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