North Rhode Island Street Historic District
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District (700-1144,901-1047,1201-1215 Rhode Island St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009.
Location and Setting
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District is located in the East Lawrence neighborhood of Lawrence, Kansas, one block east of the central business district. The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District encompasses an area of 19.6 acres along Rhode Island Street from 7th Street on the north to approximately the middle of the 1200 block on the south. It includes both sides of the 900 and 1000 blocks, the east side only of the 700, 800 and 1100 blocks, and the west side only of the 1200 block. The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District is bounded on the north by 7th Street, and on the south at 12th Street and the southern lot line of 1215 Rhode Island. The east and west boundaries are the alleys at the rear (east and west) of the Rhode Island Street lots.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District illustrates typical residential land use from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century as building patterns in East Lawrence followed local population, social, economic, and architectural trends described in the contexts for Lawrence history. The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District includes eighty-seven primary buildings, of which sixty-four are contributing to the historic character of the district. Thirty-five buildings were constructed before 1873; fifteen were built between 1880 and 1895; thirty-four properties date between 1900 and 1935; and three buildings were constructed after 1945, the end of the period of significance. In addition to the primary residential buildings, the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District includes thirty-four garages and six barns, one summer kitchen, and three sheds. The majority of the properties were constructed as single-family residences. One building, the Social Services League, was converted to a non-residential, social function during the period of significance. Two other non-contributing buildings were converted from single-family residential and mixed-use commercial functions to multi-family residences. The Turnhalle was constructed as a social hall in the nineteenth century.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District's cohesive streetscapes create a distinct sense of neighborhood and a strong residential boundary, contrasting dramatically with the commercial area to the west. Asphalt paves most of Rhode Island Street, although original brick pavement is exposed on the 900 and 1200 blocks. The difference in street level between the blocks with a brick street surface and those with an asphalt street surface is perceptible. The sections of brick street reveal the original street depth, which, when compared to the siting of the adjacent houses, emphasizes the role of the street as a drainage system.
Limestone curbing is extant, with the exception of the 1100 block near the Douglas County buildings. Four structures also retain curbside limestone hitching posts. Grass easement strips, with mature shade trees separate the streets from the sidewalks, creating a smooth transition between public and private spaces.
Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks line both sides and ends of all blocks. They are a mixture of brick, concrete, and limestone. The 700 block of Rhode Island is mostly brick, but four houses have concrete patches and another has a limestone sidewalk. Along the 800 block of Rhode Island Street, all walks are brick except at the parking lot at the south end of the block. In the 900 block, sidewalks are a mixture of brick and concrete. Concrete is predominant along the 1100 and 1200 blocks. Many houses have front walks leading from the sidewalk to the front porch or stoop. Some of these are brick and others are concrete or limestone.
Sited to face the street, the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District's residences occupy the narrow city lots delineated in the original townsite plan. Six houses face the numbered streets at the ends of blocks. Six historic houses (702, 732, 917, 923, 1007, and 1017 Rhode Island Street) occupy double lots or one-and-one-half lots. The extra lot width is typical of older neighborhoods where residents occasionally purchased an extra lot with neighbors to provide side yards for gardens or green space. The non-historic apartment building at 1021 Rhode Island occupies a double lot.
Other irregular lots are found in the 1200 block of Rhode Island Street. An alley did not divide this block because these lots were created from land subdivided from South Park rather than delineated in the original plan.
Houses are typically situated near the center of their lots, which enhances the cohesiveness and rhythm of the district. However, the early construction of many houses and the undulating terrain often resulted in uneven setbacks from the street line. This is particularly notable along he 700 block of Rhode Island Street. Because of its proximity to the Kansas River, its early development landscape was affected by undulating ground with runoff gullies and a grade that slopes north toward the river. The effect on the landscape is evident, particularly along the alley where retaining walls were frequently constructed to help adjust yards to the downward slope of the land.
Moving south through the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, the topography levels off by the 800 and 900 blocks of Rhode Island Street, but setbacks remain varied. Streets originally followed the ups and downs of the topography but were leveled over time. Eventually, the affect of leveling changed how some structures related to the street. An example of this is the Turnhalle building at 900 Rhode Island Street. The structure's front door was roughly at street level when built; however, leveling the street raised the entry several feet above grade. The vertical variations in settings are particularly noticeable among the houses at the north end of the 900 block and add to the distinctive character of the historic district. The variation in setbacks becomes less noticeable from 10th Street to 12th Street.
