An aging beauty worth restoring and being recognized on the Kansas State Registry of Historic Places? Or one that needs laid to rest eventually?
Those essentially were the two questions discussed at Monday night’s USD 415 Hiawatha School Board meeting about the Hawthorne House, currently occupied by Brady and Stacy Jasper and located just east of the tennis courts on school property.
This historic home is owned by the USD 415 School District and is offered to district employees as housing. Built in 1908 on land given by E.N. Morrill and his wife Carrie with the intent it would always and forever be used for educational purposes, Hawthorne Place was used as housing in the early 1900s for the Hiawatha Academy.
The district has been researching the history of the home — and the agreement by E.N. Morrill and the school district at the time. It has long been thought the home could not ever be torn down — however Superintendent Lonnie Moser said the agreement doesn’t state that at all.
He said the intent is for the LAND to be used always and forever for educational purposes. Nothing states that the house has to remain forever standing — that’s probably something that isn’t logistically possible.
And, the effort to maintain the house long-term could cost the district a lot of money, Moser said. There are no current plans to tear the house down — the district is in research mode currently and weighing pros and cons.
Currently the roof needs replaced, as does the porch — according to District Maintenance Coordinator Matt Cluck, but both projects have been delayed until spring.
In the meantime, district officials have been researching what it would take to get the century-old brick home added to the Kansas Registry of Historic Places. Joni Sheldon with the district office has been researching this, with the help of Lynn Allen, executive director/curator of the Brown County Historical Society.
It seems the house could meet some of the criteria for this honor, however the question Monday night was what were the benefits and would this tie the hands of the district if it were determined the home was in such a state of disrepair that it needed torn down eventually? Board members were concerned about what criteria would the district need to meet to register the home and would this include substantial and costly renovations?
Or, if at some point in the future — even if the home was listed with the Kansas State Historical Society — could the district still tear the house down if it was determined too costly to repair?
“Everything in a house that old is a concern,” Moser said, pointing out that while this hasn’t been determined, the foundation could have issues and brickwork could be needed as the house has definitely settled.
No decision was made Monday night and there are not any immediate plans to tear down the house — everything is now in the discussion stage. Moser said he and his office staff — along with the help of Allen — would find out more information before proceeding with any listing on the state registry and bring that back to the board for review.