Spring 2008

Of National Note

Holyoke Cottage
In 2005, The Shocker carried a story about Holyoke Cottage and its
new owner, Bob Bayer '57, who hoped to gain national recognition for
the historic Fairmount building. Now, Bayer's dream has been realized.

Holyoke Cottage, at 16th Street and Hillside, was built in 1888 by the Rev. J.H. Parker, one of the founders of Fairmount College, as a residence for his family.

When an economic crash forced him to seek work elsewhere, he left behind the building, which Fairmount purchased as a women’s dormitory. It housed female students until 1933 and later served as a meetinghouse for Sorosis and Epsilon Kappa Rho.

The university sold it in 1951; it served as student apartments in the 1960s and ’70s, but deteriorated and became vacant in the early 1980s.

In 1987, the cottage was given landmark status by the Wichita Historic Preservation Board and was purchased by a couple who started major renovations — wiring, heating, plumbing, a new roof, as well as a new concrete foundation. Bayer purchased the house in 2005 and continued its restoration. He has since made steady progress; the first floor (consisting of foyer, parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen, butler’s pantry and bathroom) is finished, and the second floor (all bedrooms) is on its way.

Bayer has kept in mind the house’s Queen Anne style while refurbishing it to its historic state. For instance, the lath and plaster drop ceilings have been stripped out to reveal the original 10-foot height. He found the original front doors elsewhere in the house and restored them to their previous place.

And he’s using other period architectural touches — beautiful art nouveau glass doors between the living and dining rooms, and a backdoor from Ottawa, Kan., where a renowned door manufacturer operated in the 1880s. He’s also amassed historical furnishings: an antique chandelier, chairs, a settee and a bench that came from the West Indies by way of New Orleans around 1905.

While digging to pour concrete, Bayer unearthed a simple but exciting find: three teaspoons, a tablespoon, and two forks, all stainless steel, with “fairmount” imprinted on the handles. He has no doubt that this is flatware from neighboring Holyoke Hall, whose basement served as the school’s cafeteria between 1915 and 1933. In addition to the material spiffing-up, Bayer sought to bring Holyoke Cottage national recognition. To this end, with help from Kathy Morgan at the city of Wichita Historic Preservation Office and WSU’s own George Platt, he applied for the building’s entry on the National Register of Historic Places, which entails extensive documentation of historical significance and architectural importance.

The hard work paid off Nov. 28, 2007, with the house’s inclusion on the register. It joins two other buildings in the same square mile: Fairmount Cottage, built in 1888 for A.S. Parks, president of the Kansas Sash and Door Co.; and Fairmount Congregational Church (now Fairmount United Church of Christ), built in 1910.

Inclusion on the national registry qualifies an owner for numerous federal and state tax credits, but for Bayer, Holyoke Cottage is primarily a labor of love. “It’s a joy to work on it,” he says. He adds that he’s not sure of the house’s eventual purpose: to display antiques or Kansas memorabilia, house his collection of 12,000-15,000 paperback books, or be home to a Center for the Study of the Origin of Spirituality. But eventually, he says, “the university ought to own it to preserve it on its own behalf. It’s the founder’s house! I can see us holding a Founder’s Day breakfast there.”

In the meantime, this hard-working house has found a worthy — and similarly industrious — champion.


Of National Note

In 2005, The Shocker carried a story about Holyoke Cottage and its new owner, Bob Bayer '57, who hoped to gain national recognition for the historic Fairmount building. Now, Bayer's dream has been realized.

"A Girl Who Went From Wichita to Paris and Won Success"

Ruth Graves '03, Fairmount College's first professional artist, painted her way to acclaim in 1920s Paris.

Found Stories

Members of WSU's marching band weren't the only Shockers erupting in cheers back in 1982 when Wichita State's football team and the University of Kansas met for a long-awaited gridiron battle.