Architectural Style and Type
The residential designs that comprise the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District include a variety of vernacular building forms and architectural styles that reflect the eighty-year continuum of new construction. While the buildings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District reflect the evolution of architectural styles over an eighty-year period, the relationship between them, based on location, streetscape, building materials, workmanship, mass, and scale, creates a district with a strong and distinct neighborhood identity.
The vast majority of contributing buildings are two stories in height, and 60 percent have wood frame construction. Examples of one-story or one-and-one-half-story buildings and stone or brick masonry construction are also common. The contributing buildings retain architectural features and physical forms that reflect the design trends and styles popular during their period of construction. Architectural ornament includes Italianate and Late Victorian jigsawn porch elements and cornice brackets, Neoclassical porch columns, and Craftsman period knee braces and battered porch piers. These elements are found on high style buildings as well as vernacular building forms such as the Gable-Front National Folk House or Bungalow.
The types of alterations made to historic buildings vary. Most buildings retain their original windows, although many now have metal storm windows. Some porch details have been lost, although the majority of properties retain their distinctive porch elements. In general, additions are complementary and are set to the side or rear of the original building.
Non-contributing buildings constitute less than 28 percent of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. However, it is important to note them because many non-contributing buildings were deemed so solely because of asbestos or vinyl siding. If the siding were removed from these buildings, only a few would remain non-contributing to the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. The siding neither interferes with nor compromises the district's strong sense of visual integrity. Examples of residences with siding include 910, 1028 and 1032 Rhode Island Street. These houses, in particular, would be considered contributing if the siding were removed.
Other non-historic alterations in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District include inappropriate remodeling, new additions, and/or porch replacements, such as those evident at 822 and 826 Rhode Island Street. Vinyl siding and new windows have significantly compromised the integrity of 1000 Rhode Island Street. Porch infill has substantially changed the look and feel of the Bungalow at 1025 Rhode Island Street.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District is in the area of Community Planning and Architecture, and for its association with the history of Lawrence, Kansas. Located within the original townsite plan on the west side of the East Lawrence neighborhood, the houses in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District date from the contextual periods of: the Settlement Period, 1854-1863; the City-Building Period, 1864-1873; the Agricultural and Manufacturing Period, 1874-1899; and the Quiet University Town Period, 1900-1945. The buildings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, and its residential housing in particular, represent a direct response to changes in the community's population, social, economic, and architectural trends during these periods, as the district developed to meet the changing needs and demands. The architecture in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District also reflects the architectural styles and vernacular property types described in the MPDF, including Late Victorian Houses, National Folk Residences, "Comfortable" Houses, and Twentieth Century Revival and American Movement Houses. The variety of architectural styles within the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District is typical of central town residential areas where construction occurred in a scattered approach over an extended period in the community's history. The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District includes eighty-five contributing resources, forty-six non-contributing properties, four vacant lots, and one parking lot. The period of significance begins with the construction of the earliest extant buildings circa 1857 and continues to 1935, the latest construction date for a contributing property. Building occurred steadily throughout this nearly eighty-year period of significance.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District parallels Massachusetts Street, the central business district of Lawrence, which is two blocks to the west. Near the historic center of the City, the district represents the historical contexts of city growth as development proceeded outward and south from Massachusetts Street. This area contains some of the oldest surviving residences in Lawrence.
Settlement Period (1854-1863)
As a territorial frontier settlement, this period of Lawrence history was filled with turmoil. Much of the housing constructed was temporary; therefore, most surviving older residences in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District date from the decade following 1863. Land was contested in East Lawrence during early settlement days, and the proximity of the East Lawrence neighborhood to low-lying river areas created a fear of illness. The undulating topography created difficult building conditions. Taxed at lower rates than lots on the west side of town, however, the district remained attractive to settlers.
Land ownership was a powerful motivation for many settlers and, in this district, early residents speculated in lots and built houses not only for their families, but also to rent. It was a diverse area settled by people of mixed socioeconomic, ethnic, and social backgrounds. Early houses were usually of wood construction, but most of the few surviving from this period are built of locally made brick or native stone.
Although constructed in the late 1860s, after the Settlement Period, the five houses in the 1200 block of Rhode Island Street stand on land that during the Settlement Period was within the boundary of South Park. Without an alley, and sited facing Rhode Island Street, the oddly shaped lots are reminders of how large the park might have been had speculators not carved a perimeter of building lots from its original size.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District retains two Settlement Period houses — the Shalor Eldridge House at 945 Rhode Island Street and the Hendry House at 941 Rhode Island Street. Both are listed in the Lawrence Register of Historic Places; the Shalor Eldridge House is also listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places.
