Archive for Saturday, February 11, 1995


February 11, 1995


Lawrence's latest landmark is a home designed by a painter, once owned by a chancellor's widow and now occupied by a Kansas University housing official.

Carol von Tersch longs for the days of a true Kansas University community -- when professors, staffers and students shared a neighborhood on the hill, both known as Oread.

It won't be easy to regain now that many professors have taken off to reside in the outer reaches of town, the assistant director of student housing said. But Alvamar isn't the center of town, and it shouldn't be the center of the community, she said.

That's where the university -- and her house -- come in.

"I'm concerned about the neighborhood and preserving a sense of what it was like to live here some years ago," she said, harkening back to the 1920s, '30s and '40s. "If an effort isn't made to preserve some of the older neighborhoods, then that sense of community will be lost for the next generation."

Von Tersch and Carolyn Berneking are contributing to that effort by working to have von Tersch's home at 706 W. 12th listed on three historic registers. They want to protect a unique home in a university neighborhood from becoming another statistic in a rapidly developing town.

Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners unanimously approved adding the house to Lawrence's Register of Historic Places, which already protects 15 other homes and buildings between Rhode Island and North Michigan streets.

The next step: possible inclusion on the state and national registers, which would widen the influence of preservation efforts through more public information and governmental review.

"This is something so people can't build next to it, and they're not to tear it down," said Berneking, a volunteer at KU's archives who lived in the home from 1958 to 1976. "It's for the history of Lawrence. Without it, we won't have any history to show people."

Although construction will not be prohibited near von Tersch's 85-year-old home, any project that requires a building permit within 250 feet of the property must first receive approval from the city's Historic Resources Commission.

Such review becomes formal because the city found Von Tersch's home worthy of preservation on two fronts: its relationship to development of the Oread neighborhood, which grew with the university at the turn of the century; and its association with William A. Griffith, who designed the house and helped establish KU's School of Architecture.

The home -- a six-bedroom, 2 1/2-story wood-shingle house, with "airing" porches and a clear view of Campanile Hill and Memorial Stadium -- is the best example of Griffith's work in Lawrence, said Dennis J. Enslinger, the city's historic resources administrator.

Griffith, who headed KU's department of painting and design from 1899 to 1920, designed the home for Jane Snow, widow of Francis H. Snow, the school's sixth chancellor. The home still has its original lighting fixtures, which are powered by either gas or electricity, depending on which switch is used.

"The commission has defined it as a house that's significant to maintain," said Enslinger, who studied Griffith for his master's thesis. "It's important to Lawrence history."

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