LAWRENCE HISTORIC RESOURCES COMMISSION

ITEM NO. 3: L-10-02-2006

STAFF REPORT

 

 

A.       SUMMARY

 

L-10-02-2006: Hold public hearing for consideration of placing the structure located at 925 Vermont Street, known as Plymouth Congregational Church, in the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.

 

B.       HISTORIC REGISTER STATUS

 

925 Vermont Street is listed on the Register of Kansas Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places nomination is pending. 

 

C.       REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS

 

1)      History Summary

 

According to the Register of Historic Kansas Places nomination, Plymouth Congregational Church is an eclectic Victorian-era church building with Gothic and Romanesque Revival characteristics.  Two twentieth-century additions have been added to the original structure via corridors.  The north addition was added in 1957 and renovated in 2001.  A south addition was first added in 1916, substantially rebuilt after a fire in 1955, demolished in 2000, and replaced with another addition in 2001. The original building was designed by prominent Kansas architect John G. Haskell in 1868 and was constructed in 1870.  This project provided Haskell with his first opportunity to design a church.  Church services have occurred in this building since 1870. The property is now owned by the Plymouth Congregational Church of Lawrence Kansas.

 

925 Vermont Street is significant for its association with the development of Lawrence, the architect John G. Haskell, and as a good example of an eclectic Victorian-era church building with Gothic and Romanesque Revival characteristics. 

 

2)      Architectural Integrity Summary

 


925 Vermont Street is architecturally significant as an eclectic three-story building with Gothic and Romanesque Revival characteristics.  The Register of Historic Kansas Places nomination notes that the 1870 brick building rests on a limestone foundation that is topped by a projecting smooth-cut limestone belt course approximately four feet above grade.  The front-facing gable roof has a dual pitch and is covered with asphalt composition shingles.  A projecting brick cornice accentuates the roofline throughout the original building.  The façade features four evenly spaced brick pilasters with spires extending roughly 10 feet above the roofline.  A projecting gabled entrance located at the center of the façade contains a recessed arch entry with double doors and a transom.  A large central circular window is also located on the front elevation.  There are four side gables – two on the north elevation and two on the south elevation.  Two of the side gables (or wing towers) are projecting and at one time were each adorned with a wooden bell tower, but these towers were removed in 1936 after being damaged by strong winds.  The two side gables at the rear of the building feature brick pilasters with spires extending above the roofline and a single round window above the entrance.  There are five tall double-hung wood windows along each side elevation.  These are the original stained glass windows.  All the original door and window openings contain a slightly projecting round limestone hoodmold and lintel.  Two windows on the rear (west) elevation were removed and the openings filled in with brick during a 1922 renovation. 

 

The nomination notes several known alterations to the structure.  The brick-faced north addition, known as the North Church, was designed by architect John Shaver of Salina, Kansas, and built by local contractor PD Olmstead Construction Company in 1957.  It adjoins the original structure on the first story in two locations:  the northeast projecting bay and the northwest bay.  This design creates an enclosed courtyard leaving the north façade of the original church intact and exposed.  An accessibility ramp was added to this addition along the front elevation in 1982-83.  The addition was renovated in 2000 and 2001 as part of the new South Church construction project.  Changes to the North Church addition included replacing the east flat roof with a gabled roof, modernizing the connector vestibule, replacing windows, and remodeling the first floor of the interior.

 

Lawrence architectural firm GLPM designed the south addition, known as the South Church, which was completed in 2000 and dedicated in 2001. The addition is connected to the original building by a modern arched corridor with east facing double glass doors with sidelights.  This addition has brick and cast concrete panels, a gable roof with composition shingles, brick pilasters without spires, and double-hung windows on both floors.  The windows on the first level on the front of the building have the arched tops to mimic those on the original church.  There is an accessibility ramp across the front of the South Church leading to the arched corridor entrance where the addition connects to the original structure.  The rear and north sides of the South Church addition are stepped back from the original structure leaving the south elevation of the original church intact and exposed.  This area is used as a courtyard and a high wrought-iron fence with a gate stretches across the rear securing this space. 

