The Pilla House (614 Main Street) is no longer the only property in the Eudora area on the National Register of Historic Places. The B’nai Israel Jewish Cemetery located just south of Eudora at the intersection of Winchester Road and 20th Street was recently added to the National Register as well.
Cemeteries are rarely added to the National Register of Historic Places. Kansas has nearly 1,300 sites and properties on the National Register. Of those 1,300 listings, only eight are cemeteries. The fact that the B’nai Israel Cemetery is now on the National Register indicates that it is one of the most remarkable and unique cemeteries in the state of Kansas.
The process of adding the B’nai Israel Cemetery to the National Register began in the summer of 2011. That summer, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance (LPA) contacted the Eudora Area Historical Society (EAHS) regarding properties in the Eudora area that could qualify to be included on the State Register of Historic Places. The EAHS recommended the inclusion of the B’nai Israel Cemetery and the property at 707 Main Street as two properties in the Eudora area that could be added to the State Register of Historic Places. The LPA then applied for and received a grant from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council to hire a nomination writer to write the nomination for the B’nai Israel Cemetery to the State Register. Dale Nimz was hired to write the nomination. In 2012, the cemetery was successfully nominated to the State Register, and just this month, was added to the National Register as well.
The property at 707 Main Street (the building that currently houses KK Massage) was also recently added to the State Register of Historic Places. The preservation of Eudora’s oldest and most enduring structures and properties is one of the best ways to preserve the history of the Eudora area.
This passage on the history of the cemetery and why it was successfully nominated to the National Register comes to us courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society:
Established in 1858, the Beni Israel Cemetery near Eudora is the only surviving property associated with the Jewish community in Eudora, which flourished briefly from 1857 to 1867 before moving to Lawrence. Jewish settlers were among the first Eudora residents. Of the 29 heads of families who arrived in Eudora in 1857, approximately seven were Jewish. Many of Eudora’s early Jewish family names, such as Urbansky, Cohn, and Katzenstein, grace the headstones of the Beni Israel Cemetery. In 1868, the Jewish community in Lawrence organized as the Society of Beni Israel under the leadership of seven trustees and assumed responsibility of the cemetery. Burials continued at the cemetery until the late 1920s and then remained largely idle until it was reactivated in 1978. Over time, the cemetery came to represent the Jewish community in Lawrence and Douglas County and remains today as a reflection of their collective history and religious and ethnic identity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was nominated for its local significance in the areas of early settlement social history. (http://www.kshs.org/p/national-and-state-registers/14635)