The group began a ribbon campaign Thursday night in an effort to preserve seven historic Oread homes in the 1300 block of Ohio Street, most of which are nearly 100 years old. The KU Endowment Association purchased the houses in the spring and is considering replacing them with a scholarship hall.
Twelve members of the neighborhood group went door to door for two hours, focusing on Kentucky and Tennessee streets between Ninth and 14th streets. They collected 100 signatures protesting demolition and used six rolls of yellow ribbon to adorn supporters' porches and trees.
"Most of our teams reported 100 percent response rates," said Janet Gerstner, secretary and treasurer of the association. "Part of me expected it (to go well), but you're uncertain when going to the door. It's kind of nerve racking."
John Crawford, who owns several houses near KU, agreed to hang a ribbon at one of his properties. As a carpenter, he purchases historic homes, restores them to their original condition and leases them.
"I hate to see these things torn down because of the craftsmanship; it's a lost art," he said. "The original builders put a lot of pride into what they built, and they are built well."
Renovating historic Oread homes, many of which are dilapidated, is no easy task, Crawford said.
"From personal experience, I know the difficulty of going into a house, gutting it and turning it into a cash cow," he said.
It may be too late to save the homes already purchased by KU, but other homes can still be rescued from the wrecking ball, he added.
"I didn't feel that (the homes purchased by KU) were past the threshold of being returned to their original state, or near their original state," Crawford said. "A lot of these homes still have structural integrity."
Plans for construction within 500 feet of historic campus buildings -- such as Strong Hall and Spooner Hall -- must be cleared by the Campus Historic Preservation Board. Chairman James Long said KU has not yet presented the board with plans for the Oread homes, which border Spooner Hall.
He added that KU values historic preservation and has several such projects under way.
One of the major complaints of residents in the area is that KU has violated its campus plan, a document that establishes a boundary between the university and many Oread homes. KU's recent acquisitions violate that boundary, Gerstner said.
"Everyone needs to ask themselves how much they want KU to expand," she said. "Do they want KU to keep marching on to Massachusetts Street or does our community need to delineate a firm border?"
Gerstner said the Oread Neighborhood Assn. has a strong desire to form a partnership with the university instead of fighting with it.
"We share a lot of the same concerns with the university," she said. "Most of us are KU alums, so it's been sad for us not to be able to work together."
The neighborhood association has met three times with university officials and will continue collecting signatures and handing out ribbons until the next meeting, which has not been set. For more information, call the association at 842-5440.
-- Staff writer Stephanie Paterik can be reached at 832-7187.