Archive for Friday, March 13, 1992


March 13, 1992


The hyperbolic-paraboloid house at 934 W. 21st will be among local structures featured in a Lawrence Preservation Alliance public education program set for March 21.

The program, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., will explore "the 10 most unusual buildings in Lawrence," according to Nicolette Bromberg, LPA member organizing the event.

Bromberg said the point was to give those attending an "idea of the wide variety of architecture" in Lawrence.

"There's some really fun stuff," she said.

Paul Caviness, local architectural historian and also an LPA member, will present the program, after which several sites will be visited.

The hyperbolic paraboloid house on West 21st was designed by a former Kansas University civil engineering faculty member, Donald Dean, and built in 1956 as his family's personal residence.

THROUGH THE YEARS, the property has been bought and sold several times; current owners are Gary Finch and Jerry Colley.

The house's name comes from its unusually shaped roof, which is a rectangle twisted so two corners flare up and the other two rest on the ground.

According to a Nov. 23, 1956, Journal-World feature on the house, Dean said "Many people think the house was built only to attract attention and isn't practical."

That idea, he explained, is far from the truth.

Dean said the home's roof construction was practical and was built without any rafters. He said all walls could be moved without affecting the roof, and insulating and heating the structure was easy.

A MAY 11, 1957, J-W story contained more details of the house's construction: (It) "is Haydite block construction outside. Inside, the few permanent partitions are of the same material." Haydite blocks are lightweight concrete blocks.

Other interior room partitions, the May article reported, were moveable, and those that were permanent did not reach to the ceiling, which facilitated circulation of air to heating and air-conditioning units.

Finch and Colley have continued extensive refurbishing work begun on the house by previous owners, Bruce and Carol Bonebrake.

He said the Bonebrakes installed a much-needed rolled rubber roof as well as a tongue-and-groove pine interior ceiling.

"The wood was soaked and bent to the curvature of the ceiling," he explained.

WITH THOSE MAJOR projects out of the way, Finch and Colley have focused on cosmetic work inside, Finch said and have three to four years' worth of renovations planned to get the house just as they want it.

The structure is on the LPA's recently released "Top 100" list of culturally significant buildings in town, along with several of other structures to be featured at the upcoming program.

In addition to the hyperbolic-paraboloid house, other buildings to be discussed by Caviness are at Teepee Junction, just east of the intersection of U.S. Highways 24-40 and 59 north of Lawrence; the St. Lawrence Catholic Center, 1631 Crescent Rd.; Kansas University's Dyche Hall; Ivan's Auto Service, 1843 Mass.; the former Phillips gas station at 10th and New Hampshire; the Masonic Temple, 10th and Massachusetts; Bowersock Mills and the old Barbed Wire Building, Sixth and New York; City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts; and a house at 746 Miss. David Benjamin, who with Dennis Enslinger did a Resurvey of Old West Lawrence last year, said the 746 Miss. house is actually two houses. The first house was built in 1869 and is a one-story, folk-style house.

Attached to the back is a two-story Italianate structure built in 1886.

"They made no real effort to disguise the first," Benjamin said, "so it literally looks like two houses stuck together."

The March 21 program will serve as a basis for future LPA programs, Bromberg said, noting she also hoped to institute a "Know Your Neighborhood" series and offer a ``1950s tour'' of the city to give the public a better idea of what Lawrence was like 40 years ago.

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