Lawrence: The Chewning House (1510 Stratford Road), First United Methodist Episcopal Church (946 Vermont Street, known today as First United Methodist Church), and the Johnson Block Historic District (east side of the 800 block of Arkansas Street and west side of the 800 Block of Missouri Street). All three were nominated for their distinctive architecture and/or methods of construction. 

The Chewning House

The Chewning House

The Chewning House was designed for Bert and Helen Chewning in 1936 by George Malcolm Beal, chair of the University of Kansas Architecture program, and built by J.L. “Tommy” Constant. Located in the West Hills neighborhood, the house is often referred to by local architectural historians as the first modern home built in Lawrence or Douglas County and was key to establishing modern architecture in Lawrence. The house also was one of around 1,000 homes built throughout the country as part of General Electric’s “New American Home” program in 1935 and 1936. The program aimed to put architects, builders and suppliers back to work during the Great Depression, and began with a design contest in which architects submitted designs to GE. Each house was opened to the public upon completion to showcase the company’s new electrical appliances. Today, the Chewning House retains its original materials and floorplan, though it has been enlarged to accommodate modern living with a sensitively designed addition at the rear of the house. 

First United Methodist Episcopal Church has been continuously used as a religious facility since 1891. Located adjacent to Lawrence’s original townsite, the oldest portion of the church was designed by John G. Haskell and built between 1889 and 1891. The three-story limestone Romanesque Revival building is situated on two lots, and in 1949 and 1958 the church acquired two additional lots to the north along Vermont Street. In 1962, a three-story modern brick wing designed by Robertson & Ericson was constructed on these additional lots. The original church building retains a great deal of Haskell’s original design and materials and has been well maintained over the years. The modern 1962 addition also is considered architecturally significant. 

Located along the east side of the 800 block of Arkansas Street and the west side of the 800 block of Missouri Street, the houses within the Johnson Block Historic District were constructed between 1900 and 1945. Lawrence businessman Victor Johnson purchased the block in 1909 and began developing it that same year. Johnson’s development plan significantly influenced local development, as it was noted in the Lawrence Daily Journal that by turning a former cow pasture into one of the finest residential blocks in the city it was expected that other similar developments were sure to follow elsewhere in town. Today, many homes located in the district retain original siding, window, and distinctive architectural features. In 2017, district resident Michael Arp (with assistance from LPA and architectural historian Dale Nimz) was successful in getting the Johnson Block added to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places


2018 Preservation in Progress (PIP) Awards

For the 2018 Preservation in Progress (PIP) awards, LPA is recognizing three very different kinds of structures as examples of quality rehabilitation work: a single-family home, a multi-family structure and a former garden center now being sensitively converted to other uses. Congratulations to all of our 2018 PIP winners!

LPA Buys a Parking Lot!

Parking Option Secured for Turnhalle

After a year of negotiations, LPA is set to close on the purchase of the 32-space parking lot that sits directly across E. 9th street from Turnhalle and is currently owned by U.S. Bank. Combined with our purchase of 904 Rhode Island, LPA now controls the properties on either side of Turnhalle, both of which were facing uncertain futures until LPA stepped in.

Our goal is to encourage the rehabilitation of the now-vacant Turnhalle, which LPA saved with a major stabilization project while it owned the historic structure from 2012 to 2014. The parking lot is a critical part of that plan, and LPA has entered into a lease with an option to buy for the parking lot with Tony Krsnich, the owner of the Turnhalle.

The most likely path forward for the Turnhalle is some type of mixed-use plan combining retail, gallery and gathering space. For major rehabilitation and reuse to occur at the Turnhalle, parking is a necessary component. Dedicated parking spaces commensurate with the activities proposed will be required to gain site plan approval.

When LPA owned the Turnhalle, U.S. Bank was using the lot as parking for its employees. In December 2016, LPA was advised that the bank’s employees had shifted to the city parking garage, leaving the parking lot vacant. LPA decided to act out of concern that a development group with no interest in Turnhalle could purchase the lot and build on it.

We believe that Brad Burnside, president of the bank’s local branch at 9th and Massachusetts, along with key members of his staff, expressed their strong support for our proposal to the corporate hierarchy in Minnesota. Ours was not the only offer considered. If the Lawrence Turnhalle can be returned to community use as a functioning and treasured building, the actions of the local bank staff in support of LPA will be a big reason why.

Tony Krsnich’s lease payments on the parking lot will cover LPA’s holding costs. The purchase option can only be triggered after both a substantial rehabilitation has been completed and an occupancy permit for both levels of Turnhalle is attained. LPA would then sell the lot for the same price for which it is purchasing it. Eight wonderful LPA members have stepped up with two-year loans at below-market rate to finance the transaction.

