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Archive for Monday, March 2, 1992

RURAL LIMESTONE HOUSE ADDED TO NATIONAL HISTORIC REGISTER

March 2, 1992

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A limestone Italian Villa style house built north of Lawrence in the 1860s has been added to the National Register of Historical Places.

The Grant Township house, which later was the home of a prominent Lawrence cigar manufacturer, was accepted for the national register in January. Known as the Vermilya-Boener House, the structure now is owned by Lawrence attorney Lance Burr and is on Douglas County Road 1900N, about a mile north of U.S. Highway 24 and west of U.S. Highway 59.

Burr could not be reached for comment this morning.

The house was built by Elijah W. Vermilya for his family between 1866 and 1868. A native of New York, Vermilya came to Lawrence from Illinois between 1855 and 1860.

According to the nomination form that was submitted for the house's placement on the register, the Vermilya-Boener house is a two-story, limestone block, Italian Villa style house. Facing east, the house's foundation dimensions are 38 feet by 36 feet.

The house has been vacant since the mid-1950s and has suffered considerable deterioration.

"IT WAS quite a house in its day, and I think there's enough left to indicate what it was and what it could be again," Paul Caviness, a member of the board of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said this morning. "The stonework is in real good shape, and the interior has much of the original woodwork."

Steve Jansen, director of the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, said the limestone in the house "harkens back to a period in this county when trees were in short supply and wood was a scarce commodity."

Jansen said that in the late 1800s, "A building of that size was seen as a sign that settlers were here and they were going to stay."

Jansen said the house is the 27th property in Douglas County to be placed on the national register. Two local historic districts Old West Lawrence and the Haskell Indian Junior College area also are on the register.

Jansen said the Vermilya-Boener House apparently is the first structure in Grant Township to be placed on the national register.

The house was inherited in 1909 by one of Elijah Vermilya's daughters, Ella, who lived in the house with her husband, William Boener. Boener, who moved to the house, established the Boener Brothers' Cigar Factory at 700 Mass. in Lawrence.

THE JEFFERSON Gazette described the factory in 1900, saying, "It is refreshing in these days when the trusts are gobbling up everything in sight to see successfully growing under our eyes, a prominent institution. . . . Boener Bros. have been building up a very thriving cigar factory in spite of the efforts of the trusts to squeeze out competition."

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