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College Avenue Historic District

The College Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Portions of the text, below, were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

The College Avenue Historic District is located in east central Shawnee County in Topeka, Kansas. This 23.5-acre rectangular district is in an area south and west of Topeka's downtown historic commercial center and includes the properties on both sides of Southwest College Avenue from Southwest Huntoon Street to Southwest 17th Street. There are 129 buildings in the College Avenue Historic District, including 73 residences, 53 outbuildings, 2 churches, and 1 commercial building. All but 5 of the outbuildings are garages. All but 3 of the residences date from circa 1888 to circa 1930.[1] The District contains 77 contributing buildings, of which 47 are residences and 30 are outbuildings. There are 52 non-contributing buildings, of which 26 are residences, 23 are outbuildings, 2 are churches, and 1 is a commercial building. The residences range in size from small houses of six rooms or less to relatively large residences. The architectural styles of the contributing properties include Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Prairie School, and Bungalow/Craftsman residences. National Folk House forms found in the College Avenue Historic District include the gable-front house, gable-front-and-wing house, and the pyramidal roof house. As a contiguous grouping of late nineteenth to early twentieth century residences, the buildings within the District retain a high degree of architectural integrity. They have structural systems reflecting their time of construction, including balloon frame, platform frame, and load-bearing masonry walls. They feature a variety of traditional cladding materials including brick, wood siding, decorative shingles, and stucco. A significant number have asbestos, aluminum, or vinyl siding covering the original cladding; 18 of these houses retain sufficient integrity that they would become contributing elements to the District if the siding were removed and the original found to be underneath.[2] All of the buildings within the College Avenue Historic District retain a high degree of integrity of location and setting. All but 7 of the residences retain a high degree of their original design features. Each contributing property successfully conveys its period of construction and its associations with the continuum of residential styles and plans popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.


The College Avenue Historic District is located in the larger College Hill neighborhood adjacent to and north of the Washburn campus and is about one-and-a-half miles from Topeka's historic commercial center.[3] The larger College Hill neighborhood that surrounds the College Avenue Historic District consists of similar residential resources dating to the same general time period. The properties have similar lot sizes and setbacks, utilize an alley-street grid system, and share historic associations with the District[4] Southwest College Avenue, the main thoroughfare that historically ran between the downtown commercial area and the college campus, runs north and south. The widest street in the larger College Hill neighborhood, the 100-foot-wide College Avenue, historically formed the spine of the College Hill neighborhood. The initial platting of the street in 1885 and the subsequent use of the wide avenue for an electric car line defined the development patterns of the area for the next fifty years. The rectangular lots are platted on blocks laid out in the traditional urban grid pattern. A north-south alley bisects each block. The houses along College Avenue face either the east or the west. Depending on the block, the depth of the lots is either 125 feet or 150 feet, and the width of the lots as originally platted is 50 feet or 75 feet. Many of the residences sit on parcels of several lots. The lots feature generous setbacks from the street.[5] Grass verges separate the curb and the sidewalk. The setback is fairly uniform on a block-by-block basis. In several instances, a grouping of several houses deviates from the uniform setback. This usually indicates the presence of some of the earliest residences erected in the late nineteenth century.[6] Most of the District's granite curbs remain along the west side of Southwest College Avenue, and between the 1600 and 1700 block on the east side of Southwest College Avenue. The block between 15th and 16th Streets retains brick paving; however, asphalt fills a remnant of the strip of trolley tracks. The land rises to the west and north, and the street is generally lower than the house lots. The combination creates grass terraces with steps up from the sidewalk to the entrance path and, occasionally, retaining walls. On the east-west numbered streets, there are for the paved alleys that provide access to outbuildings and garages located along the rear lot lines.

Architectural Style[7]

The residential designs that compose the College Avenue Historic District include a variety of Folk house building forms and architectural styles that reflect a forty-two-year continuum of new construction. The majority of the contributing houses are two stories tall and have wood frame construction. With the exception of a small number of one-story Bungalow houses, the remaining contributing residences are one-and-a-half-stories tall. There are several examples of brick masonry construction, particularly Revival style houses erected in the early twentieth century. The contributing buildings date from 1888 to 1930 and retain architectural features and physical forms that reflect the design trends popular during their period of construction. Architectural styles of contributing residences in the College Avenue Historic District include the Queen Anne, Prairie School, Craftsman Bungalow, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival. These styles are local adaptations of popular pattern book styles, although a few of the dwellings reflect high style treatments. Contributing National Folk House forms within the College Avenue Historic District include the Gable-Front, Gable-Front-and-Wing, and Pyramidal Roof Folk House forms.

Queen Anne Style

There are twelve Queen Anne style houses that contribute to the architectural significance of the College Avenue Historic District. Character-defining features include a complex roof form, often with a dominant front-facing gable; an asymmetrical facade; a combination of decorative wood shingle and clapboard siding; and an overall avoidance of a smooth-walled appearance. All are of wood frame construction with wood cladding and range from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stories in height. Based on the stylistic sub-types defined by Virginia and Lee McAlester in A Field Guide to American Houses, these residences represent two principal sub-types — Spindlework and Free Classic treatments — each of which incorporates three roof shape sub-types: hipped roof with lower cross gables, cross-gabled, and front-gabled. Queen Anne houses of the Spindlework sub-type have delicate turned porch supports and spindlework ornamentation in porch balusters, gables, and under eaves. Free Classic decorative detailing is most commonly in the form of smooth classical columns as porch supports, Palladian windows, and classical cornice and trim details.

The Queen Anne style houses in the District vary in size from simple, modest cottages to complex, large houses. All were constructed between 1888 and 1909.

Prairie School style is the most common style in the College Avenue Historic District. There are twenty-nine Prairie School style residences in the District, and of these, twenty contribute to the District's historic significance. All were constructed between 1904 and circa 1921. The character-defining features of Prairie School style residences include low-pitched hipped roofs; a two-story height, commonly with one-story wings or porches; wide overhanging eaves; large square porch supports; and an overall emphasis on horizontal lines. Of the contributing buildings, nineteen are examples of the American Foursquare house form, which is the most common Prairie School sub-type.[8] These examples typically feature hipped roofs with prominent hipped dormers or gable-front roofs with eaves returns; bull-width front porches; and wide overhanging eaves.

American Foursquare House Prairie School Sub-Type

All but two of the Prairie School style dwellings found in the College Avenue Historic District are American Foursquare houses. Virginia and Lee McAlester in A Field Guide to American Houses and other architectural historians variously classify the Hipped Roof Symmetrical with Front Entry Prairie School sub-type as the Prairie Box or American Foursquare house. Character-defining elements of this sub-type are the cubed massing with four rooms on each of two stories; two- to two-and-a-half-story height; low-pitched hipped or gable front roof with a deep eaves overhang; a full-width one-story entrance porch; a central or off-center front entrance; and restrained adornment based on Late Victorian, Colonial Revival, or Craftsman styles. Of the twenty-seven American Foursquare dwellings in the College Avenue Historic District,[9] eighteen are contributing properties to the District and reflect the influence of Queen Anne Free Classical and Craftsman architectural detailing.


Of the eight examples of Bungalow/Craftsman style dwellings in the College Avenue Historic District, five retain sufficient integrity to contribute to the District's significance. These houses date from 1908 to circa 1925 and represent two principal sub-types: the Front-Gabled Roof and the Side-Gabled Roof, as defined in A Field Guide to American Houses. Identifying features are low-pitched roofs; a wide eaves overhang, often with exposed rafter tails; decorative beams or braces under the eaves; and full- or partial-width porches supported by square or tapered columns.

Tudor Revival Style

Of the three residences in the College Avenue Historic District that represent the Tudor Revival style, two belong to the Brick Wall Cladding sub-type and one belongs to the Wood Wall Cladding sub-type, as defined in A Field Guide to American Houses. All of these residences were constructed between circa 1923 and 1930. Character-defining features of the Tudor Revival architectural style include steeply pitched roofs; dominant front-facing gables; faux half-timbering; tall, narrow, multi-pane windows, commonly in groups; and large exterior chimneys, often with decorative chimney pots.

Colonial Revival Style

The College Avenue Historic District includes two examples of the Colonial Revival Style, one of which retains sufficient integrity to contribute to the significance of the District.

Mixed Style

The Mixed architectural style classification refers to buildings that reflect three styles from different periods. The building at 1309 Southwest College Avenue meets this classification for its incorporation of stylistic characteristics from the Late Victorian Queen Anne period, the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Colonial Revival period, and the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century American Movements Craftsman period.

