The old Varsity House hasn’t been benched for good.
As a four-story apartment building continues to be built at 1043 Ind. in the Oread neighborhood, the architect for the project knows questions are growing with some about whether the old Varsity House that once sat on the property will ever return to the site.
“I know right now there doesn’t look like there will be the space, but there will be,” said Lawrence architect Paul Werner. “The Varsity House is coming back.”
The future of the Varsity House, an early 1900s home that once served as a boarding house for members of the varsity football team at KU, was a hot topic when the city was considering plans for the new 53-unit apartment building.
The house, while under the ownership of Kansas University, deteriorated. Developers of the apartment complex originally had proposed demolishing the structure.
But a deal was struck between the developers, City Hall and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance that the home would be moved to a corner of the property, which would still allow the apartment project to move forward.
Preservationists, though, were surprised when developer Thomas Fritzel in December disassembled the house and had it moved off site.
He said at the time that the house would be brought back to the site and reassembled once construction work on the apartment project had progressed.
Preservationists, though, have been skeptical about what will actually return to the site, said Dennis Brown, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance.
“The dismantling makes me think that likely it will be more of a replica of the Varsity House that will go up,” Brown said. “What is really left of the Varsity House? Some framing?”
Most of the details related to the move and the storage of the house have been under the supervision of Fritzel. An attempt to reach Fritzel for comment was unsuccessful.
But Werner said the pieces of the house have been securely stored inside a metal building in Douglas County.
Werner said plans call for as much of the original house to be reused as possible, but he said it will require a new roof, siding, windows and other materials that had deteriorated too badly to be saved.
As for where the house will go, the project will follow through on the agreement to place the house at the far southeast corner of the site. The house will sit very near the corner of 11th and Indiana streets, Werner said.
That portion of the site currently is a concrete pad being used as a construction staging area.
The Varsity House will sit upon the concrete because the house actually will be atop the roof of an underground parking garage. The entire site for the apartment building has a 114-space below-ground garage beneath it.
“Now that I’ve seen the construction process on that site, I understand why Thomas chose to dismantle and move the house,” Werner said. “We would have had to move it at least twice to build the garage.”
Once reassembled, the Varsity House will serve as a six-bedroom boarding house.
Werner said he doesn’t have a timeline for when the Varsity House will return to the site, but he said the entire project is scheduled to be done by early December.
The apartments currently are being leased for the next KU semester.
“My understanding is the pre-leasing is going great,” Werner said. “We think it is going to be a really cool project.”