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Smith Hall open house set for Saturday; building is on KU’s list to demolish

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Family members of Smith Hall benefactor and namesake Irma I. Smith will speak at an open house Saturday, according to event organizers.

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Three local groups — Lawrence Modern, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and the Historic Mount Oread Friends — are leading an initiative to save Smith Hall, the building that houses the University of Kansas’ Religious Studies department.

The building is on a list of prospective demolitions that KU submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents, calling it a “mission critical” building deemed “demolition ready,” though the university has not yet submitted a formal demolition request specific to Smith Hall for KBOR to consider.

In addition to family members of Irma Smith, Kim Tefft, son of sculptor Elden Tefft, will share memories of the making of the Moses sculpture that sits in front of Smith Hall, according to an email the Lawrence Preservation Alliance sent out Wednesday.

Tom Harper/Lawrence Times Elden Tefft’s bronze statue of Moses in front of Smith Hall is overseen by a stained-glass representation of the burning bush, pieces intentionally designed to complement the building.

The building was constructed in 1967.

“Just last week, the Kansas State Historic Preservation Officer formally determined that Irma I. Smith Hall is potentially eligible to be listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places,” according to the LPA email. “This review was done at the request of LPA in the form of a preliminary site information questionnaire.”

The open house is set for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at Smith Hall, 1300 Jayhawk Blvd. The speakers and a presentation on the building’s history are set for 3 p.m. It’s free to attend and open to the public.

Tom Harper, founder of Lawrence Modern, wrote a column about Smith Hall and its history for The Lawrence Times earlier this month. Read more at this link.

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