Wilkie home nominated for historical status

3:33:36 PM CDT - Thursday, April 19, 2007

The house of former Fairmount College faculty member Grace Wilkie has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places because of Wilkie’s role in higher education in Wichita and because of its architectural significance, according to the Wichita Historic Preservation Board president.

The owners of the house at 4230 E. English, Dave and Sue Wettstaed, who are only the second owners of the home, started the nomination process, which was supported by the city’s Historic Preservation Board. The board president is George Platt, an associate professor emeritus and WSU’s unofficial historian.

Wilkie, a Wichita native, joined the Fairmount College faculty in 1912 to start a new program in domestic science. She was named dean of women in 1921 and served in that capacity, and as professor of home economics, until retiring from the University of Wichita in 1953. A new women’s dormitory in 1953 was named after her in recognition of her contributions. The dorm was later turned into an office building, still in use today.

Wilkie was involved with a number of volunteer programs during World War I and even served in France from 1919-1920 with the American Committee for a Devastated France.

Wilkie and her sister Sophronia, whose nickname was Phrone, bought the house when it was being built by Wichita builder Grover C. Wright in 1933. Phrone Wilkie was a longtime teacher and a WU alumna.

More than 40 of Wright’s houses remain in the College Hill neighborhood, according to Platt. Wilkie’s former home is a vernacular, shingle-clad, two-story house with typical craftsman detailing. Many original features remain, and many of the plants and flowers in its landscape date from the time the Wilkie sisters lived there.

The lush garden will be the backdrop for a wedding of a WSU staff member. Aura Roseberry, the administrative assistant in the vice president for academic affairs and research office, plans to marry Mike Wettstaed at his parents’ home.

— Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones

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