City Building Period (1864-1873)
As the town expanded further east, west, and south, the proximity of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District to the heart of the Lawrence commercial area and to the river made this district a densely populated and popular residential neighborhood for working people as well as for many merchants who wished to be close to their businesses on Massachusetts Street. The 1869 Bird's Eye View of Lawrence shows more than fifty buildings or structures standing in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, many of which were houses. Rhode Island Street was a major residential avenue, and of those structures constructed before 1873, thirty-five remain extant.
The arrival in Lawrence of the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1864 and the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston Railroad in 1867 brought jobs, immigrants, and a demand for housing. Between 1860 and 1870, the City's population increased by nearly seven thousand residents, which created a critical housing shortage. Every empty room filled as families took in boarders. Lawrence would not see such an increase in population again until after World War II.
The thirty-two extant houses constructed in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District during this busy time are scattered throughout the district, but the 700 block of Rhode Island Street has the highest concentration. This block was closest to both manufacturing areas near the river and the commercial district along Massachusetts Street. Two of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District's southern blocks were close to both town and South Park. Children in the northern part of the district could easily walk to New York School, built in 1868 in the 900 block of New York Street, one block to the east of the district. Children in the southern part of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District walked to Quincy School, built in 1867 on the north side of South Park, just west of Massachusetts Street at 11th Street. Within blocks of work, river, school, or South Park's open space, the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District was attractive because residents could easily reach most of the locations required by their daily activities.
Native Germans and German-Americans dominated the population in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. Although they lived throughout Lawrence, the low cost of land in East Lawrence attracted these groups, many of whom were among the town's early speculators. Many Germans were well off, owning downtown businesses and other lots and houses in the neighborhood. A social center — the stone Turnhalle — built in 1869 at 900 Rhode Island Street, was the home of a Turnverin — a health, social, assistance, and cultural center for Germans in Lawrence. The clustered presence of German and German American residents close to the hall reflects the significance of this cultural institution in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District.
The first public transportation in Lawrence, a horse-drawn streetcar, began operation in 1871. The car traveled along Massachusetts Street south to 12th Street where it turned west. The accessibility of the public transportation further enhanced the popularity of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District.
Two North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District homes constructed during this time period are listed as local landmarks. The McAllaster House, constructed in 1861 at 724 Rhode Island Street was partially destroyed in Quantrill's Raid, and rebuilt in 1864. The other is a stone structure, the Social Services League building at 905-907 Rhode Island Street. Originally built as a residence around 1865, an additional house was added on the south side in 1888. The Social Services League purchased the property in 1937. This civic organization included various charities and the Civic Improvement Department of the City Federation of Women's Club.
Agriculture And Manufacturing. Foundations Of Stability (1874-1899)
After the national financial collapse in 1873, Lawrence's building boom ended. Compared to the prosperous ten-year City Building Period, over the next twenty-five years builders erected only fifteen houses in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. Many houses, such as those at 712, 714, and 716 Rhode Island Street were built as speculative rental properties. As the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District matured during this period, it was populated with middle-to-lower income residents and wage workers who rented rather than owned their homes. German residents on Rhode Island Street continued to form the nucleus of a stable community until the turn of the century, but as this population group aged, they became less active in the community. While its location close to manufacturing areas and railroad jobs once made the district prosperous, the nature of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District changed as Lawrence's industrial base shifted. Local regard for the East Lawrence neighborhood declined.
Quiet University Town, (1900-1945)
Between the turn of the twentieth century and World War II, local commercial and industrial interests in Lawrence stabilized as the importance of the University of Kansas increased and the City continued to grow slowly.
In the early part of the century, streets such as Rhode Island were graded and paved, prompting property owners to raise the grade around their homes. It was also a time when small neighborhood businesses flourished, and there were several grocery stores in or near the district. In 1913, the Stanford and Ewing grocery at 1046 Rhode Island Street was centrally located in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. The grocery eventually became Palmateer and Son (1929-1930) after the Ewing family moved south to start a grocery on the 1300 block of Rhode Island Street.
By 1922, the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District lay in a densely settled area of the City that was part of a three-block wide residential zone flanking Massachusetts Street, roughly between 7th and 19th streets. Compared to other parts of Lawrence, where 50 percent of the lots remained vacant, lots in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District were in demand. Thirty-four houses were built between 1900 and 1945, completing the construction of the historic housing stock. Many of the new buildings continued to be speculative or rental houses, such as those at 800 and 806 Rhode Island Street. The area retained a mixed demographic character and, in 1917, had the highest proportion of the City's foreign-born residents among the City's wards. The McFarland House at 904 Rhode Island Street, constructed between 1904 and 1905, is listed as a local historic landmark.
