School Spirit 2017-10-31T17:11:28+00:00

SCHOOL SPIRIT

Learn more about the historical house in Lawrence that hosted professors, chancellors,
and the last months of the life of James Naismith.

Welcome Home

Jan-Eric Anderson, j’96, had just found the perfect home: A beautiful old farmhouse on University Drive, just west of campus, that housed a lineage of KU history. Professors, department chairs, and chancellors all called the place home.

Amongst all the history, one occupant stands out: James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. The legendary coach owned the house for eight months before he died in a bathtub that still resides there today.

Anderson knew all this when he bought the house. As a KU alumnus, he thought it was a notable perk to a house he already loved. But as soon as the day he moved in, the house gave him a little more than he bargained for.

Listen to Jan-Eric
+ Captions

“Both of us shot up in bed. ‘What was that?'”

Listen to Jan-Eric
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“When I pieced that together, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

Besides an occasional flickering light or creaky floorboard, Anderson hasn’t experienced anything supernatural since. What could have turned into a true Halloween haunting has turned into a fun story that is only a small part of the house’s proud history. Like most houses near campus, the history of owners is filled with people who made their mark on the University of Kansas.

Hallowed History

Although the house’s most notable resident was KU’s first basketball coach, the history goes far beyond Naismith. The house is listed twice on the National Register of Historic Places for its two most famous occupants: James Naismith and Chancellor Frank Strong. Strong, along with the original builder of the house, J.J. Fernand in 1871, provides the building its namesake, the Fernand-Strong House.

Strong served as Chancellor from 1902 to 1919, where he lead an era of rapid campus growth, including the creation of the schools of Journalism and Education. He also oversaw the beginnings of a central administration building that would become Strong Hall, named in his honor in his retirement. After he resigned, Strong and his wife settled in the house, until his death in 1934.

Following his death, Strong’s wife sold the house to James Naismith in March of 1939. However, James Naismith only lived in the house for a short time. Naismith moved in with his wife, Florence, after their honeymoon in September but died in late November of the same year.

The house’s ties to KU date back to 1887, including a short-lived stint as KU’s first student hospital in 1908. Since the Naismiths, the Fernand-Strong house has been home to Raymond and Alberta Stuhl, both music professors at KU, and William Tsutsui, Acting Director of KU’s East Asian Studies, and his wife Marjorie Swann, an English professor at KU.

With so much KU history under one roof, it’s no wonder Naismith’s legacy is still alive within the walls.

—Ryan Camenzind and Brianna Mears

© KU ALUMNI ASSOCIATION