Lawrence in Douglas County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The Castle Tea Room
In 1869, General John N. Roberts, a Civil War veteran, and his wife Emily, moved to Kansas and established their business and family in Lawrence. The Robertses [sic] had one daughter, Isabella, affectionately called "Belle." Roberts built his fortune designing and manufacturing containers, and distinguished himself as a leader in business, real estate, and politics. His honorific title as "General" stems from being an adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard.
Befitting their wealth and prominence in the community, the Robertses completed the construction of their new home, known as the "Castle," in 1894.
General Roberts was particular in procuring the best artisans available to work on his new home, so he hired noted architect John Haskell to design the structure and Joel Gustafson to act as master stone mason. Local newspapers of the day described the house as "modern throughout," as well as a "model of architecture [and] one of the largest and most beautiful homes of the city."
Sidney Endacott, a young artist from England, came to Lawrence at the age of 20. General Roberts
Mr. J.J. Simmonds, owner of the Lawrence Brick Yard, bought the Castle in 1919 and added the "castle-like" garage. Simmonds fell on hard times during the depression and lost the home in 1934. In 1943, the Assembly of God church purchased the home and made plans to disassemble it so they could use the stone to build a new church. Fortunately, the plans never came to fruition and in 1947 Libby Kriz purchased the Castle.
Libby Kriz, the daughter of Czechoslovakian emigrants, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1916. She was very proud of her heritage and frequently referred to herself as a "Bohemian." She was an accomplished, independent and intelligent woman who earned her degree as a dietitian at the Illinois Institute of Technology. After graduating, she moved to Lawrence to become a dietitian at the University of Kansas. Known to many as "Miss Kriz," Libby was a wonderful mixture of Victorian sensibilities and 20th-century independence.
While Libby loved the Castle, she remarked, "People are what it's all about." She enjoyed feeding people, loved parties and relished the wedding celebrations that occurred in the Castle Tea Room. This place where so many special events have been celebrated was always, first and foremost, a home. Libby lived in this home longer than any other resident - from 1947 to 2004. Dining room walls were adorned with Audubon prints and Norman Rockwell plates. She also displayed framed paintings and photographs by Sidney Endacott. She was eager to tell people the story of this young Englishman who carved the woodwork and went on to be knighted as an artist.
In addition to becoming friends with many members of the community, Libby was also very charitable to people in need and to serving the community. She was a modern pioneer of historic preservation, not only taking care of the Castle, but ensuring it would be available for generations to come. Thanks to Libby's foresight, the Castle was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and in 1992, she established a not-for-profit foundation to preserve this community treasure.
In the last decade of her life, Libby was determined that this magnificent home would continue to be available for memorable events in people's lives. To ensure this legacy, she entrusted her estate for the renovation and future operation of the Castle to the Libuse Kriz-Fiorito Historical Foundation.
Following Libby's death in 2004, the foundation undertook a historic rehabilitation project to make the Castle available to the community for the next century. The project began in 2005, and the Castle reopened to the public in May 2009.
Greatly enhancing the operation of the property, the project included site improvements included [sic] new sidewalks, on-site accessible parking, a wheelchair lift, new external lighting, walkways, and a new courtyard for outdoor events. In addition, an outdoor sculptural tiered decorative fountain was restored on the basis of historical photographs.
The exterior building was cleaned and repaired, and a new perimeter foundation drain system installed. Renovating the original 1926 garage added modern restrooms and a service kitchen for the courtyard.
Installing geothermal wells established a long-term, energy-efficient heating and cooling system along with radiant floor and baseboard heating. A computerized building management system controls the interior environment.
Electrical systems were completely replaced, including new underground service lines, new panels and distribution circuits. These modifications occurred without noticeable impact on the interior appearance and greatly improved the overall safety of the electrical system.
Other interior improvements included a security system; new fire alarm and automatic sprinkler systems. Wall and ceiling finishes included historic wallpapers, refinished woodwork, historic lighting with a new remote control system, new accessible restrooms, and a new serving kitchen.
The renovation of the Castle received several awards, including the Kansas Preservation Alliance Medallion Award for 2009.
John Gideon Haskell (1832-1907) is well known in Kansas for having designed many of the state's finest buildings. He was one of the few professional architects working in Kansas during the territorial period.
Born in Massachusetts, John Haskell came to Kansas in July 1857 when he was 25 years old. He followed his family, who had arrived in Lawrence in 1854-1855 with the New England Emigrant Aid Company. John's father passed away in January 1857 and he left school at Brown University in Rhode Island to attend to family affairs. He remained in Lawrence and practiced architecture until his death in 1907.
Although not the original designer of the Kansas statehouse, Haskell was appointed to the position of architect and superintendent by the Board of State House Commissioners in March, 1867. He took over construction that had begun in October, 1866. During his tenure as architect of the state house, Haskell designed and completed the east wing and set the foundation and basement for the central portion of the building.
Operated by the Libuse Kriz-Fiorito Historical Foundation
Erected by Libuse Kriz-Fiorito Historical Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1857.
Location. 38° 57.593′ N, 95° 14.165′ W. Marker is in Lawrence, Kansas, in Douglas County. Marker is at the intersection of Massachusetts Street and 13th Street, on the right when traveling south on Massachusetts Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1307 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence KS 66044, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. South Park (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Douglas County Courthouse (approx. ¼ mile away); Trinity Episcopal Church (approx. 0.4 miles away); Lawrence Masonic Temple (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Victory Eagle (approx. 0.4 miles away); First United Methodist Church (approx. 0.4 miles away); The WheatFields Oven (approx. half a mile away); Lawrence City [Carnegie] Library (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lawrence.
Also see . . . History of the Castle. (Submitted on September 29, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on September 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 29, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 278 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 29, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.