It survived Quantrill's raiders and it marks the property where 150 years ago slaves took refuge on their way to freedom in the North.
Now, the historic red brick structure known as the Robert Miller House is being restored so that it will last several more decades.
"It's the only house in town associated with Quantrill's raiders and the Underground Railroad," said Dennis Dailey, who along with his wife, Judy, owns the house at 1111 E. 19th St.
In March, a contractor began repairing the western wall of the two-story house built in 1858. The wall had developed a bulge, thanks to the settling of the foundation. Cracks also appeared. Dozens of original bricks had to be removed.
New bricks, which match the originals as much as possible, are being installed. The bricks that were saved will be used to replace bad spots on other wall surfaces, including the eastern wall, Dailey said.
"This is a restoration, not a renovation," he said.
The old bricks are much softer than bricks made today, said Don McMican, project engineer of DMG Consultants in Overland Park. But the bricks weren't really the problem, he said.
"The movement of the soil didn't support the house uniformly," McMican said. "It caused the house to move and shift and that cracked the masonry so that it wasn't as strong as it had been."
Tuck-pointing and bracing also were applied to the house.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, which specifies how historic structures can be repaired and what materials should be used. But the designation also allowed the Daileys to apply for grants to help pay for the restoration work. The project's cost is $160,000, and $90,000 of it is being paid with a grant from the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund.
Dailey handled the grant application and contractor bidding process. He hired Restoration & Waterproofing Contractors Inc., of Kansas City, Kan., Topeka and Wichita.
Dailey called on McMican because of his experience in restoration projects such as the Ludington-Thatcher House at 1613 Tenn., and the Clarice L. Osborne Memorial Chapel at Baker University in Baldwin City, which was moved from England.
"You have to care about history and care about restoration or you would be insane to do what we are doing," said Dailey, a retired Kansas University professor. "It's a funny feeling, sometimes, to stand out here of an evening and recognize the history that's here."
On Aug. 21, 1863, William Quantrill and his raiders stopped at the Miller property to water and feed their horses on their way in to attack Lawrence. They did not harm the Millers and they obviously didn't know that a building not far from the house that served as a smokehouse and granary was used to hide freed slaves. All that remains of the smokehouse is the foundation, which can still be seen.
But the old house lives on. The restoration work is expected to be done in May, Dailey said. He is seeking another grant that would help pay for a second restoration effort for the home's northern and southern walls.
House held surprises
The restoration work led to the uncovering of the original plaster masonry that surrounds the fireplace on the western wall. The fireplace for decades was surrounded by what Dailey described as "1950s knotty pine." That wood was removed.
"It is just beautiful," Dailey said. "It's amazing."
In the barn, the Daileys also found the original wood frame that fits onto the front of the fireplace and it will be repaired and put back in place.
The Daileys purchased the house from the Leo Eller family in 1983. The Daileys will continue living in their house during the restoration.
"We're living right in the middle of a construction zone and on occasion the noise gets a little oppressive, but this was too much of an adventure to pass up," Dennis Dailey said.