Archive for Monday, October 15, 2012

25 years ago: Old fraternity house to be razed, replaced by apartments

October 15, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Oct. 15, 1987:

The abandoned Theta Chi fraternity house at 1329 W. Ninth was in the sights of a Salina architecture firm. John Shaver, senior partner of The Shaver Partnership, Salina, had applied on Oct. 6 for a permit to tear down the old fraternity house to make room for a new apartment complex. Several hurdles needed to be cleared before construction could begin, including a financial feasibility study for the new complex. Besides the demolition permit, the project also needed city approval of a new plat and site plan. The abandoned three-story building, built in 1958, was located on the site of Lawrence's windmill, which had burned in 1905. The house had been abandoned in 1971 and was later auctioned for $500 in a sheriff's sale.


Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

I first heard about the abandoned fraternity house in 1978. I was fascinated by the story, and all the more so when I heard it was unlocked and anyone could walk right in. So of course I had to go!

It was very unusual in its style, which was one solid piece of concrete, and its mode of construction. I was told years ago that it was the first building intended for habitation that was built using the sliding mold method to pour the concrete. That is, the concrete would be poured, then after it hardened, the mold was slid upward and more concrete poured, until construction was complete. There's nothing new about that method, it's used for grain silos all the time, but for that fraternity house as a structure intended for habitation, it was a first.

That resulted in one very big problem - the heating costs were enormous, I was told.

The great room in the north side of it was fabulous - the walls were all paneled with I think it was rosewood, there was a huge fireplace, and practically everything was untouched at that time. But, as only a few years went by, the place was stripped of everything.

One of the really interesting things about the place was that it was inhabited by bats. Before that, I had never seen a bat flying in the wild before. The first time I saw them, they were whizzing past us at an incredible speed, missing us by inches and never hitting anything, in the hallway that connected the north to the south side of the building. I have always read that bats are silent with their sonic navigation system. That was not my experience, I could hear a very faint high pitched chirping from them that I can't explain at all.

And, it was interesting to look at the bats as they hung from the ceiling. We knew they were awake because we could see their glittery green eyes as they looked back at us from only a few feet away. Not too close though, because bats can be carrying rabies, and the rabies virus does not make bats, or skunks, sick at all. They can be infected and live their entire lives in perfect health.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

2) And of course, the police had to show up one night. I was on the top floor, three stories up, with my friend L. (1957 -2012 R.I.P.), and she looked down and asked me if that was a police car that had just arrived. I looked down and answered, "No, that's a Volvo." That made sense, because the police department in Lawrence, Kansas did not use Volvos for patrol cars.

Whoops, I was mistaken, and an interrogation began as to what exactly what we were doing up on the roof of the fraternity house, three stories up in the air. L. attempted to explain, "Well, it started at Don's Steak House," and after that she wasn't sure what to say.

One of the policeman finished it for her, "Oh, so this is a date then?"

That seemed like a good explanation, so I agreed with it. Then we were ordered to come down from the roof, and when we got down it was explained to us that this was private property, and there had been some burglaries in the area lately. So, it was time for us to leave, and it was firmly suggested to us that we never come back.

I did go back anyway, and you know what really made it interesting one time?

I went through the whole place at night without a flashlight! Actually, that wasn't much of a challenge at all, since the only risk you faced was the big hole that was the access to underneath the building. It would have been bad news to fall into that, even though it really wasn't very deep.

I sure did love that old fraternity house, and I'm sure glad that I have all those memories of the place. It's unfortunate that it's gone today.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 5 months ago

Ah, "Lucifer's"! We will never truly know the number of high school students who nearly fell off the roof after drinking far too much Everclear punch. I wish this story included some pictures.

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