National Folk House Forms

Gable-Front Form

The simple Gable Front National Folk House has its origins in the Greek Revival style movement. Most are narrow two-story houses with relatively steep pitched roofs, making them ideal for narrow urban lots. This gable-front form, which is composed of a triangular gable roof set on a square plan, became a dominant Folk house form until well into the twentieth century.

Gable-Front-and-Wing Form

The Gable-Front-and-Wing National Folk House form features a prominent front facing gable with a secondary side-gable block placed perpendicular to the main gable-front block, resulting in the distinctive L-shaped massing. Typically one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stories in height, these houses have minimal architectural ornamentation.

Pyramidal Roof Folk House Form

While side-gabled roofs normally cover massed-plan Folk houses of rectangular shape, those with more nearly square plans commonly have a pyramidal (equilateral hipped) roof. Like most Folk house forms, the roof pitch and the size and location of porches vary, and the architectural ornamentation is minimal.

Functional Property Types

Contributing Outbuildings

Of the thirty contributing outbuildings within the College Avenue Historic District, twenty-seven are historic automobile garages. These garages are typically simple, wood-framed, one-story buildings of rectangular plan with one or two vehicular bays in the primary elevation. Roof shapes vary and include gable-front, hipped, and clipped-gable. Contributing examples retain the original wood clapboard siding and vehicular bays. Other contributing ancillary structures include two garden sheds (1268A Southwest College Avenue; 1607A Southwest College Avenue) and a carriage house (1298A Southwest College Avenue). The tall, narrow, wood-framed carriage house has a gable-front roof and is at the southeast corner of this property. The building is oriented parallel to the adjacent alley and has two vehicular bays: one in the primary elevation that has an overhead door and one in the alley (side) elevation that has a sliding wood door.

Non-Contributing Buildings Due to Secondary, Non-Original Siding

The National Register of Historic Places guidelines state, "If the historic exterior building material is covered by non-historic material (such as modern siding), the property can still be eligible if the significant form, features and detailing are not obscured."[10] Currently the Kansas State Historic Preservation Officer, in accordance with the powers delegated to it as the state nominating agency under the National Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, does not nominate properties with non-original siding to the National Register as contributing properties to a District. If, in the future, the non-original siding is removed and the original siding is intact and the properties continue to retain their current integrity they may be reclassified by the State Historic Preservation Officer as contributing elements to the District.


While the houses in the College Avenue Historic District reflect the evolution of architectural styles; the relationship between them based on their location, streetscape, building materials, workmanship, scale, and massing creates a distinct cohesiveness. The College Avenue Historic District retains a high degree of historic architectural integrity and it is this integrity and the inclusion of the oldest residences in the larger College Hill neighborhood that visually distinguishes it from adjacent streetscapes. The types of alterations made to the historic houses vary. Most buildings retain their original windows, although they now have metal storm windows. While some porch details are no longer extant, the majority of the properties retain their distinctive porch elements. In general, additions to properties within the District are complimentary and are to the side or rear of the original building. Eleven primary buildings are either less than fifty years of age or, due to extensive cumulative alterations, no longer convey their historic character. Over forty buildings are classified as non-contributing due to the presence of secondary siding. In most cases throughout the College Avenue Historic District, the use of replacement siding neither interfered with or compromised the District's strong sense of visual integrity when viewed from the public right-of-way.


The College Avenue Historic District is locally significant in Community Planning and Development for its association with the development of the College Hill residential and commercial neighborhood that developed in conjunction with Washburn College[11] in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The College Hill neighborhood had a unique identity due to its associations with the college; the establishment of its own shopping area, school, and churches; and its distinct built environment. The neighborhood became a desirable location to live within the city of Topeka, attracting those who taught at the college as well as other Topeka professionals. College Avenue, which is one hundred feet wide, historically formed the spine of the College Hill neighborhood. The initial platting of the street in 1885 and the subsequent use of the wide avenue for an electric car line defined the development patterns of the area for the next fifty years. The College Avenue Historic District is also locally significant for its residential architecture, which reflects a significant continuum of middle- and upper-middle-class single-family residential architectural styles popular during the late nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century. As a group, their setting, design, materials, and workmanship convey feelings of a distinct period of time and communicate their important associations with Topeka's residential past. The residences are highly articulated popular styles and vernacular folk house pattern book adaptations of their period of construction. As such, the District's residences reflect the particular circumstances of their location and associations. As individual units of a particular style, they represent variations of popular styles. As a collection of styles erected in a finite time period, they demonstrate the evolution of middle-class residential styles in Topeka in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Whether expressing conservative design traditions or the latest architectural fashion, a high degree of historic architectural integrity distinguishes 60 percent of the buildings in the District. There are 129 buildings in the College Avenue Historic District composed of 73 residences, 53 outbuildings, 2 churches, and 1 commercial building. With the exception of three buildings dating to after 1955, all of the buildings in the district date from circa 1888 to circa 1930. The period of significance extends from circa 1888, the date of construction of the oldest historic residence, to circa 1930, the date of construction of the last contributing building that is more than fifty years in age.


Community Development Patterns of Topeka, Kansas

Early History

The settlement of Shawnee County by Euro-Americans dates to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and the ensuing territorial period, In 1854, six men established the Topeka Town Association and staked out the town, each claiming a quarter section of land in the new town site.[12] The original town plan was two miles east and west along the south banks of the Kansas River, and one-and-a-half miles north and south on the prairie in present-day Shawnee County.

The town site on the banks of the Kansas River was near a ferry service established in the 1840s for the military road created to protect traders and emigrants on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trail segments leading out of Fort Leavenworth. Near the town site, the Santa Fe and the Oregon Trails divided, creating a natural stopping point for travelers. In the 1850s, the establishment of a military road west from Fort Leavenworth to the newly established Fort Riley brought more activity in the area. In addition to overland connections, Topeka offered an easily assessable steamboat landing and, soon after the town's founding, steamboats regularly docked at the landing. Further enhancing the town's development was its distance from other fledgling communities, which diminished the threat of competition for residents, businesses, railroad right-of-way, and lucrative government contracts common between early settlements.[13]

The town plan was oriented toward the river rather than cardinal compass points. The plat for the one-and-a-half square-mile town featured a 130-foot-wide commercial levee and four principal avenues of the same width. The remaining streets were 80 feet to 100 feet wide. Each block had lots measuring 75 feet by 150 feet. In 1857, the year the city incorporated, construction crews completed the first bridge across the Kansas River, which was washed away the follow year. A year later, Topeka won the political battle to become the county seat of Shawnee County.

The passage of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the Kansas Territory to settlement and set the stage for armed conflict on the Missouri-Kansas border that culminated in the Civil War. The act allowed residents within the Kansas Territory to vote to enter the Union as either a free state or a slave state. Free Soilers, abolitionists, and pro-slavery settlers determined to influence the outcome, rushed to Eastern Kansas and staked their land claims. For the next six years, factional turmoil and guerilla warfare occurred as voters established a succession of territorial governments. Finally, in 1861, the Kansas Territory entered the Union as a "free" state. Topeka became the site of the state capital. The Civil War on the western frontier raged for another four years.

Although the Civil War period slowed growth, Topeka's railroad connections and its role as the state capital assured development after the end of the war. During its brief existence, the territorial legislature chartered numerous railroads; although prior to statehood, only five miles of track existed. The war put an end to any additional construction, but, in 1862, national legislation for transcontinental railroads benefited the dormant Kansas companies through federal land grants.

In 1859, Cyrus Holliday, one of the founders of the Topeka Town Association, established the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Federal railroad land grant legislation in 1862 allocated to the railroad company sections of land on alternating sides of its line that were to be awarded when the tracks reached the western border of Kansas.[14] An immediate result was expansion of the line and, by 1872, the railroad established its home offices in Topeka and had physical rail connections with Wichita and Atchison. Another beneficiary of the railroad land grant legislation was the Union Pacific Railroad's Eastern Division.[15] In 1866, the Union Pacific Railroad reached Topeka, and by 1886, the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad played a major role in the city's economy.

Early in the settlement period, Topeka's leaders, like those in other communities in the state, engaged in efforts to establish a local college. In addition to being a tangible sign of prosperity, stability, and permanence in fledgling communities, such institutions were a first step to securing funding as a state university. In 1861, Topeka attracted its first college, Bethany, which was an Episcopal girls' school. Congregationalists, who were free-state settlers, established Lincoln College in 1866.

