The old Varsity House at 11th and Indiana streets decades ago housed the starters of the Kansas University football team.
Soon, the early 1900s-era home will have more pieces to put back together than the current Jayhawks squad.
The home at 1043 Ind. is being dismantled piece by piece so that it can be moved closer to the corner of 11th and Indiana streets to make way for a 50-plus unit apartment complex being developed by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel.
But historic preservationists and neighbors weren’t expecting the house to be moved in this way.
“When I was told they were going to relocate the house by dismantling it, I was shocked,” said Dennis Brown, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance. “But there is nothing we can do about it.”
Fritzel and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance reached a deal this year where the alliance dropped its opposition to Fritzel’s apartment development in exchange for Fritzel agreeing to move the house closer to the corner. Originally, Fritzel had proposed tearing the house down, and then later offered to move the house to the north end of the lot. Preservationists objected to both ideas before reaching the compromise to move the house to the south.
But the compromise didn’t spell out how the house would be moved. Fritzel has decided to dismantle the house — recently the roof and attic were removed — place the pieces on a flatbed trailer, store the pieces off site, and then bring the house back to the site and reassemble it. Brown said he recognizes the compromise reached with Fritzel didn’t spell out how the house would be moved, but he said he is concerned that the dismantling of the structure will ruin the integrity of the house.
“I don’t understand how it will ever be the same house again,” Brown said. “All I can do is hope that they prove me wrong.”
Fritzel had little to say about the project recently. He didn’t offer any details about the process or the decision. Via e-mail, he expressed surprise that people were concerned about the process.
“Why would anyone worry about how we are doing our job,” Fritzel wrote in response to questions from the Journal-World.
Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect who is designing the apartment project, said he thinks the house will be reassembled back on the site in about six months, but he referred other questions to Fritzel.
The house — which is unique in that it was designed by the mother of Edward Tanner, the chief designer for Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza area — couldn’t remain in its original location because it would interfere with plans for the apartment complex.
City officials approved the dismantling method. Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services, said he could understand why moving the house completely off-site would make for a more efficient construction project at the dense corner of 11th and Indiana streets.
“We had to recognize the construction challenges on the site,” McCullough said.
Once reassembled, the structure will serve as a boarding house next to the new apartment development, which will be unique in itself. It will be the first apartment complex in the Oread neighborhood to provide below-ground parking.