Every Jayhawk fan holds a memory or a piece of memorabilia they consider extra special. For Diane and James Carnell, an exceptional piece of Jayhawk history spans their rural Douglas County home.
The Carnell’s crimson and blue, glossy wooden floor has a unique story. It covered the original court of the famed basketball powerhouse Allen Fieldhouse from its opening in 1955 until 1974.
Ergo, some famous athletes’ feet have graced that hardwood, including those of KU’s first Black basketball player, LaVannes Squires, and of course, Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion Wilt Chamberlain.
And, Diane points out, Forrest “Phog” Allen would have coached the Jayhawks on that very hardwood.
James said when they purchased the home in 2005, they learned it originally served as a Dutch barn. The couple’s kitchen was once a milking parlor. A previous owner renovated the space in the 1970s and acquired almost all of the fieldhouse floor. Eventually the owner added the honey-colored planks to the home’s upstairs and downstairs.
“Our understanding is we have about two-thirds of the original floor, which was styled off to the floor of Hoch Auditorium, where KU used to play. And the design of it was made to match,” James said.
The Carnells said, outside their home, most of the original hardwood’s remaining tiles are displayed in a local home and at Allen Fieldhouse, where fans can view the original “K” from center court.
James and Diane weren’t born diehard University of Kansas fans. Following a job opportunity, the family emigrated from England to the United States in 1997. The Carnells have since retired but had long careers as food technologists in research and development.
“We come from England. We don’t do basketball,” James laughed. Diane recalled how captivated they were by the home the first time they saw it.
“You walk in and you go, ‘Wow.’ Not just because of the floor, but the barn conversion has been so beautifully done that we thought, ‘Yes, the floor is fabulous, but the house is fabulous in its own right,’” Diane said.
Before the couple arrived in the Sunflower State, they hadn’t even heard of a Jayhawk; however, they’ve since grown in their KU fandom. The couple expressed hope Sunday afternoon about the Jayhawks’ chances of winning it all this year.
Unfortunately, their rural location and the game’s absence from network television poses a bit of a challenge. Without rural broadband or a satellite dish, they’ll likely watch the championship game Monday on their tiny phone screens like they did during the Jayhawks’ win of the semifinals Saturday night.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.