By the late 1860s, Topeka was a successful commercial trading center and began to add land to the original town site in 1867 when Eugene, a town on the north side of the Kansas River, became part of Topeka.[16] Kansas Avenue became the town's main street, and during the 1860s, construction along Kansas Avenue concentrated around 6th Street.[17]

The Boom Years 1870-1890: Community Development Patterns

A town of 700 inhabitants in 1862, Topeka grew to more than 5,000 by 1870.[18] Between 1870 and 1880, the population nearly tripled, increasing from 5,790 to 15,452. In the next decade, the population reached over 35,000. The need for housing created a building boom. Trolley lines made it feasible to plat neighborhoods farther from the town's commercial center and several additions platted along these lines remained distinctive remote enclaves for many years. During this period, developers platted sixty-nine new additions including the Lowman Hill, Euclid Park, College Hill, Highland Park, Quinton Heights, and, Seabrook neighborhoods.[19] In 1888, construction included three thousand new buildings, four miles of paved streets, twelve miles of sewer lines, and a new viaduct and power plant.[20]

Although Topeka's population growth and building boom during the 1870s and 1880s reflect a period of significant growth, economic cycles of decline and growth occurred within this time period. These cycles affected development of the physical environment. While the period between 1865 and 1872, and between 1876 and 1882 reflected significant economic growth, the years from 1882 to 1886 were a time of stabilization or slow growth.

In 1880, about five hundred African American Exodusters established what became known as Tennessee Town in an area that extended west from Buchanan Street to Washburn Avenue and South from 10th Street to Huntoon Street just west of the then city limits. The neighborhood later became incorporated into Topeka's West Side. Other African American neighborhoods were in North Topeka and areas along the railroad tracks.

At the end of the boom period, Kansas Avenue, the city's main street, extended approximately fifteen blocks from the river to the southern limits of the city. In the area running parallel to the river was a level expanse of bottomland that functioned as Topeka's principle manufacturing and wholesale district. Here, meatpacking plants, flourmills, grain elevators, wholesale houses, and small factories faced streets that ran northeast and southwest. The street grid followed this orientation until it reached Huntoon Street near 13th Street where the grid of new additions followed the cardinal points of the compass. Manufacturing services, retail, and professional commercial development ran from the river as far south as 10th Street. Concentrated between 5th and 10th Streets were professional and institutional services. At 10th Street, the commercial aspect of Kansas Avenue changed and new residential sections developed in the 1880s. During this period, Topeka Avenue began to become noted for its large mansions, which continued to be erected throughout World War I.

Early Twentieth Century Topeka

In addition to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, which was the city's largest employer in 1887, Topeka's main industries depended on the agricultural production of the surrounding area. Setbacks in agricultural production and the national depression of 1893 affected economic growth. The building boom of the 1880s collapsed, and by the early 1890s, the number of empty lots reflected a surplus of subdivisions platted in the previous decade.[21] The excess in undeveloped lots continued into the twentieth century. Topeka's manufacturing businesses, which were diverse and mostly local, experienced a period of adjustment during the early 1900s. Between March 1908 and March 1909, seventy-six manufacturing establishments went out of business while investors started eighty-two new businesses.[22]

Natural calamities also affected the community's development. The 1903 flood destroyed nearly all of North Topeka, cutting a new channel through the area. On the south side of the river, the water rose as far as 2nd Street. The Kansas River flooded again in 1904 and 1908. Only after completion of a dike system in 1911, was the city protected from the affects of periodic flooding that occurred during the early twentieth century.

In general, the Topeka-Shawnee County regional area kept pace economically with the rest of the nation. Its location amid a diversified agricultural area of cattle ranches, orchards, and cropland were important components in the economic stability of the region. Its role as a market center, county seat, and state capital created a demand for a range of support services for visitors and legislators. Moreover, the location of the state's capital in Topeka resulted in the location of state institutions in the city. Government buildings assured a steady flow of new construction and created opportunities for long-term employment. Topeka's economy benefited from the establishment of the state's insane asylum in 1875, a school for the blind in 1878, and an industrial training school for boys in 1879. In 1909, the city directory listed twenty-one hospitals, asylums, and treatment facilities. The founding of the Menninger Clinic in 1925, an institution that became a national leader in mental health treatment, played a significant role in the city's reputation for delivery of a wide range of health services and bolstered the local economy.

Despite this diversification, the agricultural depression that began in the 1920s impacted Topeka as it did other communities of the Midwest; the declining prices for livestock and crops a precursor of the impact on the local economy of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Topeka also experienced a major railroad strike in 1922. For the first time, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad hired replacements for strikers. This action directly impacted the livelihood of a significant portion of the community's working classes.[23]

Despite the decline in agricultural prices and the railroad strike, developers once again began to plat new residential subdivisions. However, rather than locating them at the expanding city boundaries, these housing additions occurred mostly in areas between the older subdivisions. Nevertheless, during this period, the official size of the city increased as nine annexations expanded Topeka's boundaries.[24] During this time, many affluent residents began moving from the once popular residential neighborhoods near the state capitol west of Kansas Avenue between 9th and 11th Streets to more removed suburban tracts such as Westboro to the southwest near Gage, Huntoon, and Oakley Streets.

The Great Depression and World War II

In general, the city changed very little in appearance from 1925 to 1950.[25] By the 1930s, residential growth extended nearly three miles from the city's historic business section; most occurring in additions developed to the south and west of Topeka Boulevard. At this time, the majority of the city's residents were Anglo-Saxon stock with scattered groups of Russo-Germans, Swedes, Mexicans, and African Americans. The Russo-Germans, most of whom worked for the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, settled in neighborhoods in North Topeka that became known as "Little Russia." Mexicans lived in nearby enclaves adjacent to the railroad yards. African Americans continued to cluster in Tennessee Town and near the railroad in North Topeka.

During the Depression years, Topeka's growth ceased. Compounding the national economic depression was an extended period of drought and many were out of work. The Works Progress Administration provided employment to workers who erected a cannery, an office for Braille translation, a fire station, a water plant, a municipal auditorium, and the dam building at Lake Shawnee.[26]

With the shift from steam to diesel powered railroad engines, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad switched to another location to manufacture and service their engines. While the headquarters of the company remained in Topeka, the shops in Topeka produced only freight cars, and the once bustling yards became nearly deserted. With this change, Topeka lost its only claim to national importance as a railroad town.[27]

As the Depression ended, the city began to address the production and service needs created by the United States entry into World War II. In addition to its governmental, health care, agricultural, and railroad market center industries, wartime enterprises became an important part of the local economy with the establishment of Forbes Air Force Base. The establishment of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in 1944 further enhanced Topeka's economic diversification.

Post-World War II Development

Topeka changed significantly between 1950 and 1960. While the streetcar spawned Topeka's first suburban development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the automobile stimulated the proliferation of suburbs after World War II.[28] The center of the town moved to 29th and Burlingame Streets. Population growth stimulated by the end of the war, returning veterans, and new businesses such as the Hallmark greeting card plant created a demand for housing. After the long dormant period of construction during the Great Depression and World War II, new housing additions spread into the farmlands surrounding Topeka.[29]

By 1960, Topeka was a sprawling city with new subdivisions, small strip malls, and larger shopping centers branching out from the historic commercial and residential areas established in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In an attempt to compete with modern shopping malls such as Gage Center, Fairlawn Plaza, and White Lakes Mall, downtown property owners demolished many landmark buildings to erect new, larger buildings and modernized their storefronts.[30] In 1966, a major tornado destroyed additional historic buildings and neighborhoods.

College Hill Neighborhood

The College Hill residential neighborhood evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century under the sponsorship of Washburn College; first as a rural enclave for the middle- and upper-middle-class, and later as one of Topeka's first suburban developments. In 1865, John Ritchie, a well-known Congregationalist, free state advocate, and Topeka investor, donated a 160-acre tract for a college site southwest of town.[31] The distance — about one-and-a-half miles — initially presented an obstacle to development of a campus. With no public transportation available to access the site, the college trustees opted instead to temporarily locate in a new building facing the state capitol grounds. Lincoln College opened for classes in 1866. In 1868, Ichabod Washburn donated $25,000 to form an endowment for the college and the trustees renamed it in honor of this benefactor.[32] In 1871, the college trustees began the process of developing the new campus on Ritchie's donated land, which was southwest of what was then central Topeka. During the next two decades, Washburn College enrollment grew. By 1880, the course of study was highly elective and included business, scientific, academic, and collegiate courses. The college buildings consisted of a large stone hall and three cottages used as dormitories.

At this time, under the direction of President Peter McVicar, the college's trustees initiated speculative development on land owned by the college in an effort to raise money to support the college. The trustees took a second mortgage on the land donated by Ritchie and purchased additional parcels owned by A. W. Kinney.[33] As a history of the area notes, "Dr. McVicar was a good business man and seems, one way or another, to have acquired considerable land in the College Hill neighborhood."[34]

The need for revenue was acute. At this time, there were 150 students attending Washburn College. Many attended on scholarships as children of Congregationalist Church-sponsored home missionaries, or were studying to be ministers or teachers. Others receiving scholarships were disabled soldiers, soldiers honorably discharged after two years of service, and children of soldiers that died in service.

