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Archive for Sunday, February 9, 1992

S FIRST 100

February 9, 1992

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The 1869 sandstone house, once derelict but now refurbished by owner Lance Burr, stands at 1016 N.Y., a "typical early Lawrence house," according to Paul Caviness, architectural designer, historian and member of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance.

At 647 N.H. stands the old post office, built in 1906 and added to in 1930 carefully composed in the Beaux-Arts Classical architectural style.

At 1001 Mass., the Masonic Temple reigns, a rare example of Egyptian Revival architecture on the Kansas plains.

These and 97 more local structures comprise a new list of "culturally significant structures" compiled by the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, a private group involved in local historic preservation efforts.

Listed buildings range from imposing academic, governmental and religious edifices to fragile and sometimes neglected pre-Quantrill houses and outbuildings.

LPA MEMBERS call the list Lawrence's "First 100" and describe it as a `tool' meant to help local preservation efforts progress in a more proactive way.

Dennis Domer, LPA president, said the list represented another step away from earlier "bulldozer episodes" that resulted in the loss of historically significant properties without what many residents thought was due consideration.

"We're trying to do something very positive and up front," he said of the list. "These buildings are ones we need to talk about, not necessarily save."

The LPA recently presented its list to the city's Historic Resources Commission, noting that since the Lawrence City Commission soon would be evaluating the impact of a proposed downtown expansion, the document could be particularly useful.

THE OLDEST properties listed pre-date Quantrill's 1863 raid on Lawrence, and some of those may be included in the proposed expansion area.

The Historic Resources Commission (HRC) is an advisory board appointed by the city commission. Members review applications for demolitions, construction and certain renovations of properties near recognized historic properties.

Barry Newton, who chairs the HRC, said the LPA's new list was a welcome addition to the resources his group relied on and would help members stay alert to potentially significant structures.

"It gives an advanced sense of where problems may arise," he said.

Linda Finger, senior planner in the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department who works with the HRC as historic resources manager, said she was in the process of "identifying (First 100) structure locations on a map" to give the HRC a better visual idea of where the buildings were located and how they were spaced.

RESEARCH began on the list of the First 100 in late 1990, and the LPA's Domer said another list of 700 structures was in the works as well.

Actual inventory and research work on the First 100 was done by LPA board members Caviness, Richard Kershenbaum, Erik Kilgren and Betsy Wilson.

Caviness, who chaired the working committee, said they used existing surveys, a file of news clips and other documents in addition to brainstorming.

The buildings had to fit one or more of five criteria:

Deserve individual recognition for artistic virtue or historical importance.

Represent a significant type of building.

Have a connection with historically important people or events.

Constitute a part of an important district, or group or category of buildings (or structures or sites).

Contribute to the character and identity and image of a neighborhood or of the city as a whole.

AMONG STRUCTURES included because of their historic importance were the 20-odd documented pre-Quantrill buildings, described as "a very vulnerable class of historic structures."

Also on the list for historic reasons are early stone houses and barns, storefront buildings, industrial buildings, transportation facilities, schoolhouses and residential outbuildings including, horse barns, coach houses, outhouses, summer kitchens and well houses.

Buildings of particular types include "structures designed by architects or builders important in local history or the history of architecture, as well as technologically innovative structures and buildings in styles rare for Lawrence."

There also is an archeological category that mentions such locations as the brewery site, windmill site and POW camp site.

IN ONE SECTION of the list, individual buildings and sites are listed separately with brief explanations of their particular significance. Locations are mostly in East Lawrence, Old West Lawrence, Oread neighborhood, North Lawrence and the Kansas University and Haskell Indian Junior College campuses.

Caviness, on a tour of some named sites last week, noted Burr's sandstone house "is an example of a derelict house that was rescued and made to pay." It is now a rental property.

Today, only a few such soft sandstone structures remain, Caviness said, for although the building material is easy to work with, it's also easily eroded by weather and use.

Also on the list is St. Luke AME Church, 900 N.Y., built for Lawrence's second-oldest black congregation. Caviness said St. Luke "was where Langston Hughes went to church when he was a boy.

"He wrote about it quite a lot."

THE OLD J.C. Penney building at 805-807 Mass., where the Brass Buckle is today, is among Caviness' favorites on the list as the only art nouveau or Sullivanesque-style building in town.

Likewise, the Masonic Temple is the only Egyptian Revival-style building. Caviness called it "very eccentric for a downtown location."

Another of his favorites is the Standard Mutual Life building, 700 Vt., which he said seemed under-appreciated. Of classical Roman design, it is, he said, built of high-quality materials and makes quite a statement about the firm, still in residence there, that built it.

Of the pre-Quantrill buildings, Caviness noted further research was needed. A earlier list was compiled in the 1920s, he said, but whoever did it was uncertain even then about some of structures.

Two years ago, Caviness said, the city lost four pre-Quantrill era buildings in one year to demolition and fire, "and we can't sustain that rate without losing them all."

HE SAID many of the structures, on their face, did not look significant and most had been altered in some way or another either with newer siding over old, soft bricks or with porches or stucco and the like.

"Those are the kinds of things houses undergo," he said. "It's in the nature of a house to change with the people who live in it."

He noted the LPA's second list of 700 other structures was growing slowly, but for now, was being regarded as an ongoing project.

Not all the structures on that list have been documented, he said, "but we don't want to write them off. These show promise of some documentation showing up at some point."

"There's a tremendous amount of survey work that could be done in Lawrence," he added. "It's endlessly time consuming."

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