 

3)      Context Description

 

925 Vermont Street is a good example of an eclectic Victorian-era church that was constructed in Lawrence during the “City Building (1864-1873)” period as defined by the Historic Resources of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF). 

 

The area surrounding 925 Vermont Street is a combination of residential/office and the central business district.  The area contains a historic mixture of residential, office, and commercial uses.  The age of the extant structures in the area ranges from the late 1800’s to the early 21st Century.  This area is included in the original township plat of Lawrence. Multi-family residential dwellings exist in the area as do parking lots and office/commercial structures. 

 

 4)     Planning and Zoning Considerations

 

925 Vermont Street is zoned CD Downtown Business District - The CD, Downtown Commercial District, is primarily intended to implement the Comprehensive Plan’s Downtown Commercial Center policy of providing for a variety of land uses, including governmental, retail, office, public and community facilities, institutional, churches, and residential and to accommodate new  neighborhood, community and regional retail uses within the downtown area.

 

The properties to the north, south and east of the subject property are zoned CD.  The property to the west of the subject property is zoned RMO – Multi-Dwelling Residential Office District. The subject property and the properties to the north, south, and east are located in the Downtown Urban Conservation Overlay District.  The property to the west is not located in Downtown UCO.

 

 

5)      Fiscal Comments

 

There are no monetary benefits directly associated with nomination of a structure to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.

 

However, listing on the local Register does help preserve built resources important to Lawrence's history and helps to maintain streetscapes in older neighborhoods through environs reviews.

 

The original information submitted with nominations for properties to the Lawrence Register is kept on file in the City Planning office for public review and consultation with regard to development projects within the notification area.  Copies of this information are also on file at the Kansas Collection in Spencer Research Library on the University of Kansas main campus and at the Watkins Community Museum.  This type of information is also useful for research projects.

 

 

6)      Positive/Negative Effects of the Designation

 

The positive effect of designation is the creation of a permanent record of the historical significance of an individual property, for its architectural quality or its association with a significant local individual or event.  This provides the local Historic Resources Commission, an advisory board, with pertinent historical data which can help to provide an ‘historic' perspective to property owners when they desire to improve, add on, or redevelop a property within an older section of the City.

 


The public accessibility of this information is also a resource as it can be used by realtors, builders/developers, and others in the community prior to a property's resale, redevelopment or rehabilitation.  In a more general sense, this information can be used by the Chamber of Commerce and existing businesses and industries to ‘identify' one of the facets that makes up Lawrence's Quality of Living.

 

Additional effects of designation are the creation of an arbitrary, 250' environs notification and review area. Within this 250' circle, projects which require city permits, e.g., demolition, redevelopment, renovation or modification, require review by Historic Resources staff or the Commission.  These environs reviews permit scrutiny of proposed development/redevelopment by individuals sensitive to historic preservation.

 

A Certificate of Appropriateness or a Certificate of Economic Hardship is required to be issued by the Historic Resources Commission before a City permit can be issued for the proposed project.  If the Historic Resources Commission denies a Certificate of Appropriateness or a Certificate of Economic Hardship, the property owner can appeal to the City Commission for a new hearing.  The City Commission can uphold the decision of the HRC or it can grant the proposed development over the Historic Resources Commission's action.

 

The local ordinance 250' environs review area is exceeded by State law with regard to State and/or National Register properties.   Certificates of Appropriateness or Economic Hardship are required for a project within the 250' radius of a Local Register property.

 

Examples of projects which would require review and approval are: projects involving the exterior building which are considered ‘structural' changes, demolitions or partial demolitions, rezonings, replats, site plans, variance requests or other items which require a city permit or are the direct result of an action of the City Commission.  Minor changes which require a city permit can be administratively approved by the Historic Resources Administrator.

 

7)      Summary of Applicable Designation Criteria

 

Chapter 22, of the City Code is the Conservation of Historic Resources Code for the City of Lawrence. Section 22-403 of this code establishes criteria for the evaluation of an application for nomination to the Local Register of Historic Places. 