Following Washburn's donation and Ritchie's gift of a quarter section of land, the assets of the college had increased to an endowment of over $60,000, and 480 acres of land. The latter, lying north of the campus adjacent to the city limits, had a value of $700 per acre.[35] This property served as a revenue source for the college. The college trustees leased some of the land, setting other parcels aside for campus growth and others for sale to residential developers.

In addition to the revenues the sale of lots would provide to the college, President McVicar hoped the platting of residential neighborhoods near the college would attract people who were associated with the college or interested in supporting the college, including sharing their homes with students who needed room and board.[36] It was a matter of general practice for the trustees to compensate professors by deeding them lots, further stimulating home building.[37] All of the houses on both sides of College and Boswell Avenues between 17 Street and Huntoon Street occupied lots initially owned by the college. For nearly thirty years, proceeds from the sale of lots in what became generally known as "College Hill" helped balance the college budget, added to the college endowment, and attracted new residents.[38]

In 1880, the college trustees hired J. B. Whiteker to survey and plat the land. The initial plat for "College Hill"[39] filed in 1880 included all of Blocks 22 and 27, and the halves of Blocks 23 and 26, east from the alley. This plat ran between 15th and 17th Streets from the east side of Boswell Avenue to the alley east of College Avenue (between College Avenue and Mulvane Street) and included the properties in the 1500 and 1600 block on both sides of College Avenue that are part of the proposed College Avenue Historic District.[40] This platting explains why College Avenue and Boswell Avenue (to a lesser extent) developed first as a residential neighborhood.

Washburn College registered the two additional plats "Addition A" and "Addition B in 1885 and 1887. Addition A included all of the east side of College Avenue from Huntoon Street to 15th Street and along the north side of 15th Street to Washburn Avenue.[41] Addition B covered the area on the west side of College Avenue from Huntoon Street to 15th Street.[42] In 1892, the college vacated the plat with the exception of the west side of College Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets.[43] The trustees replatted the vacated area as "College Place" in 1908.[44]

At this time, there were few roads through this section. Euclid (17th Street) was a section line road; 15th Street was also an important thoroughfare. People from outlying communities traveled on either of these streets to College Avenue and then north into Topeka proper.

As the city limit extended outward and College Hill residential development expanded, street name changes occurred.[45]

Initially, in areas of expansion, city street names replaced original names. During growth periods, this created a confusing situation. For example, for a certain period of time, the same streets on the north and south side of 17th Street had different names — Lincoln Street on the north became Lane Street on the south. During the 1920s, the city reconciled these discrepancies.

The first houses in College Hill appeared in the early 1880s; however, their development did not follow typical residential patterns after platting. During the first few decades, the setting of College Hill was decidedly rural. Judge F.G. Adams, one of the first settlers in College Hill in 1882, purchased a half block of land from the college that stretched along 15th Street from College Avenue east to Mulvane Street and half way down to 16th Street, which was not cut through at the time. He rented the remainder of the land east of the alley and south to 17th Street and the land north to Huntoon to farmers.[46] Adams erected his residence on College Avenue facing 15th Street. The property had several wells, a large barn that housed horses and cows, a chicken house, a hog shed, a smoke house, a large garden, and a corn field. Early residents remember that there were few trees, muddy paths through fields, and a few board sidewalks. Farm animals were pastured west of 15th Street and Boswell Avenue.[47] A communal well on the property of Judge Adams initially provided drinking water. Tall windmills occupied rear yards. Everyone had cisterns with pumps in the kitchens that furnished the water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing. From the 1880s through the early years of the twentieth century, almost everyone maintained a vegetable garden, some raised chickens and had dairy cows. Horsepower was the main source of transportation.[48] Brick and, later, cement sidewalks eventually replaced mud and cinder paths and board walks as well as the stepping stones at streets and alleys. Despite ongoing development, the reputation for the rural nature of College Hill persisted well into the twentieth century. In 1930, when Harry Washburn erected his house at 1607 College Avenue, it was reported that Washburn wanted to own a small "ranch" on the outskirts of the city in the "progressive" area near Washburn University.[49]

President McVicar noted the rapid construction of homes in College Hill in 1889.[50] At the time, the college planted hundreds of shade trees on the campus and in the College Hill subdivision to enhance the desirability of the area.[51] Construction increased, and by the mid-1890s College Hill began to look like a residential neighborhood. The first streets to experience development were those of the original plat — College Avenue from 15th to 17th Streets — and, to a lesser extent, on Boswell Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets. Then development occurred along 15th Street from Lincoln Street west to College Avenue. The north-south streets south of Huntoon Street — Lincoln Street, Lane Street, West Street, Garfield Avenue, and Mulvane Street — followed. A sharp decline in residential building occurred in the mid-1890s, and building ceased on Mulvane Street between 13th and 15th Streets.

The College Hill area quickly took on the identity of a suburban community with the establishment of support services and amenities for the first residents. Among the earliest was the establishment of schools and churches. In 1885, a new two-room school built along 17th Street and Lane Street, replaced a rural school on 21st Street. Euclid School, erected in 1885 near 17th and Lane Streets became part of the city school system that same year, and in 1909, Central Park School replaced the 1885 two-room school building. The college trustees encouraged the location of churches in the neighborhood by setting aside four lots at the southeast corner of Huntoon Street and College Avenue for sale to a religious group. In 1889, Westminster Presbyterian Church erected a house of worship at the Huntoon Street and College Avenue site.[52] Other congregations associated with College Hill were the Euclid Methodist Church (established in 1888) at 17th and Lane Streets, the Central Congregational Church at Huntoon and Buchanan Streets, and the Central Park Christian Church (established in 1896) at the corner of 16th and Clay Streets.

Spurring development was the advent of public transportation beginning in the mid-eighties. Prior to this time, horses, hired hacks,[53] carriages, and wagons transported goods and passengers between downtown Topeka and the college site.[54] In 1884, a regular mule-car route began offering nine daily round-trips. President McVicar, aware of the value of this transportation system to the college, worked with Topeka investors to create the City Railway Company.[55] By 1891, two streetcar lines provided service to the college and the surrounding neighborhood. One, an electric line, used College Avenue, the widest street in the area.[56] The 1910 city directory reported that the route ran north from the college along College Avenue from 17th to Huntoon Streets, where it turned east and ran to Clay Street. At Clay Street, it turned north and ran to 12th Street, jogging to Jackson Street. From Jackson Street, it went north to 10th Street and then east to Kansas Avenue where it ran north to 4th Avenue to the Santa Fe Station. It then proceeded south to 5th Street and west to Kansas Avenue where it then retraced its path back to College Avenue.[57] The second line alternated in time with the first line along College Avenue, arriving and leaving the college by way of 17th Street. With this level of service, in addition to servicing the students, most people who lived in the area used the streetcars to shop and commute to work in the downtown business district.

Twentieth Century Development

By the turn of the century, College Avenue was considered the showplace of the larger College Hill neighborhood.[58] With a width of one hundred feet, College Avenue was the widest street in the neighborhood and served as an entrance street to the college and as a streetcar route. Mature elms planted at the direction of President McVicar in the 1880s lined the street. The 1600 block of College Avenue, in particular, created a distinct sense of place. On the west side of the street were four large parcels composed of several lots that extended through to Boswell Street. A substantial house erected in the 1880s, surrounded by a well-kept lawn and shade trees occupied each parcel. On the southwest corner was the J. T. Lovewell brick home at 1601 College Avenue erected in the 1880s and occupied by the family until around 1918 when it sold to Mrs. John Washburn, who turned it into a duplex and lived in one of the units. Later, it was the home of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Next door was the L. D. Whittemore home at 1615 College Avenue, which was occupied by the same family for sixty-eight years. Like their neighbors the Lovewells, the Whittemores were from New England. South of the Whittemore residence was the E.B. Merriam-Charles M. Sheldon Home at 1621 College Avenue. May Merriam later occupied the home after she married Charles M. Sheldon. The Silver family residence at 1531 College Avenue, built in 1880, was the home of Judge Silver. Across the street on the northeast corner of College Avenue and 16th Street at 1534 College Avenue was the home of Thomas Lyon, the homebuilder, which was known as being the residence of Margaret Hill McCarter, a well-known Kansas author.

