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Plan to steward campus' past, guide new development

David McKinney/University Relations

Peg Livingood, project manager, Design and Construction Management, leads Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere on a walking tour featuring points of interest in the new KU Campus Heritage Plan.

KU has completed a plan to help preserve what is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.

As the Lawrence campus grows and evolves, the plan will help to guide the stewardship of the historic natural beauty, landscape and architecture while providing guidance to university leaders planning the future physical and aesthetic makeup of Mount Oread.

“You can tell KU is a special place from the moment you set foot on campus,” said Chancellor Robert Hemenway. “This plan provides a way for us to preserve the character of KU as it continues to grow and change. It will be a vitally important guide for us now and in the future.”

This summer, a steering committee of university and community leaders completed the Campus Heritage Plan, which was funded by a $130,000 gift from the Getty Foundation to KU Endowment. Representatives including KU faculty and staff, KU Endowment and KU Alumni Association officials, members of the Lawrence business community, neighborhood associations and historic preservation groups all took part in crafting the heritage plan.

Poet Walt Whitman noted the campus’ beauty during a visit in 1879, calling the landscape “real and ideal … beautiful as dreams.” Hemenway, in a letter to the Getty Foundation, said Whitman’s words serve not only as a poignant reminder of campus history but as inspiration for what the campus can continue to mean.

“To those whose support and love of the University of Kansas have sustained it over many decades, this plan gives hope that with thoughtful consideration, future generations will have the opportunity to find themselves surrounded with a growing and prospering campus that remains as ‘beautiful as dreams,’ ” he said.

Although the Campus Heritage Plan is a document that will guide the future of KU’s campus, it is balanced with an understanding of the past. The steering committee worked closely with three consultant groups to study past campus master plans to document how and why the campus developed as it did. It features a history of the three major periods of campus development: from 1856 to 1901, 1902-1928 and 1929-1957.

Interactive plan

See video of Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere and steering committee members taking a walking tour of historic sites identified by the Campus Heritage Plan.

The heritage plan is available online at, and an interactive version of the report is being prepared and will be available online in the coming months.

The plan notes that change is inevitable, pointing out that not all physical features will be preserved. By providing the information needed to weigh development opportunities against changes to the campus, the plan recommends a process to evaluate impacts to significant historic features, such as buildings and landscapes that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Five buildings are currently on the register: Spooner, Dyche, Lippincott, Bailey and Strong halls. It also contains several recommendations for actions to be taken for immediate campus stewardship. Hemenway has asked a committee to develop a course of action to implement the recommendations in the Campus Heritage Plan.

Campus character is defined by much more than buildings. The plan, which is available online at planning, defines landscape character, such as topography, vegetation, open space, historic qualities of sites, views and vistas, roads, walkways, paths and trails, site furnishings and water features, and examines tools available to preserve them. It also differentiates between preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction and can help future leaders make informed decisions on which is most appropriate for cherished campus features.

“The bottom line is, if you want to have a beautiful campus, you have to plan to make sure that beauty is sustained,” Hemenway said.

By identifying the historic resources of campus, the heritage plan seeks to help developers weigh potential benefit of development with the potential impact to historic resources, while meeting the academic, research, program and facility goals of KU.

Richard Lariviere, provost and executive vice chancellor, said more important questions cannot be asked when considering growth and development, and the Campus Heritage Plan will be an invaluable resource that will continue to grow and evolve with the university.

“I am delighted that, thanks to the support of the Getty Foundation, we were able to craft a report that enhances our understanding of the physical presence of this campus,” he said. “This is a remarkable campus and it is our responsibility to treat it with reverence. We are very lucky to have this document.”

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