Stan Lawson said the ideal buyer of a property that he and 16 other people own in Vinland would be an artist or craftsman with an interest in historical preservation and owner of a small airplane.
The property is the 138-year-old Vinland Presbyterian Church. The Gothic revival-style church has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003, and James Naismith preached at the church’s pulpit from 1914 to 1916, Lawson said. Attached to the church is a former Sunday school annex that was converted into a residence in the 1970s.
The railroad that brought Naismith from Lawrence to Vinland is long gone, but the Vinland Airport is a block west of the church, making the property convenient for a pilot, Lawson joked.
Stephens Real Estate had an open house for the property Saturday and is now showing it by appointment. About 60 people toured the church and residence the first hour of Saturday’s open house, said Tom Harper, of Stephens. The visitors included both the curious and those interested in the property, which is listed at $249,900, he said.
Lawson, who grew up in Vinland and now lives in Kansas City, Mo., said anyone looking at the property won’t find anything else like it on the market.
“We think it’s pretty unique,” he said. “Something like this doesn’t come along very often. The residence itself was well-built in the 1970s and has held up nicely. The church itself was lovingly restored.”
Lawson and the other 16 shareholders of Vinland Preservation LLC bought the property in 2001 with the goal of saving the neglected church. They rented out the attached residence to pay the mortgage on the property and property taxes, he said.
The group also secured the church’s place on the historical registry and leveraged about $120,000 in preservation grants from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and the Kansas State Historical Society to rebuild the church’s crumbling foundation, strengthen the roof, repair the built-in gutters, replace wall sections and exterior siding, reconstruct three arched windows and repair the steeple, Lawson said. Ray Wilber, one of the 17 shareholders, did much of the restoration work, Lawson said.
The group hopes those making an offer on the property will include a cover letter detailing how they intend to use the church, Lawson said. The group thinks the property would make a good studio or workshop for an artist or craftsman, he said. The partners had the property rezoned from commercial to residential because they didn’t think a commercial application would fit with Vinland, he said. The church’s interior was left unfinished with the idea that the buyer could complete it to fit their individual needs, Lawson said.
“The church part itself is big and open,” he said. “It lends itself for a nice, open workspace. It has tall ceilings, so it’s inspirational. The arch windows are pretty cool, too.”
Lawson said he'll miss working with the other owners, but he nonetheless hoped the property would sell.
“The traditional housing market has been very strong, but this is not a traditional house,” he said. “We’d just like to find the right buyer most likely to keep the building preserved and maintained.”