Along College Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhood, new cottages, Bungalows, and American Four Square houses filled the single lots platted in the 1880s, creating a grid of residences with common setbacks, driveways, and yard spaces. Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps show that by 1913 residences occupied almost every lot along College Avenue and the adjoining streets. These early twentieth century residences had uniform size, scale, massing, and setbacks. Garages and outbuildings occupied the rear lot lines along the alleys. Lending farther to the cohesive appearance of the neighborhood was the prevalence of houses occupying one lot only with a distinct arrangement of public and private spaces — well-maintained front yards with lawns, flowering shrubs, and large shade trees. In the rear yards were more functional uses of spaces — vegetable gardens, flower gardens, cisterns, wells, clotheslines, and outbuildings. To the south and beyond were the college and far-off farmsteads.

The cohesive appearance of the College Hill streetscapes did not occur by chance. The college controlled not only the size of the lots through the initial plating, but also the quality of housing through deed restrictions. The transaction between the college and W.E. Glover was a typical practice. In 1908, Glover, a home builder, purchased a lot on College Avenue from the college for $450. The deed restrictions stipulated that the residence to be built could not cost less than $1,500. The house Glover erected cost $2,500.

Certain amenities stimulated growth. In 1900, the city water system reached the college and surrounding neighborhood. Street paving, which occurred during the first decades of the twentieth century, was brick and started at 13th and Clay Streets, continued west on 13th Street to Lane Street, then south to 15th Street, then west to College Avenue, and from that point extended south to the college entrance. Within the next decade, the desire of owners stimulated asphalt and concrete pavement in all directions from the initial brick pavement. The amount of paving in the 1920s entailed the opening of new streets and renaming of many pre-existing thoroughfares.

At this time, several College Hill real estate developers led an effort to establish a small, defined commercial block in the neighborhood. In the absence of any plat restrictions, the men were successful in determining the boundaries, style, and siting for a block of commercial buildings at West 15th and Lane Streets. The retail and service businesses served both the neighborhood residents and the rural residents from the south and west who historically traveled on 15th Street to reach Topeka. The first stores were a grocery, a pharmacy, a meat market, a livery stable, and a blacksmith shop. Later businesses included a tin shop, a plumbing firm, a hardware store, barber shops, a shoe shop, a milk depot, a bakery, wallpaper and paint stores, a restaurant, beauty shop, a print shop, real estate office, a filling station, a fire station, and a music store. The Coed, a movie theater, opened its doors in 1937 and was the first suburban movie theater in Topeka. It was, at this time, that a College Hill Merchants Association formed to address problems such as lack of streetlights, widening of Lane and 15th Streets. In addition to addressing issues involving commercial businesses, the group's meetings also became a forum where residents could meet.[59]

Local neighborhood newspapers reflect the sense of identity of the neighborhood as a distinct enclave. The College Booster, which began in 1922, and the later College Hill News provided local neighborhood news and ran advertisements for the shopping area, promoting the notion of College Hill as a unique residential area. Other businesses such as the College Hill Property and Business Service promoted the uniqueness of the neighborhood by publishing a College Hill telephone book.[60]

A Progressive Neighborhood

Because of its college connections, neighborhood schools and churches, newspapers, shopping center, and fire station, College Hill attracted many of Topeka's prominent citizens as residents, gaining the reputation of being a "progressive area, a community of culture and openness."[61] The neighborhood included a rich assortment of residents from the middle and upper-middle classes. In addition to the professors and students who lived in the College Hill neighborhood, the occupations of home owners listed in the city directories are doctors, ministers, dentists, writers, journalists, educators, musicians, insurance agents, artists, photographers, real estate developers, railroad employees, teachers, lawyers, bookkeepers, traveling salesmen, electricians, stenographers, and printers.[62]

At one time, Franklin G. Adams, Secretary of the State Historical Society; Martin Mohler, Secretary of Agriculture; and Professor J.T. Lovewell, Secretary of the Academy of Science lived within a block of one another in the neighborhood. Among the residents of the proposed College Avenue Historic District was Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, first pastor of the Central Congregational Church who gained an international reputation as the author of In His Steps. In this book, Dr. Sheldon coined the phrase, "What would Jesus do?" Margaret Hill McCarter enjoyed a national reputation as a best-selling author of books on the pioneer life. L.D. Whittemore, superintendent of the Topeka schools from 1904 to 1911 and assistant state superintendent of public instruction from 1911 to 1915, authored the Latin textbook used in the Topeka schools. Mrs. Whittemore, an artist and author, headed Washburn's Art Department. The Whittemore's daughter, Margaret, was also an artist and writer. Joseph T. Lovewell, an honors graduate of Yale University, was an early science professor at Washburn College; his son Paul who enjoyed a distinguished career in journalism in Kansas. Professor William Asbury Harshbarger and his wife Lucy (Platt) resided on College Avenue for nearly fifty years. Professor Harshbarger was the head of the Washburn College math department. A flower enthusiast, he maintained extensive gardens to the south of the house (currently the site of 1407-1409 Southwest College Avenue). Lucy was a popular local piano teacher and composer. Dr. Charles Henry Lerrigo, founder of the Society for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, the forerunner of the American Lung Association, and credited with discovery of the cure for tuberculosis, used his front parlor at 1417 College Avenue as an after-hours office. Down the street at 1630 College Avenue, Mable and Alice Huggins retired from their missionary work as teachers in China. Mable published articles in magazines and compiled puzzles and quizzes. Alice received national recognition for her books on China and was a popular lecturer. Dorothy, their sister, who lived with them, taught English and was active in statewide education organizations and the Topeka YMCA.

College Hill had a small-town atmosphere in a growing city, and it was a decidedly middle-class atmosphere as well. Former residents of College Avenue during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century remember that children went home for lunch every day and walked to church on Sundays with their parents. Late Sunday afternoons in the spring and summer, neighbors dropped by for Dr. Eva Harding's informal "at homes" in her "Ragged Robin" garden on College Avenue to enjoy the sunset.[63] Dr. Shelton's backyard was the scene of frequent horseshoe tossing contests. In the fall, there were bonfires and wiener roasts. The Lovewell and Whittemore parlors served as the location for winter sing-a-longs. On clear nights, Professor Lovewell set up his telescope on the porch so the neighborhood children could see Saturn's rings. It was an environment of ponies and nameless chickens, pigeons, and rabbits; orchards, bee hives, and raspberry bushes; vegetable and flower gardens; neighborhood baseball, the Central Park Elementary School football team, and the Sunshine Children's Band; climbing trees and twilight games of "Run Sheep Run."

Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Vernacular Houses and Residential Architecture

The collection of residences built from 1886 through the 1920s on College Avenue exemplify a middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhood dominated by the Gable-Front Folk House forms and Queen Anne, Prairie School, and Tudor Revival style houses. These houses reflect popular national and local architectural tastes during the time periods in which they were constructed. While these same styles and designs were popular elsewhere in Topeka, the preponderance of gable-front forms (both vernacular and high style renditions); the unified cultural landscape, including street right-of-ways, alleys, sidewalks, and lot sizes; and the use of similar materials, massing and scale, and building placement created a distinguishable entity. The period of significance of the College Avenue Historic District also coincides with important periods of residential growth and development in Topeka. As such, these residences are an important component in reflecting the continuum of domestic architecture that evolved in Topeka during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The choices of the citizens of Topeka in the design of their homes reflected the popular tastes of the era in which they were erected and local building traditions and materials. During the state's early settlement period, local building materials and the availability of certain manufactured building materials through water transport and, later, railroads determined the configuration and physical appearance of buildings. Limestone formations supplied a readily accessible building material and builders used local stone for entire buildings, foundations, and trim elements on brick buildings. Large stands of hardwood trees covered the eastern portions of the Kansas territory and early settlers used the native oak, walnut, and hickory for framing, and imported white and yellow pine for finish lumber.[64]

Whether they built their residences and business houses of wood, stone, or brick, the builders of the first permanent buildings in Kansas followed the vernacular building traditions and styles they had known in their home communities. They also freely adapted the popular mid-century academic designs and modified them according to the skills and materials available in the new community.[65]

The nature of American housing changed dramatically as the nation's railroad network expanded in the decades from 1850 to 1890. Builders no longer had to rely on local materials. Instead, railroads moved bulky construction materials, particularly lumber, from distant sawmills in heavily forested areas, rapidly and cheaply over long distances. Consequently, large lumberyards quickly became standard fixtures in almost every town. Soon, folk houses of light balloon or braced framing covered by wood sheathing replaced hewn log houses and mortise-and-tendon framing.[66]