 

D.  CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION AND DESIGNATION - Section 22-403

 

Nine criteria are provided within this section for review and determination of qualification as a Landmark or Historic District.  These criteria are set forth below with staff's recommendations as to which this application qualifies for:

 

(1)  Its character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the community, county, state, or nation;

925 Vermont Street is a good example of eclectic church buildings that were constructed in Lawrence during the “City Building” period as defined by the Historic Resources of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF). 

 

(2)  Its location as a site of a significant local, county, state, or national event;


 

(3)  Its identification with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the development of the community, county, state, or nation;

         

(4)  Its embodiment of distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of a period, type, method of construction, or use of indigenous materials;

          925 Vermont Street is architecturally significant as an eclectic three-story church building with Gothic and Romanesque Revival characteristics.  The structure is associated with the early “City Building” era in Lawrence and is important to the study of the evolution of architectural styles in Lawrence.

 

 

(5)  Its identification as a work of a master builder, designer, architect, or landscape architect whose individual work has influenced the development of the community, county, state or nation;

The primary structure was designed by John G. Haskell.  Haskell designed the Kansas statehouse and many other early Kansas buildings, including courthouses, churches, schools, asylums, opera houses, and commercial buildings.  In 1891, the newly organized State Board of Public Works appointed Haskell to be the first official “state architect.”         

 

(6)     Its embodiment of elements of design, detailing, materials, or craftsmanship that render it architecturally significant;

925 Vermont Street is architecturally significant as an eclectic three-story building with Gothic and Romanesque Revival characteristics. 

 

 


(7)  Its embodiment of design elements that make it structurally or architecturally innovative;

 

(8)  Its unique location or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;

 

(9)  Its character as a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure; including, but not limited to farmhouses, gas stations, or other commercial structures, with a high level of integrity or architectural significance.

                                                                   -------------------------

 

The HISTORIC RESOURCES CODE establishes a procedure to follow in the forwarding of a recommendation to the City Commission on applications for listing on the local register.

 

 

"Following the hearing the commission shall adopt by resolution a recommendation to be submitted to the city commission for either (a) designation as a landmark or historic district; (b) not to designate as a landmark or historic district; or, (c) not to make a recommendation.  The resolution shall be accompanied by a report to the city commission containing the following information:

 

The Historic Resources Commission needs to formulate its recommendation in response to the following subsections section 22-404.2 (b):

 


(1)      Explanation of the significance or lack of significance of the nominated landmark or historic district as it relates to the criteria for designation as set forth in section 22-403;

(2)      Explanation of the integrity or lack of integrity of the nominated landmark or historic district;

(3)      In the case of a nominated landmark found to meet the criteria for designation:

(A)      The significant exterior architectural features of the nominated landmark that should be protected; and,

(B)      The types of construction, alteration, demolition, and removal, other than those requiring a building or demolition permit, that cannot be undertaken without obtaining a certificate of appropriateness.

(4)      In the case of a nominated historic district found to meet the criteria for designation:

(A)      The types of significant exterior architectural features of the structures within the nominated historic district that should be protected;

(B)      The types of construction, alteration, demolition, and removal, other than those requiring a building or demolition permit, that cannot be undertaken without obtaining a certificate of appropriateness.

(C)     A list of all key contributing, contributing and noncontributing sites, structures and objects within the historic district.

(5)      Proposed design guidelines for applying the criteria for review of certificates of appropriateness to the nominated landmark or historic district.

(6)      The relationship of the nominated landmark or historic district to the on-going effort of the commission to identify and nominate all potential areas and structures that meet the criteria for designation.

(7)      A map showing the location of the nominated landmark or the boundaries of the nominated historic district.

 

E.       RECOMMENDATION:

 

925 Vermont Street qualifies for designation as a Landmark on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places pursuant to Criteria #1, #4, #5 and #6 as described in Section 22-403.  If the Historic Resources Commission recommends this property for local nomination, the Commission should direct staff to draft a resolution for recommendation to be submitted to the City Commission for designation as a landmark.  In addition to the resolution, staff should prepare a report to accompany this resolution including the information set forth in Section 22-404.2(1) - (7) and an environs definition.