The house that faith built

High-end condos occupy building with sacred history

Robert Wilson takes a lot of pride in his work converting an old United Presbyterian Church at 10th and Kentucky streets - which had been divided into apartments since the early 1980s - into four high-end condominiums while still maintaining its original architectural feel.

Kitchens in the condos feature stainless steel appliances.

Robert Wilson is converting the old United Presbyterian Church into condominiums. He says he hopes the unique properties will attract the interest of prospective homeowners, perhaps KU alumni who visit a lot.

Features in the former church include colorful stained glass.

Robert Wilson looks at the hand-chiseled, 14-inch-thick limestone, and he’s in awe.

“This,” he says, “is exceptional work.”

The stone has been at the southwest corner of 10th and Kentucky streets since 1870, when it was used to construct the United Presbyterian Church.

The building remained a church until the early 1980s, when it was turned into four apartments named after the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Now nearing 140 years old, the old building is about to get another rebirth.

Wilson, a Eudora remodeler, is turning the structure into high-end condominiums that will be available for purchase in the next month.

The four condos – about 1,000 square feet each – will run between $200,000 and $250,000. Wilson thinks they’ll sell.

“There’s definitely a market for this,” he says. “There’s a demand for comfortable living.”

But in making the new digs, Wilson is trying to preserve the old structure. It’s notable, in part, because it was designed by John G. Haskell, the famous Lawrence architect whose projects include the Capitol in Topeka, Snow Hall at KU, the Chase County Courthouse and numerous churches.

In his 1984 biography of Haskell, John Peterson says the United Presbyterian Church was similar to the original English Lutheran Church – now Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt. – except without a tower.

Each of the sides of the building has five windows, and it was constructed out of stone from near Junction City.

“The interior of the 35-by-60 foot structure contained twin vestibules with a small minister’s study between them and a small conference room above,” Peterson wrote. “The audience room occupied the rest of the building and was said to seat about 250.”

“Obviously, it was one of his simpler projects,” Barry Newton, a KU architect professor, says of Haskell. “It’s nice that it was preserved when it was turned into apartments.”

That preservation happened because of Bud Jennings, the local flooring store owner who purchased the building in the early 1980s. He’s glad to see its legacy continue as condos.

“I think somebody will enjoy living in them,” Jennings says.

Wilson is hoping so, too.

He’s doing some work on the outside of the building, including adding lighting to showcase the limestone at night. He also added cedar siding on the west side of the building, which he says was likely an original material there.

Still, he says, “the outside is in remarkably good shape.”

The inside has received the most work. Wilson put in new cherry floors, classy lighting, hand-cut bathroom tile and glass bannisters. The windows are new, though they incorporate stained glass that was there from before and are made to look textured, like the original glass would have looked.

In one condominium, original wood railing from the church has been incorporated into the wall as a sort of art piece.

Wilson, who previously renovated an 1890s-era residence at 742 1/2 Mass., is hoping the old church will catch the eye of the right person with enough money to buy a condo there. He says two target markets might be wealthy alumni wanting to return for football games or parents wanting an investment property where their KU student children could live.

“If you’re from the East Coast or the West Coast,” Wilson says, “this is cheap.”