Despite the change in building technique and materials, older folk house shapes persisted in the modest dwellings of the middle classes that can be defined by their form and massing. Some lacked identifiable stylistic attributes, while others incorporated ornamentation obviously inspired by popular high style dwellings. Even after communities became well established, folk house designs remained popular as an affordable alternative to more ornate and complex architectural styles.[67]

After the initial settlement period, popular architectural styles began to appear in the residences and important commercial or institutional buildings in Kansas communities. Just as in vernacular houses, the high style residences that appeared in the late nineteenth century reflected technological changes. The balloon frame significantly simplified the construction of corners, wall extensions, and overhangs. As a result, house plans shifted from the boxy construction mandated by heavy wood framing to irregular plans. The ability of railroads to deliver inexpensive mass-produced house components such as doors, windows, roofing, and siding at a relatively low cost also contributed to dramatic changes in house design. Houses erected by the middle and upper-middle classes during the last decades of the nineteenth century clearly reflect these changes through their complex shapes and elaborate detailing — features once restricted to the expensive homes of the upper classes. Most were loosely based and borrowed freely from a variety of medieval examples and commonly employed textured or multi-colored walls, asymmetrical facades, and steeply pitched roofs [68]

During the first decades of the twentieth century, a first wave of architectural modernism interrupted the emphasis on period styles and the Bungalow/Craftsman and Prairie School House style dominated the choices of American homebuilders. After World War I, homeowners shifted their preferences back to the historic styles previously favored by the architectural community. Technological change facilitated this shift. In the early 1920s, the perfection of inexpensive techniques for adding a veneer of brick or stone to the exterior of the frame house stimulated new adaptations of historic European and Colonial American masonry design in middle-class residences.

After 1935, design changes in residences reflected increased dependence on electrical innovation in appliances and greater attention to the mechanical aspects of housing. By this time, house design reflected transitions such as the Minimal Traditional style house, which was more a precursor for the limited styles of post-World War II suburban subdivisions than a reflection of the more spacious houses of the 1900-1920s.

Influence of Pattern Book Designs

Beginning in the 1890s, a fundamental change occurred in the perception of the ideal family and its housing needs. In a reaction to the formal assembly of rooms of the nineteenth century and because of technological innovations, new ideals of simplicity and efficiency led to a more informal hierarchy of rooms and reflected the desire for a more relaxed lifestyle. At the same time, the introduction of central heating, gas hot water heaters, indoor plumbing, and electricity increased the cost of construction. One result was the reduction of floor space and the use of standardized plans. These standardized plans became entrenched in American residential building practices through the use of pattern books.

Architectural pattern books came into common use in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Advertised in newspapers and other periodicals and available at the local library by the late nineteenth century, pattern books were widely accessible to prospective homebuilders, architects, carpenters, contractors, and developers. Through the use of published designs adapting popular architectural styles, builders and clients were able to choose from a variety of plans, styles, and individual motifs. The attractively designed books combined realistic drawings of houses along with floor plans and diagrams of important ornamental details. Featuring variations on different styles, they provided a variety of choices of floor plans and arrangements of architectural elements.

Several styles gained great popularity as a result of architectural pattern books in the early twentieth century. Of particular note was the Bungalow/Craftsman house, introduced in the early 1900s by popular house and garden magazines and architectural pattern books, the Bungalow form enjoyed widespread popularity from about 1905 to 1930.

Pattern books produced after World War I revealed the growing emphasis on homes for the middle classes. This reflected the focus of architects, real estate developers, builders, social reformers, manufacturers, and public officials to encourage home ownership and to develop standardized home building practices.

In addition to plan books, newspapers and magazines featured plans for the modest home. Popular magazines such as McCall's, Better Homes and Gardens, and American Home appealed directly to a growing consumer base for small homes by featuring articles on new house designs, interior decoration, and gardening.

The pattern book houses that emerged in the 1920s utilized established forms such as the Bungalow and Revival styles, drawing from the English Tudor Revival and American Colonial idioms using Dutch, English, and Spanish precedents. The result was a great diversity of architectural styles and types nationwide, as well as within communities that reflected the interest of an increasingly educated middle-class audience of prospective homeowners.[69]

College Avenue Residential Architecture

Most of the residences erected in College Hill and along College Avenue before the Great Depression were adaptations of National Folk House forms — gable-front houses with massed plans that included the gable-front-and-wing house plan, the pyramidal roof plan, the American Four Square plan and the Bungalow.[70] Many incorporated Free Classical and Craftsman stylistic influences. Variations of the folk house forms continued to be erected in the neighborhood well into the 1930s, in particular the Bungalow design that emerged as part of the Craftsman movement at the beginning of the twentieth century.

One of the oldest National Folk House designs was the gable-front-and-wing house. The tall two-story version enjoyed great popularity in the East and Midwest, while the one-story or one-and-a-half-story cottage had its origins in the South and spread to adjacent areas of the expanding Midwest. The form is a variant of the Greek Revival inspired gable-front house, with an additional side-gabled wing added at a right angle to the gable front, creating a compound L-shaped plan. The Lyon Harshbarger House at 1401 Southwest College Avenue and the 1908 W.S. Child Residence at 1264 Southwest College Avenue reflect variations on the gable-front-and-wing folk house plan.

Residences more than one room deep with a square or nearly square floor plan often incorporated a pyramidal roof form composed of equilateral hipped roofs. Although they required more complex roof framing, they needed fewer long-span rafters and were less expensive to build than their side-gabled prototype. The incorporation of the roof form in one-story and one-and-a-half-story cottages such as the 1907 Weir residence at 1247 Southwest College Avenue was common in the Midwest in the early decades of the twentieth century. Like their side-gabled relatives, pyramidal folk houses differed principally in roof pitch, the size and placement of porches, and that they often lacked fashionable stylistic details.[71]

Beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, like their counterparts in other neighborhoods, the owners of a number of homes along College Avenue and in the larger College Hill area erected residences in popular architectural styles. The twelve Queen Anne style residences on College Avenue reflect late Victorian period architectural preferences of homeowners. Characterized by their complexity, these Queen Anne houses have the typical irregular and sometimes quite large massing; a great variety of windows and sheathing materials; complex roof shapes; large porches; and filigree decoration on the porches and eaves lines. The 1888 Bollard residence at 1419 Southwest College Avenue is an excellent example of the Spindlework sub-category of the Queen Anne house, and the Free Classical sub-type 1909 Queen Anne house at 1322 Southwest College Avenue reflects the simpler twentieth century treatment.

At the same time, the distinctly American Prairie and Bungalow/Craftsman styles of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century American Movements also appeared and remained popular until World War I, when Revival styles once again gained favor. The Prairie School style house that emerged as a distinctly American residential style in the late nineteenth century appears on College Avenue in its simplest American Foursquare form with hipped roof, symmetrical fenestration, and a front entrance. Examples of the simple style are the 1910 residence at 1257 Southwest College Avenue, and the 1913 house at 1268 Southwest College Avenue. Closely related to the style are simple American Four Square vernacular houses with little stylistic references. Three examples in the College Avenue Historic District are the houses at 1269 Southwest College Avenue (1915); 1425 Southwest College Avenue (1907); and 1429 Southwest College Avenue (1906). The Bungalow/Craftsman with its low-pitched gabled roof, wide eaves, full- or partial-width front porches with square columns was also an important design component of the College Avenue Historic District. Excellent examples of this style are the 1909 clapboard Bungalow at 1288 Southwest College Avenue and the 1911 Shingle residence at 1352 Southwest College Avenue.

After the end of World War I, Tudor Revival houses that were stylistic interpretations of older Euro-American period houses became popular.[72] The 1923 house with clapboard siding at 1261 Southwest College Avenue is an example of the side-gable variant, while the 1924 house at 1501 Southwest College Avenue features the classic cross-gable roof with wall surfaces of brick, stucco, and faux half-timbering.

Automobile Garages

After World War I, garages became common in Topeka and appeared along College Avenue as owners removed or converted carriage houses, small barns, and outbuildings. Property owners located garages behind the house at the end of a driveway along the property line and alley. As with houses, pattern books also provided instructions on how to build a garage. Of note are the garages now at 1317 Southwest College Avenue, which replaced a barn, and the barn converted into two-car garage at 1615 Southwest College Avenue.

The College Avenue Historic District clearly illustrates the evolution of middle- and upper-middle-class residential development and architecture during Topeka's periods of prosperity. More importantly, the socio-economic profile of residents remains constant from decade to decade, as middle- and upper-middle-class citizens chose to reside in a well-known, desirable neighborhood with housing stock maintained in good condition.


