Who’s kidding whom?
A large apartment building is under construction at the northwest corner of 11th and Indiana streets. No doubt it will be a fine addition to the housing market, and, because of its location, it will be particularly attractive to Kansas University students.
There usually are numerous hurdles in Lawrence for any major development to overcome before getting the necessary approvals and for construction to begin. One obstacle or hurdle in this project was an early 1900s house located on the site. The house is known as “Varsity House” because it once served as a boarding house, with a large kitchen and dining area, for members of the KU football team.
Its true “historic” value can be debated but, in Lawrence, if someone or some group is committed to making “historic” an issue concerning a building or neighborhood, it becomes a high hurdle.
Those proposing the apartments initially gave differing views on the size and location of the project and how the Varsity House could be protected and preserved. It was decided that the structure would be moved to accommodate the apartment complex, but local preservationists were surprised when the developer decided to disassemble the structure and place its pieces in storage, saying it would be reassembled at the site, supposedly looking the same and maintaining its original appearance.
The only trouble, based on a pass-by look at the site, is that the only possible location for Varsity House will be on top of a concrete pad, probably surrounded by some fake green grass and probably not looking anything like the treasured and special original structure. It will have to be jammed into a small space next to the modern apartment complex. The outside shell of the building may retain its original appearance but the lower-level kitchen and dining area obviously will have to be eliminated or relocated, and there is no way the builder or architect will be able to duplicate the special ambiance, feeling, smell and atmosphere of the original structure where football players lived, relaxed and shared meals.
It will be interesting to remember the developer’s pledge and see how the rebuilt Varsity House will fit in with its large modern housing cousin.