Wishing Bench in East Lawrence destroyed by fire

Share this post or save for later

Story updated at 3:44 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15:

A beloved East Lawrence landmark was destroyed by a fire overnight Sunday.

The Wishing Bench, which had brightened the corner at East Ninth and Delaware streets for years, was barely recognizable Sunday morning. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical personnel were still at the scene around 11 a.m.


This photo shows how the bench appeared in April:

August Rudisell/The Lawrence Times The Wishing Bench, pictured on April 3, 2021, is covered in decorations, and a sign that read “The Wishing Bench — Sit and make a wish. You will not be disappointed.”

A nearby art box had also been turned over, a witness at the scene said Sunday morning. The witness said people had come out to mourn the bench and take photos.

Tom Fagan, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical division chief of administration, said via email Sunday afternoon that LDCFM responded to the reported fire at the bench at 3:31 a.m. Sunday. The bench and shelter were fully involved when firefighters arrived; the fire was extinguished but the structure was heavily damaged. The fire was still under investigation Sunday afternoon, he said.

Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein wrote of the bench in a November 2017 blog post: “The bench, which began as a KU class project, over time has become an improvised community artwork and Lawrence icon with a simple purpose inscribed on a hand painted sign added to its frame. It says, ‘Sit and make a wish. You won’t be disappointed.’ It’s free, unsupervised and since it’s not owned by anyone but sits on the property of an ambitious developer, it’s vulnerable, like a canary in a coalmine. My son was captivated by all of the colors and shapes, the things people had added over the years, which turned the cold metal structure into a kind of shrine to the hopes and dreams of the neighborhood.”

The bench has been a fixture in the neighborhood, and it was the subject of a short film in November 2020.

The caretaker of the bench, Catherine C. Reed, died on May 25. The filmmakers posted on the project’s Facebook page that Reed “added so much color, texture and memory into her environment. She was one of the first people to sign onto the project and helped maintain the gentle integrity of the Wishing Bench throughout the filming process. Her subtle energy is infused in the story and in the art she leaves with us.”

And people all over Lawrence, as they do, have already begun talks of rebuilding. The Times will share information on those efforts as we are able.

August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times The Wishing Bench, at Ninth and Delaware streets in Lawrence, was destroyed by a fire, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.
August Rudisell / The Lawrence Times The Wishing Bench, at Ninth and Delaware streets in Lawrence, was destroyed by a fire, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Charred pieces of the bench lie on the grass.

More coverage:

More public safety news:


Don’t miss a beat — get the latest news from the Times delivered to your inbox:

Previous Article

As economic impact of winter storm nears $1B, some large Kansas customers want to investigate

Next Article

The To Do List! from The Lawrence Juice – Aug. 15-29, 2021