LPA has proactively developed and executed a comprehensive strategy to leverage a rehabilitation of Turnhalle. This is the second time LPA has thrown virtually everything we possibly could at saving Turnhalle. The first time we knew we had bought the structure some time and hoped that things would work out. This time, we are providing a creative path that encourages its eventual rehabilitation.

Read the Lawrence Journal-World story: Nonprofit Buys Downtown Parking Lot In Hopes of Helping Historic Building

LPA Acquires Historic House at 904 Rhode Island

904 1.jpg

We have exciting news to announce. As part of our mission to preserve historically significant buildings in Lawrence, the LPA has purchased the home at 904 Rhode Island, immediately south of the Lawrence Turnhalle. Like the Turnhalle, which the LPA bought for preservation in 2012, the home was previously owned by the Ernst family.

LPA worked with attorney Boog Highberger to craft preservation covenants that will protect the historic property, and is now offering this landmark home for sale. The covenants focus on preserving the historic features visible from the street, specifically the character-defining wooden front porch, brick walls and original windows. This will make it possible to do rehabilitation work inside and possibly build an addition off the rear of the house. 

LPA purchased the Turnhalle, which was built in 1869 at the corner of 9th and Rhode Island, in 2012. The group raised funds, did critical repair work to stabilize the structure, crafted legal protections for the building, and later sold it to developer Tony Krsnich. The Ernst Family had owned the Turnhalle and the current house and provided generous terms for both sales to support their desire to preserve these important structures. LPA believes that its purchase of 904 Rhode Island will assist with plans to return the Turnhalle to a community resource by removing uncertainty about its status.

Records show that 904 Rhode Island was built prior to 1889 and originally owned by Thomas Collier. In 1908 it was sold to the Turnverein, the German community group that operated the Turnhalle, and the LPA believes it became the home of the caretaker for the two properties. The Ernst family purchased both buildings in 1938. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to take another step towards the adaptive reuse of the Turnhalle and are grateful to the Ernst Family,” LPA President Dennis Brown said.

In December, the home was sold to a new owner, ensuring its long-term preservation.

Photos by Katy Clagett

Photos by Katy Clagett

Grover Barn Designated as National Underground Railroad Site

The City of Lawrence has designated the Grover Barn, 2819 Stone Barn Terrace, as a documented Underground Railroad site on the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom.
The Grover Barn is one of the best preserved Underground Railroad sites still standing in Lawrence.  Abolitionists Joel Grover and his wife Emily, who arrived in Lawrence in 1854 with the second New England Emigrant Aid Company party, sheltered freedom seekers in the stone barn built in 1858 on their farm southwest of Lawrence. 

“The Grover Barn is an important historic site in Lawrence and this recognition will ensure its continued preservation and the opportunity to share  stories about how the barn played a role in the Underground Railroad,” said Diane Stoddard, assistant city manager.
Incidents of the site’s role as a “station” on the Underground Railroad are remarkably well-documented in the historical record. The most significant involved eleven freedom seekers and a free-born baby who were hidden at the Grover Barn in January 1859. The abolitionist John Brown and his men had helped to liberate the group from slavery in Missouri the previous December in a highly publicized raid.  After a brief stay at Grover Barn on his last trip to Kansas, Brown led the freedom seekers to Detroit, and saw them cross over into Canada. 
In addition to its national significance, the barn is also important to local history, as a territorial period structure remaining in Lawrence and a rare historic agricultural structure within city limits.  The Grover barn and a portion of the original farm remained in the Grover family for 105 years. From 1963-1976 the barn was used as an artist’s studio and in 1980 the City of Lawrence acquired the building for use as a Fire Station through 2006.  The structure is currently used by the Lawrence/Douglas County Fire/Medical Department and the Lawrence Police Department.
Designation on the Network to Freedom will bring national recognition and provide accessibility to grant funds for interpretation and preservation of the site.  A citizens group, the Guardians of Grover Barn, partnered with the city to nominate the site to the Network to Freedom.  They plan to continue this partnership, working to increase awareness and appreciation of the Grover Barn’s important story and to seek grant funding for interpretive signs at the site. 
"The Guardians of Grover Barn are more than pleased that the importance of the unique history of the barn has been recognized and validated at the national level," said Kerry Altenbernd, chair of the Guardians of Grover Barn board. "This is a major first step in bringing that history to the people."

New Project Explores the History of Lawrence, Block-By-Block

Explore Lawrence has teamed up with a University of Kansas journalism class to launch an in-depth examination of the history of several blocks of Massachusetts Street through photos, text and multimedia. 


