Lawrence Historic Register Initiative

 945 Delaware St. - Dennis Domer writes down notes on the architecture of the William H. Schell House, listed on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places

945 Delaware St. - Dennis Domer writes down notes on the architecture of the William H. Schell House, listed on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places

The Lawrence Preservation Alliance is actively pursuing new nominations to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places. In place since the passage of the Lawrence Preservation Ordinance in 1988, the local register is newer than both the Register of Historic Kansas Places (1977) and the National Register of Historic Places (1966). A local listing doesn’t qualify a property owner for tax credits on rehab projects like the other listings do. For these reasons, there are a lot fewer listings on the local register than there are on the state and national registers. As the threshold for documenting significance and extant historic integrity is lower for the local register and higher for the national register, it could be argued that the local register should have the most listings rather than the least.

For LPA, this disparity came into focus when the Kansas Legislature eliminated the environs portion of the state preservation law in July 2013. The Lawrence ordinance has an environs definition that requires projects needing a building permit that are within a 250 foot radius of a locally-listed historic property to undergo a review process before the permit is issued. The state law review, which had a more strict interpretation than the local one, had a 500’ radius.

LPA believes in the review process for the immediate environs of listed historic properties. While the local process, as designed, will stop only the most outrageously inappropriate building proposals, it does provide multiple opportunities for effective interaction with professional planning staff, the Historic Resources Commission (HRC), and concerned members of the public at structured hearings at the local level. The end result in most cases is a project passing review that is improved in how it will relate to the listed property while still achieving the applicant’s project goals.

LPA’s response to the Legislature’s action has been threefold. First, we worked with all owners of stand-alone properties that were listed at the state and national levels. By signing a consent form, these owners allowed LPA to bring their nominations to the Lawrence Register before the City's HRC and City Commission. This has involved a dozen or so properties over the last two years.

We recently began working with owners of contributing properties on the perimeter of the city’s state and national listed historic districts. As with the first group, a signed consent form is all that is needed for LPA to submit a nomination. By listing some of these individual properties locally, we can restore some of the environs review that was taken away by the Legislature.

 820 New Jersey St. - the Green and Sidney Lewis House, listed on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places

820 New Jersey St. - the Green and Sidney Lewis House, listed on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places

Third, we are now working with owners of great historic Lawrence properties that have not been documented or listed on any historic registers to date. As we look around, there are a number of outstanding properties that could easily qualify for state and national listing. Our intent is to place them on the Lawrence register first, so that some of the initial steps in the process will already be complete if those owners wish to pursue listing at higher levels at a later date. While a local nomination can be accomplished by a dedicated volunteer, the scope of our project will require some professional assistance, for which we will be providing some internal funds as well as seeking grant funding.

As LPA continues to move forward with this project, the Lawrence Register of Historic Places will have more listings, a more diverse array of architectural styles, materials and eras, and will present for the record a much more accurate portrayal of our city’s rich architectural and cultural history. Do you own a property you think should be listed on the local historic register? If so, contact us and tell us about it!