Archive for Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Once home to a university-run high school, nearly century-old KU building demolished

August 13, 2013


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Demolition on the vacant University Relations building was carried out in early August. Built in 1915, the building used to be home to the Oread High School.

Demolition on the vacant University Relations building was carried out in early August. Built in 1915, the building used to be home to the Oread High School.

Before housing University Relations, this 100-year-old building housed the KU Endowment, a faculty club and high school that acted as a teaching lab for students in the KU School of Education. Photo courtesy of Spencer Archives.

Before housing University Relations, this 100-year-old building housed the KU Endowment, a faculty club and high school that acted as a teaching lab for students in the KU School of Education. Photo courtesy of Spencer Archives.

Nearly 100 years old, the University Relations building on the far northeast end of the Kansas University campus had lived several lives throughout its history.

Before being home to University Relations, the house-like structure across Oread Avenue from the Kansas Union was a high school, a faculty lounge and then offices for the KU Endowment. In its final incarnation it was an especially good-looking storage facility with an antique facade.

Last week, the building went through the final final phase of its life: demolition.

Paul Graves, deputy director for Construction and Design Management at KU, said the University Relations building had become structurally unsound in its old age, to the point where it posed a safety hazard. The Kansas Board of Regents rated the building’s condition as “poor” in its 2012 facilities inventory.

Demolition of the building took most of last week, with some preparatory work starting before then. The demolition was contracted out to Lawrence-based B.A. Green Construction at a cost of about $80,000.

Built in 1915, the structure originally housed the Oread High School, a teaching lab for KU School of Education students.

Educators in training at the Oread school put in an hour each day teaching a student body made up largely of the children of faculty, according to a history of the building from a 1985 University Daily Kansan article.

Students at the school had the advantage of using university facilities for their extracurricular activities. Gym class often was often conducted at Robinson Gymnasium. Student thespians performed plays at the campus theater.

The name changed to "University High School" in 1941, with more dramatic changes on the way. In the years following World War II, enrollment rose so dramatically that the school quickly outgrew the space on Oread Avenue. However, the high school was underfunded, and the School of Education wanted to provide more professional training for its students by having them teach at public schools in the area.

In June 1950, the school closed for good. That same year, a donation from Roy A. Roberts, a KU alumnus and editor-turned-president of the Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times, helped convert the building into a faculty club.

Roberts' donation went toward outfitting the building with spiffy new furnishings, while the state put up money to build a two-story addition, all of it to give faculty a place to unwind after classes. The refurbished clubhouse sported a lounge, cafeteria, dining hall with oak floors and pine paneling, and a even pool room.

The faculty club moved off campus in the late 1960s, and the KU Endowment took up residence in the building. Within just eight years the Endowment, too, outgrew the Oread Avenue building.

University Relations then claimed and renamed the building and occupied it for the next 20 years.

When, in 2000, the department moved to the the Marketing Communications building just next door, the building kept the University Relations name but functioned as auxiliary storage space for the university.

Graves said it held paper files and computer accessories, among other university-owned detritus, all of which was carted off to other locations around campus in the weeks leading up to the building’s demolition.

For now, Graves said, there are no plans to build anything on the site. Once the hill where the building stood is regraded and landscaped, the spot that once held a campus high school will be a quiet little patch of grass at the northeast edge of campus.

But the space is there if the university ever wants it. “It may be an appropriate site in the future for a new building,” Graves said.


Frederic Gutknecht IV 4 years, 8 months ago

I heard of the coming demolition and happened to be working in the area as the building was being chomped to the ground and carted away by giant machines. It was an impressive and somewhat frightening sight. I've felt sick ever since and remember people talking about evil mold spores in the building. I'LL SUE, I tell you! Not really. The detritus and evil of our societal structure cannot be tamed, defeated or slowed. What's the point? We are the pawns and can only win "en passant", placing us in the most vulnerable of positions. Without the help of the aristocracy, we will die. Pawns will never win without support...and even if we manage to become part of the aristocracy, the game will be over and all of each king's horses, and all of each king's men, will be put in place again..and only the playful hands of masters will change and and put the same pieces in the same places for the next game...and moves will be forever limited by the rules of our masters. Enjoy the game or die trying to change the rules.

geekin_topekan 4 years, 8 months ago

We could have watched from Jack in the Box while enjoying lunch of a tasty Jumbojack...oh wait.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

KU has a long history of demolition by neglect in the Oread Neighborhood. They buy properties for the land with the intent of letting them decay without any maintenance. After a few years they can claim they're structurally unsound and demolish them.

Matt Schwartz 4 years, 8 months ago

They already have plans to build. Let us read .

BringBackMark 4 years, 8 months ago

Structurally unfit at 98? I hope the rest of the university buildings last longer than that or there's a bunch of upcoming demolition and construction. That would be considered barely "broke in" in some countries.

Melissa Isaacs 4 years, 8 months ago

If this building was structurally unsound, it became so because KU ceased to maintain it. What I don't understand is why the local preservation community allowed this building to fall with so little interest/protest?

irvan moore 4 years, 8 months ago

I wonder about that too, and what about the city historic resource board, do they have any power/authority/interest in university property

SinoHawk 4 years, 8 months ago


I'm all for the preservation of buildings with historic or architectural significance, but not everything can or should be saved. Wescoe, for example, is a building that doesn't need to be mourned whenever its useful life is up, whether that be in 10/50/150 years.

Even some buildings with historic significance are sometimes destroyed, and with good reason. The former Pan Am Worldport at JFK is a perfect example: it is being demolished despite its unique architecture and place in US culture because the ground that it sits on is too valuable to waste.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

Wescoe is one building that never should have been constructed. Thank God it was at least chopped off and didn't rise to its originally planned height. Even 30 years ago when I took classes there it was dark, depressing, and always smelled like mildew and wet dogs because the ventilation was horrible.

I enrolled in certain classes based on if I could find one for my degree that was held in a different building.

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