box [graphic] Fall 1998 Newsletter

Topeka and Shawnee County Pass Preservation Ordinance!

After four years of work the joint city/county historic preservation ordinance/resolution has been passed. The city council approved the ordinance on July 28, 1998 with a 6-2 vote. On October 29, 1998 the county commission approved the document unanimously.

Topeka and Shawnee County will now have an official preservation planning program that will be run out of the planning commission. Appointments to the landmarks commission will be made by the respective governing bodies after January 1, 1999, when the joint ordinance/resolution becomes effective.

The landmarks commission will have the responsibility to oversee the creation of a local landmarks register, a historic resources list, a preservation plan, and to review and comment on design review issues affecting older and historic properties. The establishment of this new and important commission will mean that historic preservation concerns will now have a formal platform within the structure of local government. The membership of Historic Topeka is to be commended for their combined efforts to make the ordinance a reality.

The landmarks commission will be composed of nine members, the mayor will appoint five and the county commission will appoint four. The membership will be comprised of people who have a demonstrated interest in historic preservation through their community and/or professional involvements. The members of the commission shall be drawn from such backgrounds as architecture, history, landscape architecture, architectural history, planning, archeology, urban design, neighborhood and community development, geography, real estate, law, finance, building trades or related areas.

Historic Topeka encourages its membership to consider serving on the commission. It is important to give the young commission the very best start. Our membership is diverse and talented, we need to continue our commitment to the process by moving forward to serve the preservation interests of the community through service on the landmarks commission. --Martha Hagedorn, President

Paxton House Saved!

In October, USD 501 School Board approved the bid of Don and Abbie Kern to move the Paxton House (903 S.W. Western ) two blocks to the corner of Munson and Fillmore in Holliday Park. The school district will reimburse the Kerns $6,500 for removing the 5,000-square-foot home from the property.

A demolition permit had been issued by the Topeka City Council earlier this month. However, the Council created a 30-day window of opportunity for someone willing to purchase the home and move it to come forward. A previous effort to move the home to Maple Hill was thwarted by a $2 million price tag for the move.

The Kerns, who have moved another historic home, the Skinner home, plan to live in the Paxton House. They estimate the cost of pouring a foundation and moving the home to be about $40,000.

Progress at State Row Buildings

Design and engineering professionals are now volunteering on a Topeka project to preserve a substantial portion of the territorial free state capitol known as Constitution Hall. The original 1855 stone building housed free state and anti-slave activities. It was expanded in 1863 to become the temporary capitol of Kansas. Through that use, the name "State Row" came to describe the west side of the 400 block of Kansas Avenue. The east wing of the present capitol became Kansas's capitol in 1869, after which the historic building was converted for storefront uses.

The impact upon our state and national history of events that took place at this location cannot be overstated. The Daughters of the American Revolution formally recognized its significance in 1903 by remembering the federally ordered dispersal of the 1856 constitutional convention. Kansas State Historical Society director and historian Miss Zu Adams presented that memorial. Others, including Topeka historian and HTI board member Doug Wallace, have lectured about those events. The recently prepared Historic Resources Survey, sponsored by Downtown Topeka Inc., rated the site as a primary historic resource.

The current work of Friends of the Free State Capitol is to coordinate various efforts to "mothball" the existing structure. This has included installation of a security monitoring system; removal of debris and vegetation; fencing of the property; the purchase of liability insurance; and obtaining a structural condition survey. Priority stabilization work, recently authorized by the Kansas State Historical Society, is scheduled to begin on November 14. The work will proceed as a collaborative effort by Topeka firms including members of American Institute of Architects Historic Resources Committee; J.E. Dunn Construction Co.; Finney & Turnipseed Consulting Engineers along with helpful contributions by others.

The work to stabilize structural components has required detailed architectural drawings. Greg Allen of Coolidge Architectural Services, Greg Sims of Robert Slemmons Associates, and other volunteer preservation architects prepared detailed building plans, and Greg Allen developed computer analysis of drawings and photos. The drawings and analysis, along with other new findings, appear to indicate that Constitution Hall is located at the present 427 and 429 Kansas Avenue.

It has become apparent that the fund allocated by the legislature for this work will more than likely be inadequate, and that it will be necessary to seek additional funds. Expenses that are paid by FOFSC, including utilities, insurance and other fees must be provided through patron donations.

Membership is welcomed. The address for Friends of the Free State Capitol is FOFSC Treasurer; PO Box 2551; Topeka, Kansas 66601. E-mail address: The educational web site address is:

Preservation Awards Update

In September of this year, HTI directors approved a set of Categories and Criteria to assist with nomination and review of preservation award suggestions. Since 1979, HTI has honored such local efforts by presentation of annual awards to those responsible for projects. This has helped to further opportunities of participation, education, and preservation in historic Topeka.

