Archive for Sunday, June 27, 1999


June 27, 1999


A Lawrence librarian has written a book about the historic buildings on the Kansas University campus.

For the past 15 years or so, Sandra Wiechert has been sleuthing.

She's quietly pumped friends and new acquaintances about the details of Kansas University's landmarks and filled pages and pages of paper with her findings.

Those detailed notes have now been organized into "Historic Mount Oread: a catalog of KU's landmarks," a 65-page resource book published recently by the Historic Mount Oread Fund.

"It took a lot of effort and a long time," Wiechert said. "Some things were very buried. I got a lot of help along the way."

Wiechert, who has a master's degree in history from Kansas State University and is a reference librarian at the Lawrence Public Library, said the book began as an internship project with the Kansas State Historical Society in the mid-1980s, when she needed to earn additional college credits to maintain her substitute teaching certificate.

Her assignment was to record the architectural data of all the Kansas University buildings that were 50 years and older. The buildings' academic significance and beauty were not factors in the inventory, which was to be used solely as a preservation record.

"I had to check off all the architectural details of the windows, the doors " but of the front view only. I also had to find the architect."

Her husband, Allen Wiechert, a KU architect who specializes in the adaptive reuse of buildings, was able to tell her about some of the buildings and helped her track down other sources.

"I found all the KU-related structures, sites and statues," she said. "I got an A in the class."

After she finished the project, she told members of the Historic Mount Oread Fund about her findings, and they agreed the information should be turned into a book.

The Historic Mount Oread Fund was founded in the late 1970s by the Wiecherts, Del and Carol Shankel, Hal and Wilda Sandy and Dean and Ginny Graves.

"It grew out of a desire to protect and update Spooner Hall," she said.

In addition to identifying and maintaining KU's landmarks, the Fund now supplies seed money for historic preservation projects, research, seminars and publications about campus sites.

"It's about recognition rather than preservation (of KU's buildings)," she said.

Wiechert has profiled 26 KU buildings, mostly built before 1932; the Victory Eagle, Uncle Jimmy Green and Pioneer statues; Potter Lake and Pump House; and Pioneer Cemetery. Photographs of each building, site and statue were taken by Wally Emerson.

"The benefit of the book is really to the buildings in the book," said Hal Sandy, designer of KU's "smiling" Jayhawk. "If you know some of the history (of a building), it acquires a luster it doesn't have when you just walk up to it."

In addition, he said, a structure with historical documentation is less likely to be torn down.

Sandy said the Historic Mount Oread Fund decided to publish 600 copies of Wiechert's books, which will be distributed to Kansas libraries, KU and Kansas State Board of Regents officials, the Kansas State Historical Society and elected officials.

"At this time, they aren't for sale," Wiechert said. "" It's been well-received and I think it will be republished."

During her 15 years of sleuthing, Wiechert said she was not able to find all the answers to her questions. Some of the unsolved mysteries include:

  • Where was Spooner Hall's red sandstone quarried?
  • Who was the sculptor for the Victory Eagle? And where was it cast?
  • What is the significance of the 1856 date on the Pioneer statue?
  • Was the Potter Lake pump house ever used?

If you have information that could help answer these questions, call Wiechert at 842-5467.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is

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