Renovations on Lawrence's "castle" almost complete
The castle’s makeover is nearly complete. The Victorian-style three-story house, known as the Castle Tea Room, 1307 Mass., still resembles its old self after a major overhaul, said members of a foundation that owns the property.
The castle’s makeover is nearly complete.
The Victorian-style three-story house, known as the Castle Tea Room, 1307 Mass., still resembles its old self after a major overhaul, said members of a foundation that owns the property.
“What’s most remarkable about the castle is the experience people have had in it,” said board member Craig Patterson.
And as construction crews put finishing touches back on the castle in coming weeks, board members hope to reopen a restored castle for public and private events after the first of the year.
The Libuse Kriz-Fiorito Historical Foundation owns the property and house, which was built in 1893-1894 by John N. Roberts, a Civil War veteran and Lawrence businessman who became adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard.
Kriz-Fiorito, a Kansas University dietitian who died in February 2004, bought the historical home in 1947 and started a restaurant there. It became a popular site for wedding receptions and other events.
With construction and decorations nearing an end, Patterson, a Lawrence resident and architect, Lawrence attorney Trip Anderson and other trust board members hope to open it in 2009 for events like wedding receptions, social reunions or business retreats. Gene Fritzel Construction Co. started work in January of this year.
Much of the 19th-century architecture has been matched with 21st-century building concepts, including a heating and cooling system that starts deep in the ground under the castle.
The trick has been to hide the newer concepts to heat and cool the house and retain the building’s traditional aura, said Steven Hughes, a Lawrence engineer who designs heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems.
To do that, he had to design systems to spread warm and cool air through the three floors by using a system of geothermal wells about 200 feet into the ground.
Because the temperature farther under ground is generally 60 to 65 degrees all year, water can be pumped through long plastic pipes to create cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer ones in the winter.
“We didn’t want to run a lot of ductwork around,” Hughes said.
Instead, the geothermal well system, although it cost about $93,000, is meant to cut energy costs over time and last for 70 years.
The house also has a piping system under the floors to provide heat and supplement the well system. It’s all meant to reduce the need to run a new vent system and create more “holes” throughout the old castle.
“Basically, the house looks like it did 100 years ago,” Hughes said.
Now, the interior rooms have restored wood and the fireplaces remain. The lighting systems can be radio-controlled to give users control over ambiance.
The kitchen and bathrooms have been modernized. An elevator was added on the west side of the home in what was “the back hall” when the home was originally constructed. Crews added a sprinkler system for fire safety.
Patterson and Anderson declined to release costs for the renovation. They hope to play host to a couple events after the first of the year.
They said the new efficiencies — although it will take several decades — would pay for themselves.
Patterson also said they were following the wishes of Kriz-Fiorito, who often delighted in the number of people who were engaged there.
“She loved this place and lived in this place. She bought it for romance, and she purveyed that for many years,” he said.