Lawrence: Block-by-Block is housed on and features timelines for buildings the students have researched. Most of the timelines also include downloadable audio stories that give even more insight into the history of the buildings.

There are timelines for the buildings that currently house Merchant Pub & Plate, Rudy’s Pizzeria, RND Corner Grille, Jefferson’s Restaurant, The Burger Stand, Greenhouse Culture, Urban Outfitters, and The Granada. More timelines and audio stories will be added the students complete their research.

The project was conceived by Peter Bobkowski, an associate professor in the school of journalism. 

“History and heritage travelers spend more time and money in a destination than the average leisure traveler,” said Andrea Johnson of eXplore Lawrence. “We are always looking for new content and innovative ways to connect with this market, so this partnership makes perfect sense for eXplore Lawrence to be involved in.”

April 14 Open House to Honor the Unique Zimmerman House

Please join Lawrence Preservation Alliance and Lawrence Modern on April 14 for an open house honoring the successful nomination of the Zimmerman house to the Lawrence Historic Register.  Warren Heylman, the architect, and Lee Zimmerman, the original home owner, are scheduled to attend.

This is a remarkable opportunity to meet both men at the home they helped create. Built in 1955, the Zimmerman house is unique among Lawrence home designs with its forward-thinking, Japanese-inspired mid-century modern architecture, creating a strikingly different and memorable home design that has been beautifully preserved.

The open house will be from 3 to 5 p.m., April 14, at the house at 200 Nebraska, with presentations starting at 4 p.m.

For more information, go to:

Guests are encouraged to bring a dish to share.







An Early History of LPA, 1984-1990

After 34 years as a local non-profit promoting local architectural history, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance has achieved a history of its own. And what a history it is: a number of pivotal events in LPA history are also important moments in city history. Lawrence today would not be the same if LPA had not existed, and every day we work to ensure that statement continues to remain true.

We reached out to the first president of LPA, Oliver Finney, and asked him to search his files and memory to write an early history of LPA. At LPA’s inception in 1984, there was no organized preservation effort in Lawrence. The Old West Lawrence Historic District was in existence, but there was no preservation ordinance, no Historic Resources Commission, and no Historic Resources Administrator. There was a strong sentiment among Lawrence leaders that individual property rights far outweighed historic or cultural concerns. If those early LPA Boards wanted to accomplish something, they had to band together and do it themselves (often putting up their own money), and they had to expect resistance. We are certainly glad that they did, and very pleased that Oliver has recounted these important historic events that follow. Thanks Oliver! 

Download a PDF of LPA Early History (1984-1990) here.

An archive of photos, news clippings and other documents of the early history of the LPA is available in PDF format here: Vol. 1Vol. 2.

More LPA-Sponsored Properties Added To Lawrence Register of Historic Places

The Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously on February 13 to list four properties on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places. One, the Santa Fe Depot, was nominated by the City of Lawrence, the new owner of the building. The other three were nominated by LPA in partnership with the property owners.

These three properties are part of a larger LPA initiative to document and list significant local properties that were not listed on local, state or national historic registers.  In May 2016, the LPA Board funded the project with a $5,000 allocation. This project is now almost complete.

The Santa Fe Depot, constructed in 1955 in the Midwest Mid-Century style, retains a tremendous amount of architectural integrity, including some of its original furniture. A long-awaited rehabilitation of the structure is about to begin. Already listed on both the state and national historic registers, the depot has qualified for historic tax credits that the city will use to help finance the rehab project.

The Louis and Eva Poehler residence at 801 Alabama, completed in 1900, is a somewhat unusual gambrel-roof sub-type of the Shingle style of architecture. The front porch, and sleeping-porch wing in back were added in the 1920s.

The Thaddeus D. and Elizabeth K. Prentice House at 1645 Kentucky, built in 1921, is a good example of the Craftsman style. Unlike the situation in many cities, Craftsman-style homes in Lawrence are scattered throughout a number of neighborhoods, rather than concentrated in one or two subdivisions.

The Adam and Annie Rottman house at 2127 Barker was built in 1870. This handsome brick Italianate served originally as a farmhouse for a farm that covered most of what is now the Barker neighborhood.

Restoration Work Begins on Santa Fe Depot

The restoration project for the Santa Fe Station will begin construction in late February and continue through late October 2018. The project is being administered by the Kansas Department of Transportation and First Construction of Lawrence will be the general contractor. The project will consist of exterior and interior repairs, improvements to ensure accessibility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new roofing, solar panel installation and HVAC improvements. Questions regarding the project can be directed to David Cronin, City Engineer, at 785-832-3130/

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