Other District Features
There is one parking lot in the 800 block of Rhode Island Street and there are four empty lots in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District. One lot in the 700 block serves as a side yard for a multi-family residence and three in the 1100 block belong to Douglas County. Infill construction at 1024, 1019-1021, and 1039 Rhode Island Street took place after 1945.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District includes eighty-five contributing resources dating from circa 1857 to 1935 and forty-six non-contributing resources built between circa 1873 and 1964. The district also includes four vacant lots and one parking lot. While the neighborhood is overwhelmingly single-family residential, there are two non-historic, multi-family buildings, in addition to the Turnhalle and the Social Services League buildings. The buildings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District reflect the diversity of architectural styles and vernacular property types described in the MPDF. The four architectural subtypes (Late Victorian Residences, National Folk Residences, "Comfortable" Houses, and Twentieth Century Revival and American Movement Houses) illustrate the historic development contexts (Settlement Period (1854-1863), City-Building (1864-1873), Agriculture and Manufacturing, Foundations of Stability (1874-1899), and Quiet University Town (1900-1945)) for the City of Lawrence.
Of the eighty-seven primary buildings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, sixty-two represent variations of the National Folk Residence. These include twenty-seven Gable-Fronts, thirteen Bungalows, twelve Gable-Front-and-Wings, three I-houses, three Foursquares, two Massed Plans, and one Pyramidal Square houses. Other vernacular buildings include one Multi-Family Walk-up and one Two-Part Commercial Block. Some of the vernacular houses are adorned with elements of popular architectural styles. Porches, in particular, commonly feature Victorian-influenced jigsawn brackets and/or turned posts, Neoclassical columns, or battered Craftsman style posts.
Examples of the National Folk House forms found in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District include the I-house at 812 Rhode Island and the Gable-Front houses at 702 Rhode Island and 740 Rhode Island. The Gable-Front-and-Wing form is seen at 1132 Rhode Island and 1211 Rhode Island. The house at 307 East 8th Street illustrates the Pyramidal Square house form, which is frequently associated with working class neighborhoods.
The vernacular houses constructed in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District after the turn of the twentieth century reflect evolving national tastes. The Foursquares and Bungalows, in particular, illustrate the transition from the more formally organized homes of the late nineteenth century to the informal, less structured family living of the twentieth century. Typical examples include the Bungalows at 909 Rhode Island and 1215 Rhode Island, the latter of which is a simple bungalow variation. A good example of a Foursquare is 1027 Rhode Island.
The high style architecture of the remaining twenty-four dwellings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District includes six Italianate, four Queen Anne, three Late Victorian, three Craftsman, two Colonial Revival, two Prairie School, two Tudor Revival, one Minimal Traditional, and one Ranch House style designs. Notable examples include the Italianate house at 924 Rhode Island, the Queen Anne houses at 712 Rhode Island and 1042 Rhode Island, and the reserved Colonial Revival found at 937 Rhode Island.
The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District also includes forty-four secondary outbuildings. These include thirty-four garages, six barns, one summer kitchen, and three sheds. Of these, twenty-two were constructed during the period of significance and retain sufficient integrity to be contributing to the character of the property and the district. Some notable examples include the historic summer kitchen at the Eldridge House property at 945 Rhode Island Street (listed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places); the historic barn at 806 Rhode Island Street, which occupies a lot that no longer retains its historic dwelling; and the series of connected buildings at 1100 Rhode Island Street that are associated with the Delahunty property next door at 1106 Rhode Island Street. The Delahunty family operated a moving and storage business to which these structures were related. The historic outbuildings were generally constructed using materials similar to the historic cladding of the house, such as clapboards, shingles, or stucco. Several retain their original doors that fold open, while some have modern overhead doors that fill the original garage bay opening. The non-historic garages are of concrete block or wood frame construction with a range of siding, including vertical plywood sheets, asphalt shingles, or wide lap siding. Many of the non-historic garages accommodate two vehicles and have overhead doors.
The limestone curbs, so important to defining the character of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District's streetscapes, became a barrier to curb cuts when residents began to own automobiles early in the twentieth century. The barns and carriage houses are the only outbuildings in the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District that are accessed from the street via driveways and curb cuts. The North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District also includes three non-historic curb cuts that access parking areas in front of houses. Fortunately, the original neighborhood plan included alleys that continue to provide access to garages and parking areas. As a result, there are very few curb cuts within the district. Paved with concrete or overlaid with asphalt, the alleys continue to provide access to small garages, sheds, and parking pads. At the eastern boundary of the North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, the alley behind 826 Rhode Island Street illustrates its parking and utilitarian functions.
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†Cathy Ambler, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Rosin, North Rhode Island Street Historic Residential District, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.