Almost beyond repair: Lawrence couple gives midcentury house a second chance

photo by: Mike Yoder

Paula Kellogg and Gordie Sailors renovated the home at 1051 Wellington Drive in Lawrence. It had been built in 1960 by Dwight Burnham, a KU art instructor. The house fell into disrepair before Burham died in 2013. When the property came up for auction in 2015, the couple saw potential and were the highest bidders.

For several years overgrown trees hid most of the house at 1051 Wellington Drive.

Built back in 1960 by Dwight Burnham, a University of Kansas art instructor, the house fell into disrepair before Burnham died in 2013.

When the property came up for auction in 2015, Gordie Sailors and Paula Kellogg saw potential. Four or five other people were interested in the house, which was being sold “as is,” but they were the highest bidder.

photo by: Contributed photo

The house at 1051 Wellington Dr. after it was purchased by Paula Kellogg and Gordie Sailors at an auction on Halloween 2015.

“We walked in, and it was moldy; it had been overtaken with critters and was not livable,” Sailors said.

“But we knew it had lovely bones,” Kellogg said.

The bones that had not been eaten by termites, that is. Sailors estimates the insects had devoured 20% of the house.

Kellogg appreciated that it wasn’t a cookie-cutter house. Built on two lots on three-quarters of an acre in west Lawrence, the house has seven levels. The meandering floor plan makes it easy for first-time guests to get lost.

photo by: Mike Yoder

From the backyard, a westside view of the home at 1051 Wellington Dr. which was built in 1960.

“The one thing it did have was a great foundation,” Sailors said. There wasn’t one crack. Sailors has been in the construction business, and for several decades he and Kellogg would renovate a house a year.

“Basically 75% of the original framing and joist is here,” Sailors said. “It’s like any renovation project with a house that has been ignored, you don’t know what you are going to find. We knew we had to replace all the electrical, heating and air, windows and siding.”

But, once they began tearing into the house they discovered termites had chewed into 50-foot beams and the ceiling was shot. They also had to do some asbestos abatement.

Originally the house had a separate studio with an outside entrance. They debated keeping it separate, but then decided they didn’t want to walk outside in the winter, so they connected the two buildings. The studio now has a TV room and little apartment for guests with a separate outside entrance. They also added a sunroom, deck and patio to the structure. The house now has the potential for seven bedrooms.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The dining room features large, east-facing windows and a lofted ceiling. The front door to the home is visible at the far left.

Sailors salvaged the original redwood siding from the outside of the house and repurposed it as the living room ceiling. There is a space open to the kitchen and the dining room that is up another level in the house. It includes a wall of cherry bookcases that match the cabinets in the kitchen.

They moved in on Halloween 2016, exactly a year after buying the house. Since then they have discovered it’s great for entertaining.

“We can do crowds,” Kellogg said. In the past few years they have hosted 90 people for Thanksgiving and almost 100 for a birthday party. Plus, the deck and patio afford a lot of outside space for entertaining in the warmer months.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A unique part of the original house, built in 1960, were these large corner windows to the backyard, located in the family room.

Once they began the renovation they found the original architectural renderings of the house, which they now have framed on a wall. The Burnhams were the only people who had ever lived in the house before Sailors and Kellogg.

Through the reconstruction, they feel they have become closer to Dwight and Lillian Burnham. They learned that he made beer and wine and started the Lawrence Brewers Guild. They also met someone who had been in his Boy Scout troop.

photo by: Mike Yoder

An all-season porch on the west side of the house provides a large living area and plenty of windows to the backyard below.

“The house must have become too much for the elderly couple and they just let nature take over the outside. It was such a really large house, and I am sure they couldn’t keep up with everything that needed attention,” Sailors said.

“We appreciate the Burnhams,” Kellogg said. “They were good citizens and neighbors and I feel a connection to them.”

“And we have given their house a second chance,” Sailors said.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A southeast view of the home at 1051 Wellington, which was built in 1960.

photo by: Contributed photo

A view of the house at 1051 Wellington Dr., built by Dwight Burnham in 1960, before it fell into disrepair.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Gordie Sailors’ name.

More Lawrence homes

This Journal-World feature takes readers inside interesting Lawrence homes. Have a suggestion? Please contact us at

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