Zig Zag love May 1st

Chris Millspaugh

For our first event in more than two years, we are excited to offer fans of midcentury modern industrial style buildings—count us among them—the opportunity to tour one of the most noteworthy examples in Lawrence, the Zimmerman Steel building, now owned by Mar Lan Construction. Built in 1959 (an office designed by the local architecture firm of Robertson & Ericson was added in 1963), for decades the building’s corrugated metal siding and zig-zag roof design clearly communicated its intent: custom steel fabrication. The only one of its type in the immediate area, Zimmerman Steel in many ways resembled a German mittelstand, a small family-owned business that occupied a niche market in manufacturing. “[Owner] Lee Zimmerman didn’t do gigantic steel fabrication jobs, he would pick up the small pieces,” said Mar Lan Construction’s Kevin Markley. “He did tons, just miles and miles and miles of handrails and guide rails, bollards, trash gates and things like that, and sometimes he would fabricate all of the steel.” Some of the most significant buildings the company provided material for included the Hallmark production facility; the expansion of Kansas University Memorial Stadium; the new Frasier Hall on the KU campus; the rebuilding of the Kansas Student Union; the Varsity Theater; and the old Lawrence Public Library.

Mar Lan Construction purchased the property in 2019 and spent a year carefully refurbishing the exterior, remodeling the interior office, and significantly upgrading the landscaping. They have done a fantastic job of preserving the building’s architectural integrity, feel, and history. In 2020 architect Stan Hernly of Hernly and Associates spearheaded a move to add the Zimmerman Steel building to the National Register of Historic Buildings, noting that it “expresses important design principles of modern architecture through its use of distinctive design, form, and construction techniques.” The building was added to the Register as locally significant in April 2021.

Join us on May 1st to see and learn more about the preservation of this historic modern building. Presentation by Mar Lan’s Kevin Markley (principal and vice president of marketing) and Stan Hernly. Architectural context and expert appreciation from our own Dennis Domer, fresh back from his winter haven in Arizona.

Don’t miss this special architectural experience!

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