A Soon to be Demolished Building’s Long History

The soon to be demolished Facilities Administration building with its roof partially removed by demolition workers. | Photo by Wesley Cudney

The hidden limestone building on 1503 Sunflower Road currently being demolished has a little known history that stretches back over a century. Currently known as the Facilities Administration Building, according to KU’s 2012 application for the KU Historic District, it was previously known as the Facilities Operations Building. It also has a third name on the north side of the structure, “Physical Plant Maintenance and service”. Originally, the building had a more castle like look to it when it was first built in 1906.

According to the University of Kansas’ application for the area around Jayhawk Boulevard to become a historic district, building was first built in 1906 and was designed by E.F. Crocker. The limestone used for the building and others like it, came from Mount Oread itself.

Both the map of the historic district and the application itself have been removed from the University of Kansas’ website. But both documents have been preserved by archive.org

On page 10 of the application, it said, “This building retains integrity and contributes to the architectural and functional character of the District.”

E.F. Crocker was the superintendent of grounds and buildings for KU, according to a 1908 issue of the Topeka Daily Capital. In the article, he took credit for much of the construction and improvements on the hill from that time.

A Photo of E.F. Crocker from 1891. | Lawrence, Kansas photographs collection, RH PH 18, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

The Open Kansan did reach out to both KU facilities and KU history to request interviews to learn more about the facilities building, its history, and what will be salvaged. Neither responded to the requests.

When The Open Kansan reached out to KU facilities, KU spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson responded instead and said the demolition began the day after the State of Kansas approved the demolition. Barcomb-Peterson also said that there was no feasible alternative to demolition.

Tom Harper, a local realtor who wrote a column for the Lawrence Times about the building, said in an interview that the building served as a hub for all the tradespeople who worked on the hill.

“I see this building as sort of an early heart right of KU,” Harper said. “It certainly isn’t like strong hall or the Natural History Museum or Spooner or Watson. It’s a very modest building that was really important to serving those other buildings that I mentioned.”

The original castle-like look of what is now called the Facilities Administration Building. | Screenshot from the KU Historical District Application

A local Lawrence mason, Karl Ramberg, took the time to tell the Open Kansan about the masonry of the soon to be demolished building.

“Every single stone there in that building was shaped by hand.”

“And every one of those stones there,” Ramberg said, “was shaped by hand, you know, that there were masons, and they’d have a three- or four-pound hammer, stone hammer, and they were making it so that that all those are nice, straight faces.”

The corners of the building create a sharp line that goes up the building, Ramberg said. Details like that all over the building were all crafted by hand.

It took an army of masons to build the building, Ramberg said.

The mason work of the building creates a sharp line visible to the eye. | Photo by Wesley Cudney

Some parts of the building will be salvaged for repairs on other buildings according to KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson. The columns on the side of the building, pallets of limestone, and window heads and sills will be salvaged because of their similarity to Stouffer-Flint hall.

In the interview, Ramberg decried the demolition of historic buildings on Mount Oread.

“You know, there will never ever, ever be another building a stone building like this built not just on this campus, but anywhere,” Ramberg said. “It’s just economically impossible, but also there ain’t enough of us stonemasons you know what I mean?”

“My craft is disappearing,” Ramberg said. “That’s why they think they can just throw it away. Because there’s no alumni that had a class in there, and so we can just throw this thing away because it was workers. And I’m saying, that’s what you should be celebrating.”

Leave a Reply