State group places villa on list of endangered historic places

The Vermilya-Boener house, at East 1400 and North 1900 roads northwest of Lawrence, is on the Kansas Preservation Alliance Inc.’s list of endangered historic places.

A 143-year-old limestone house north of Lawrence has been named as one of the most endangered historic places in the state.

The home, which sits on land once slated for a sand-dredging facility, was one of seven properties the Kansas Preservation Alliance recognized Saturday as threatened.

A two-story Italian villa once home to a prominent Lawrence businessman, the Vermilya-Boener House sits about a mile north of U.S. Highway 24 and west of U.S. Highway 59 on North 1900 Douglas County Road. In 1991, the home was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The house is part of a 310-acre site that owners Midwest Concrete Materials had considered turning into a sand-dredging facility.

The Manhattan-based company withdrew its proposal earlier this year after the Federal Aviation Administration voiced concerns over a reclamation lake that would be built on the site. The FAA feared the lake would attract migratory birds that could disrupt aviation at the nearby Lawrence Municipal Airport.

In the proposed plan, the house would not have been destroyed. But historic preservationists worried that trucks hauling gravel out of the site every day could weaken the home’s structure.

“There could be a tendency to just level it and get it out of the way, especially if it showed any signs of damage,” Kansas Preservation Alliance executive director Dale Nimz said.

Vacant since the Vermilya-Boener family sold it in 1948, the house’s windows are covered in plywood. The home’s previous owner, Lance Burr, had plans of rehabilitating the home. He placed it on the historic registry, built a new roof and put mothballs in it.

The home was built by early Douglas County settlers Elijah and Cynthia Vermilya. Elijah’s daughter, Ella, inherited the house and lived in it with her husband William Boener, owner of Boener Brothers’ Cigar Factory. The cigar factory, in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street at the turn of the 20th century, was one of the town’s major employers at the time.