Categories of work in preservation are Organizations; Institutions; Governments; Landscapes; Residences; Commerce; Individuals; and Planning and Design.

Criteria state that for individuals and groups, and for landscapes of historical interest, nominations will be considered on their merits. Existing structures on original sites, however, are reviewed using these five criteria: 1) The project does emphasize and enhance the historic character of the site; 2) Project materials display character in keeping with historic period(s), and which are used in ways that respect existing historic fabric; 3) The project shows sensitivity to the character of its historic setting; 4)Actual site conditions led to selection of the project's preservation approach; 5) Project work is of such depth and scope that preservation of the site is extended. The criteria are guidelines, of which some points may not apply to a suggested project. Each achievement will be considered with appropriate understanding.

Nominations may be submitted by members and their friends through December 31.


Address, and name of site if any: _______________________________________________________

Responsible party or individual(s): _____________________________________________________

Why is this person/project worthy of award? ____________________________________________


Your name and phone for questions: ___________________________________________________

If possible, please submit a photo of the project/building. Contact Us

7th Annual Holliday Homes Tour

This year's Holliday Homes Tour in the Historic Holliday Park Neighborhood, sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Holliday Park, will be December 5th and 6th, 1998, from 3-6 p.m. The tour will showcase several different homes decorated for the holidays and will start at the Charles Curtis House, 1101 SW Topeka Blvd. This structure, once the home of U.S. Vice President Charles Curtis, was threatened with demolition for many years. Current owners Don and Nova Cottrell saved the mansion and are currently restoring it back to its original grandeur. The house, decorated by Flowerworks flower shop, will be a highlight of your Christmas season.

Trolleys will be available to shuttle tour participants throughout the Holliday Park neighborhood. The tour will include a "bare bones" house so you can see a renovation in progress. This year's property, located at 1220 SW Taylor, was purchased by local designers, Todd Reeves and Jorge Saiz of Home Collections. Other sites include an apartment in artist and sculptor Merrill Gage's home, and refreshments and cookies at Cafe' Holliday.

Tickets are $6 in advance and $7 at the door. Flowerworks, 418 SW 6th; Home Collections, 3127 SW Huntoon; and Cafe' Holliday will all sell advance tickets. A special "Pointsettia Parlor" sale will be featured in the Curtis House. All proceeds from the door and pointsettias sales will benefit on-going projects like the newly installed fence in Holliday Park and the entrance markers along 10th.

If you have more questions or would like to reserve tickets, please contact Mike Stringer at 232-8822 or

Railroad Days moves offices to North Topeka Business Block

Topeka Railroad Days, Inc., which is overseeing restoration of the Union Pacific Station, recently moved from temporary quarters in the Santa Fe Shops district to 824 N. Kansas Ave. This building dating from the 1880s is part of an important grouping of Victorian buildings in downtown North Topeka. Next door to the south, no. 822, is the historic James Block, which possesses an intricate cornice.

The Railroad Days offices were originally home of the J.R. Spetter cigar factory in the early 1900s. Upstairs, an early Topeka woman doctor had her practice. Many Topekans will remember this site as the Le Picardy Restaurant.

Topeka High Restoration News

This fall, Bill Pugh of Lawrence began the several month long process of restoring the Topeka High School Chimes. The 18-note chimes, which originally cost $20,000, were installed when the school opened in September 1931. Topeka philanthropist and businessman David W. Mulvane donated them in memory of his late wife, Helen McKenna Mulvane. Four years ago, THS graduates and friends contributed the funds for this restoration. Topeka High is the only public high school in the nation with an operable set of Deagan chimes. Components of the system are being cleaned and repaired, and the chimes will be reassembled in the Williamson Tower of Topeka High in the spring 1999.

In other THS restoration news: the verandah, Topeka High's terrace below the Tower, had suffered years of wear and tear from tens of thousands of students, a clogged drainage system, salt and chemicals, and shear neglect, all of which led to broken paving stones and potholes. Fortunately a Topeka High graduate stepped forward to restore the verandah to its original state. The THS Historical Society and alumni thank June Gartner Shapiro, Class of 1935, for her gracious gift.

1998 SCHS Bulletin

The 1998 Shawnee County Historical Society Bulletin will be out in early December. This year's publication is "Downtown! Stories from The Avenue." The Bulletin focuses on downtown Topeka and North Topeka 1925-1975; or, from the last important building boom of 1925-27 to the year the old-line department store Crosby Bros. closed its doors forever.

Besides accounts of many longtime and well-remembered stores--Crosby Bros., Harry Endlich's, The Palace, Pelletier's, etc., etc.--it will recognize many of the important historic buildings in downtown.

SCHS annual memberships are $15; contact SCHS; P.O. Box 2201; Topeka, Kansas 66601.

Ross Roster

Historic Topeka, Inc. gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following to the restoration of the Ross Row Houses:

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