With the exception of important civic buildings, master carpenters and masons contracted by property owners chose the design and erected residential buildings in Topeka in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although some property owners hired architects to design their residences, the majority of the houses in the College Avenue Historic District reflected the work of competent contractors and craftsmen and were strictly "builders' vernacular," most often based on plan book designs and the local carpenter's preferences.

A grainer and painter by trade, George H. Hughes was a College Hill resident and developer responsible for the construction of at least five residences on College Avenue between 1900 and 1908: 1336, 1340, 1346, 1500, and 1504 Southwest College Avenue.

Thomas Stewart Lyon (1833-1914) arrived in Topeka in 1880 where he settled in the College Hill neighborhood and began working as a real estate and loan agent. He expanded into general contracting and was responsible for the construction of several prominent Topeka homes, including the J. Willis Gleed House and five residences in College Hill: the Lyon-Harshbarger Residence at 1401 Southwest College Avenue (circa 1900); the McCarter House at 1534 Southwest College Avenue (1905); the Ward Silver Residence at 1525 Southwest College Avenue (1903); the Lyon Residence at 1530 Southwest College Avenue (circa 1908); and 1633-1635 Southwest College Avenue (demolished).

Joe Caesar was a Topeka contractor who constructed the Canine Wolfe house at 1501 Southwest College Avenue (1924).

William H. Douglas was a Topeka builder during the early years of the twentieth century and constructed the Maude Bishop residence at 1600 Southwest College Avenue (1904). His building company grew to become Topeka's well-known Douglas Construction Company and was responsible for the construction of the Highland Park High School.

Walter E. Glover was a Topeka architect who worked during the 1920s and 1930s designing many of the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Spanish Revival homes in the Westboro subdivision in Topeka. He was responsible for the design of the Washburn Residence at 1607 Southwest College Avenue (1930). Among Glover's commercial designs is the Security Benefit Building in Topeka.

Herman M'Clure Hadley (1850-1904) was a Topeka architect who graduated from Cornell University in 1876 and came to Kansas the following year. By 1880, he had established his architectural practice in Topeka. From 1880 until his death in 1904, he maintained his offices in Topeka's Crawford Block where he designed a number of institutional and commercial buildings in Topeka and throughout Kansas, including a number of churches, and commercial block buildings at Holton and Oskaloosa. He also completed numerous residences in Topeka, including the Lyon-Harshbarger Residence at 1401 Southwest College Avenue (circa 1900). For a short period during the late 1880s, he was in a partnership with fellow architect Francis W. Cooper.

John Milton Leeper (1872-1935) was a prominent Topeka contractor and College Hill resident. A Kansas native, Leeper came to Topeka in 1889 and began his career as a brick mason. By 1903, he had established his own contracting firm, which eventually constructed buildings in four states. The majority of his work was concentrated in Kansas, where he was in charge of many state government building projects, college and school buildings, and manufacturing and business blocks. In 1907, he formed a short-lived partnership with Thomas G. Smith under the name Leeper & Smith. Leeper's Topeka buildings include the State Printing plant; the W.O. Anderson Commission Company building; the Warren M. Crosby building; the Central Y.W.C.A. and Y.M.C.A.; the Memorial Building Palace Clothing Company building; the Women's Club building; Crane Junior High School; the National Reserve Building; the Novelty Theater; the Jayhawk Hotel; the Aetna Building & Loan Association Building; the Topeka State Bank Building; the Shawnee Bank Building; the M.F. Rigby Building; and Topeka High School. Outside Topeka, Leeper's firm built the Manual Training School Building at Pittsburg State Teachers College; the junior and senior high schools of Pittsburg; the science building at Emporia State Teachers' college; the engineering building of Kansas State College at Manhattan; and a number of structures for the American Railway Express Co., Wells Fargo & Company, and the Santa Fe railroad throughout Kansas and Oklahoma, including the Santa Fe office building at Wellington, KS. In 1905, he constructed the Leeper Residence at 1612 Southwest College Avenue for his family, where they resided until the 1910s.

Significance of the College Avenue Historic District

While the College Avenue Historic District is closely entwined with Topeka's historical development and periods of economic growth, in particular the evolution of the College Hill neighborhood, the neighborhood maintains its own distinct physical features, topography, functions, and land use, which make it a distinguishable entity. The College Avenue Historic District conveys its unique history and architectural associations that not only reflect economic and physical development patterns, but also the notable location in which it developed. Long associated with Washburn College and the area surrounding it, the neighborhood has a distinct identity. The boulevard landscaping, the house settings, and the generous lots and setbacks create the physical context for a predominately upper-middle-class neighborhood. Because the College Avenue Historic District continues to retain a high degree of integrity of historic setting, design, materials, and workmanship, it successfully conveys feelings of its period of development and significant associations with community development and architecture.


[1]The earliest building, which dates to circa 1886, was significantly altered in circa 1956 and is a non-contributing resource. The three residences constructed outside of the referenced date range are all duplexes constructed in circa 1960.

[2]Linda F. McClelland, National Register Bulletin 16 A: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form publication online] available from US. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register, History and Education at, Internet; accessed 30 June 2006. National Register Bulletin 16 A notes that if the historic exterior building material is covered by non-historic material (such as modern siding) the property can still be eligible for listing in the National Register if the significant form, features, and detailing are not obscured. However, the Kansas State Historic Preservation Officer has declined to allow these properties to be considered as contributing to a historic district unless the secondary siding is removed prior to the submittal of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form to the National Park Service. The listing of non-contributing properties in this section lists the properties on which the siding does not currently obscure the form, features, and detailing of its architectural or folk house property type; properties that would be contributing under Kansas State policy if the non-historic siding is removed and the original siding is found underneath.

[3]Numbered streets begin at the river to the north.

[4]See Figure 4 in Section 8. [in original nomination document] Because of integrity issues, including the presence of non-historic, secondary siding, it is necessary to nominate different streetscapes as districts, rather than the larger College Hill neighborhood.

[5]In 1902, these setbacks were referred to as "individual parks." William Elsey Connelley, Radges' Directory of Topeka and Shawnee and Gazetteer of General Information (Topeka: n.p., 1902), 21.

[6]See Figures 7 through 9 in Section 8. [in original nomination document]

[7]For the convenience of the reader, a listing of the College Avenue Historic District resources by address begins on page 43 of Section 7.

[8]Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 443.

[9]This includes both contributing and non-contributing examples.

[10]National Register Bulletin 15: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1991), 47.

[11]Later Washburn University.

[12]Among this founding group was Dr. Charles Robinson, an agent for the New England Emigrant Aid Society.

[13]Commercial steamboat traffic on the Kansas River did not last long. Railroad interests lobbied for the passage of laws that blocked the successful use of steamboats. In 1864, the legislature declared the river non-navigable and authorized railroad and bridge companies to bridge and dam the Kansas River with no restrictions.

[14]Homer E. Socolofsky and Huber Self, Historical Atlas of Kansas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 30.

[15]The Union Pacific Eastern Division was renamed the Kansas Pacific. The Atchison and Pikes Peak Railroad later used the name Union Pacific, Central Branch. The Union Pacific, Southern Branch was later known as the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.

[16]Cutler, William G. History of the State of Kansas (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883) [publication online] available at; Internet; accessed 6 June 2006; Blackmar, Frank W., ed. Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History. vol. 2, (Chicago: Standard Publishing, Co., 1912), transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2002 [publication online) available at, Internet; accessed 6 June 2006, and Roy Bird and Douglass W. Wallace, "Witness of the Times — A History of Shawnee County," (Topeka: Shawnee County Historical Society, 1976), 232-233.

[17]Sheryll White, Terry Ward and Patricia Humphrey, "Holiday Park Historic District Local Historic Resources Survey Report," August 1990,20.

[18]The WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. 1984), 279.

[19]Douglass W. Wallace, "A History of Shawnee County, Kansas," n.p., Topeka-Shawnee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, 1974,64.

[20]Blackmar, available at; Internet.

[21]Wallace, "A History of Shawnee County, Kansas," 71.

[22]White, Ward and Humphrey, 33.

[23]Ibid., 107.

[24]Ibid., map interleaf between pages 37 and 38.

[25]Bird and Wallace, 244.

[26]Jan Biles, ed., Topeka Remembers: A Personalized History of the Capital City (Topeka: Topeka Capital-Journal, 2003), 89.

[27]Roy Bird, Washburn Through the Years (Topeka: Washburn University, 1977), 107.

[28]Ibid., 63.

[29]Bird and Wallace, 246.

[30]Ibid., 247.

[31]George Davis, a founding member of the Topeka Town Association, sold the land to Ritchie, who then gave the property to the Congregationalist Church for a college.

[32]Bird and Wallace, 196.

