The Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously to reject plans for a huge downtown mixed-use project at the corner of Massachusetts and 11th streets. The HRC found the five-story design, covering almost half a block, inappropriate for a site across the street from the historic Watkins Museum and Douglas County Courthouse. Read more about the decision in the Lawrence Journal-World,
More than 100 people crowded into the Santa Fe Depot on February 22 as the historic midcentury building was rededicated after an extensive renovation project. The renovation of the depot, after years of neglect, is one of the greatest midcentury preservation efforts in Kansas and Lawrence.
A highlight of the afternoon was a speech by one of the depot’s original architect’s, Warren Corman, who entertained attendees with stories of the building’s creation in the mid-1950s.
Other speakers at the event included representatives of the groups who made the renovation project possible, including Depot Redux, the non-profit advocacy group founded by Carey Maynard-Moody; Lawrence Modern; Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway; Amtrak; Lawrence city officials; and Lawrence Preservation Alliance.
This diverse coalition of groups worked for many years for the city to take over ownership of the building and for the depot to be listed on the National, Kansas and Lawrence Historic Registers. That in turn facilitated a Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Kansas Department of Transportation and matching funds from the city to fund the extensive renovation.
The building now looks very similar to what it looked like when it opened in 1956, augmented by new geothermal HVAC, new electrical, plumbing and a new roof. There is fresh paint and new aluminum fascia wrapped around the various roof elevations. The bathrooms, entrances, walkways and platform now meet Americans with Disabilities guidelines. The operable windows have interior storm windows and screens that blend seamlessly with the north and south walls.
First Management Construction was in charge of the renovation and Stan Hernly of Hernly Associates Inc. was the architect who made sure the renovation adhered to historic guidelines.
Diane Stoddard, Lawrence’s assistant city manager, provided the leadership and determination for the depot ownership to be transferred to the city. Without Diane, the depot still would be owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and falling into a worse state. LPA presented Depot Redux and Stoddard with Preservation Achievement Awards in 2017 for their work preserving the depot.
We are happy and grateful to all of the citizens of Lawrence who were involved with this successful preservation effort and look forward to many more years of the depot being a Lawrence landmark and serving as a regular stop for Amtrak passenger trains.
LPA’s Winter Preservation in Progress Awards recognize local residents or groups that have performed preservation work that improves a structure, promotes preservation concepts or sets the stage for future preservation efforts. The 2019 Winter PIP awards recognize a campus bandstand, an extensive downtown rehab, and a John Gideon Haskell-designed church that is now used as office space.
It’s been about 20 years since downtown’s historic Massachusetts Street was last affected by a major infill project. Since the west side of the 600 block was rebuilt, there certainly have been other changes downtown, but those have primarily involved different uses rather than major alterations to our built environment. That could soon change in a big way if the proposed HUB apartment complex at 11th and New Hampshire gains the necessary approvals from City Hall.
Core Spaces, a Chicago developer, is proposing this massive student housing complex to be built on the southern third of the east side of Massachusetts and the west side of New Hampshire in the 1000 block. As currently proposed, the building would be six or seven stories tall and extend along 11th Street from Massachusetts to New Hampshire on the south, stretching to Einstein’s and Maceli’s on the north. At its third story the building would extend over the alley. The proposal also includes constructing a three-level parking garage for tenants on the east side of New Hampshire Street, between the Municipal Court building and the Old English Lutheran Church.
The church, the Douglas County Courthouse and the Watkins Museum are all listed as landmark properties on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places. The project is currently under review by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC). The applicant is now preparing to meet for a second time with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), a subcommittee of HRC. Small design changes are being made that may bring the project into compliance with the City’s Downtown Design Guidelines, but the overall mass of the structure may be difficult to justify when it goes back to the full HRC, probably in March. The project also will need approval from the Planning Commission for a Special Use Permit due to the proposed ground floor residential use.
While LPA agrees that our downtown corners are the most appropriate locations for taller buildings, and that this corner is in great need of redevelopment, to our chagrin this building stays at or near its maximum height throughout. Massachusetts Street shows variable roofline heights going from one building to the next. HUB instead takes a pedal to the metal approach of height and mass from one end of the building to the other, creating one large block of a building.
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 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.
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!
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
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.
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."
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 UnmistakablyLawrence.com 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.”