Longtime student center near KU converts part of its building to thriving Airbnb

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Dan and Paige Metsch, from left, of San Diego, with their daughter Saige Metsch, a KU student, and Paige's sister Casey LaForte use the kitchen at Hospitality House on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

As cars lined the circular drive at The Oread hotel on a recent Friday, Dan and Paige Metsch were checking into their room just across the street at Hospitality House.

It’s not that the couple from San Diego didn’t want to stay at The Oread, but it was a busy weekend at the University of Kansas and the hotel was full. They might have found a hotel room on the fringes of town, but, instead, they opted for the Ecumenical Campus Ministries Hospitality House, one of Lawrence’s Airbnbs.

The Airbnb is a relatively new addition to the ECM center, which features meditative spaces and weekly free vegan lunches. The Hospitality House has been open for less than a year. Downstairs, in a well-lit space, it features three private rooms as well as two hostel-style rooms with double beds.

Prices range from $25 per bed per night in the hostel rooms and $70 per night for the private rooms, with access to a kitchen and living area. One of the private rooms has a personal bathroom.

“The price is right. You can really get your bang for your buck here,” said Dan Metsch, who stayed once before when visiting his daughter, Saige Metsch, at KU. However, this was Paige Metsch’s first visit. Her mother and sister, visiting from Missouri, were also staying in one of the rooms.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Living room space is available to all guests at Hospitality House, an Airbnb at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building, shown Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

The family really appreciated the proximity to campus. Hospitality House, at 1204 Oread Ave., is just down the street from the Kansas Union and a short walk to downtown Lawrence.

“It’s so unique,” Dan Metsch said as his wife was arranging some snacks in the kitchen.

The Ecumenical Center has been a fixture near the campus in some form since 1905 and was originally created as a university student ministry by the Lawrence First Presbyterian Church. The building at the current location opened in 1960 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance as well as for its role in the social and political history of the 1960s and 1970s in Lawrence.

Prior to the first guests arriving for the weekend, the sexton, Erin Penner, and a small crew were giving the downstairs a thorough cleaning. She has been at the job since this summer, not only overseeing the Airbnb, but also shopping for and preparing the weekly vegan lunch.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Erin Penner, sexton of Hospitality House, which is an Airbnb in the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building, tries out one of the guest beds on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

“I love this place,” said Penner, who also lives in the building. She had just prepared the final rooms and was sitting outside near a fire pit on the small green space that surrounds the building.

“It’s interesting to me the reasons people come here,” Penner said — conferences, concerts, sporting events and parents weekends.

On weekdays, there are often vacancies. Weekends are busier.

“There are nine beds,” Penner said. But if the futons are counted, they can squeeze in a few more people.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.