[33]Bird, 14. John Ritchie sold this property to Kinney earlier.

[34]Hermione van Laer Adams, "College Hill, Past and Present," Bulletin of the Shawnee County Historical Society, Bulletin 38, (Topeka, 1962), 3.

[35]Alfred Thayer Andreas with William G. Cutler, Public and Private Schools, Shawnee County, Part 10, The History of the State of Kansas (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883) [publication online] available at:; Internet; accessed 3 July 2006.

[36]Students were welcome in the neighborhood. Not only did they board in many homes, as shown in the 1924 city directory, at one time, 1601 Southwest College Avenue was a fraternity house.

[37]van Laer Adams, 32.

[38]van Laer Adams, 39.

[39]There are many references to the lots in College Hill in the 1870s and 1880s. The designation appears to include more than the section that is now considered the College Hill neighborhood.

[40]"Plat of Sections in College Hill Nov 5 1880," Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Topeka, Kansas.

[41]"Addition A to College Hill August 28th 1885," Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Topeka, Kansas.

[42]"Plat of Addition B to College Hill." Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Topeka, Kansas.

[43]This area is in the College Avenue Historic District.

[44]Verified by a dated notation in the Plat Book "Plat of Addition B to College Hill" and confirmed by the 1913 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map. Why Washburn vacated the plat is not clear. According to the petition, the land was owned by Washburn.

[45]SW College, Boswell, and MacVicar Aves. remained the same as far north as SW Huntoon St. SW Garfield Ave. was originally Dillon; SW Mulvane St., from 15th to 17th, was Warren; 17th St. was Elm and then Euclid; 16th St. was Chestnut St.; 15th St. was Walnut and then Piercy; and 13th St. was Williams. Two parts of what is now Washburn Ave. had different names — Williston and Ennis. Later, Washburn was West St. as far as 17th St. then, east of the campus, it became Bolles St.

[46]van Laer Adams, 5.

[47]Ibid., 100, 142.

[48]Laura Neiswanger, "The Neiswanger Family," Bulletin of the Shawnee County Historical Society, no. 38 (1962) : 97-103.

[49]"This Ol' House 1607 College The Harry Washburn House," College Hill Booster (June 1997), Vertical File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[50]Bird, 32.

[51]Ibid., 34.

[52]The congregation moved to another location in 1926 and the church building became home to the Four Square Church and then the Central Church of Christ.

[53]Closed carriages of various sizes seating from four to twenty passengers and utilizing two to six horses.

[54]Neiswanger, 143.

[55]Bird, 32.

[56]Remnants of the old track remain visible on one block on College Avenue.

[57]Radges' Directory of Topeka and Shawnee County (Topeka: Polk-Radges Directory Company, 1893), 44, Kansas State Historical Society Library, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.


[59]van Laer Adams, 53.

[60]This undated phone directory is at the Topeka Public Library.

[61]"This Ol' House 1607 College The Harry Washburn House."

[62]1924 Halls' Topeka City Directory and Street Guide (Topeka: Hall Directory Company, 1924), 89-92.

[63]The garden occupied the open lots where the home at 1417 College Avenue now stands

[64]David H. Sachs and George Ehrlich, A Guide to Kansas Architecture (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1996), 2-3.

[65]Historic Preservation Department, Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Preservation Plan, "The Period of Exploration and Settlement (1820s-1880s)" (Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1987), 63.

[66]McAlester, 90.

[67]Ibid., 94.

[68]Ibid., 239

[69]David L. Ames and Linda Flint McClelland, National Register Bulletin, Historic Residential Suburbs: Guidelines for Evaluation and Documentation for the National Register of Historic Places [publication online] available from the U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service. National Register. History and Education at Internet; accessed 1 July 2003.

[70]The American Four Square house plan is the most common within the District, represented in twenty-one residences; however, the majority (eighteen) express high style architectural features and as such are classified in accordance with their representative style.

[71]McAlester, 100.

[72]Ibid., 319.


1924 Halls' Topeka City Directory and Street Guide. Topeka: Hall Directory Company, 1924.

"Addition A to College Hill August 28th 1885." Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Manhattan, Kansas.

Ames, David L. and Linda Flint McClelland McClelland, National Register Bulletin, Historic Residential Suburbs: Guidelines for Evaluation and Documentation for the National Register of Historic Places [publication online] available from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register, History and Education at; Internet; accessed 1 July 2003.

Andreas, Alfred Thayer with William G. Cutler. Public and Private Schools, Shawnee County, Part 10, The History of the State of Kansas. Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883. Publication online. Available at:; Internet; accessed 3 July 2006.

Bards & Co.'s Business Directory 1900-01. Kansas City, MO: Bards & Company, 1900. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

Baughman, Robert W. Kansas in Maps. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1961.

Biles, Jan, ed. Topeka Remembers: A Personalized History of the Capital City. Topeka: Capital-Journal, 2003.

Bird, Roy. Washburn Through the Years. Topeka: Washburn University, 1977.

Bird, Roy D. and Douglass W. Wallace, "Witness of the Times -A History of Shawnee County." Topeka: Shawnee County Historical Society, 1976.

Blackmar, Frank W., ed. Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, vol. 2. Chicago: Standard Publishing Co., 1912. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2002. Publication online. Available at; Internet; accessed 6 June 2006.

Carruth, Arthur J. Jr. "Topeka Transportation." Bulletin of the Shawnee County Historical Society, no. 46 (1969).

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Connelley, William E. History of Kansas: State and People, vol. 3. Chicago: American Historical Society, Inc., 1928.

Connelley, William Elsey. Radges' Directory of Topeka and Shawnee and Gazetteer of General Information. Topeka: n.p., 1902.

Cutler, William G. History of the State of Kansas. Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1883. Publication online. Available at; Internet; accessed 6 June 2006.

"H.M. Hadley is Dead." Topeka State Journal, 11 October 1904. Architects File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Historic Preservation Department, Kansas State Historical Society. Kansas Preservation Plan. "The Period of Exploration and Settlement (1820s-1880s)." Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1987.

"J.M. Leeper Dies." Topeka State Journal, 4 December 1935. Vertical File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Kansas. Chicago: Standard Publishing Company, n.d. (c.1910). Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

"Leeper started building career when he was 11." Topeka Daily Capital, 26 August 1926. Vertical File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Markley, Walt. Builders of Topeka. Topeka: Capper Printing Company, 1934. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

McClelland, Linda F. National Register Bulletin 16 A: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form [publication online] available from US. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register, History and Education at; Internet; accessed 30 June 2006.

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 27. New York: James T. White & Company, 1939. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Neiswanger, Laura. "The Neiswanger Family" Bulletin of the Shawnee County Historical Society, no. 38 (1962): 97-103.

"Plat of Addition B to College Hill." Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Topeka, Kansas.

"Plat of Sections in College Hill Nov 5 1880." Shawnee County, Kansas Recorder of Deeds, Shawnee County Courthouse, Topeka, Kansas.

Preliminary Site Information Questionnaire (PSIQ) forms, 1247 through 1630 SW College Avenue, Topeka, Kansas. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Radges' 1905 Directory of Topeka and Shawnee County. Topeka: Hall Lithography Company, 1905. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

Radges' Directory of Topeka and Shawnee County. Topeka: Polk-Radges Directory Company, 1893. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

Radges' Topeka City Directory, 1909. Topeka: Polk-Radges Directory Company, 1909. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

Radges' Topeka City Directory 1921. Kansas City, MO: R.L. Polk & Company, 1921. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

Sachs, David H. and George Ehrlich. Guide to Kansas Architecture. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1996.

Socolofsky, Homer E. and Huber Self. Historical Atlas of Kansas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

"This Ol' House 1607 College The Harry Washburn House." College Hill Booster (June 1997). Vertical File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

"Thomas Stewart Lyon Dies at the age of 80." Topeka Daily Capital, 15 January 1914. Vertical File, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

The Topeka Pocket Business Directory and Ready Reference Book. Topeka: Chesney & Widstrand, 1889. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas, Microfilm.

van Laer Adams, Hermione. "College Hill, Past and Present." Bulletin of the Shawnee County Historical Society. no. 38 (1962): 3.

The WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984.

Wallace, Douglass W. A History of Shawnee County, Kansas. N.p. Topeka-Shawnee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, 1974.

White, Sheryll, Terry Ward and Patricia Humphrey. "Holiday Park Historic District Local Historic Resources Survey Report" August 1990.

Schwenk, Sally, Davis, Kerry, Ambler, Cathy, PhD, Sally Schwenk Associates, College Avenue Historic District, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

College Avenue Historic District Map

Street Names
17th Street • College Avenue • Huntoon Street

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