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, windows 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