| Skyscraper of the Plains
The four-story, 18,700 sq.
ft. stone building at the intersection of Main Street and
Pennsylvania Avenue, in Ness City, Kansas, was called, upon its
completion in 1890, "The finest and most imposing structure west of
Built to house the Ness County Bank,
founded by N.C. Merrill in 1885, it was designed by the
architectural firm of Holland & Hopkins of Topeka, Kansas.
The building contract was awarded
Nov. 29, 1888, to William Ruff of Ness City, Kansas, for $34,000;
other estimates placed the ultimate cost of the building at
$75,000. The stone masonry was addressed to Daniel J. Rogers of
Newton, Kansas, under sub-contract of $2,900; stone detailing on
the arches was carved by P.A. Narey of Bazine, Kansas.
Instead of sand, crushed and ground limestone were used as
an aggregate for the mortar to insure an exact match with adjoining
stone. The window fenestration is generally grouped in threes with
second floor windows enclosed in enormous semi-circular arches
which rise from the first floor line and provide a striking accent
to the facade. The pyramid roof structure is flanked by four
cut-stone spires. Tower stonework shows the fine craftsmanship of
In October, 1889, the cornice roof
was installed by Eaton and Cramer. There are 30 rooms in the bank
The building has an elevator shaft,
unique for its time. Four large walk-in vaults with original burglar
alarms remained in working order throughout the years.
An original oil painting, finished
in 22-karat gold, adorns the vault door in the Great Room and
further enhances the beauty of the interior.
Throughout the building the ceilings
are 13 feet high. Brass door knobs and fixtures, of a sunflower
design, give some indication of the expensive hardware used.
After the Citizens' State Bank was
established, the iron stairway for the third floor was put in place
(Sept. 26, 1903). Jasper Walton painted the woodwork on the third
floor, the finished room making a courtroom any county in Kansas
would be justly proud to have. (Sept. 26, 1903).
In 1938, the building was sold for
taxes and purchased by R.B. Christy, a banker-philanthropist from
Scott City, Kansas. He spent considerable time and money repairing
the building. Charles Blackburn of Scott City, Kansas, worked
almost a year on the building, painting, repairing and generally
getting it in better shape. A new floor of oak was put in the bank
The tenant for that time was an oil
company. The post office then became the next tenant and leased the
floor for the next ten years.
In February, 1972, the building was
placed on the national Register of Historic Landmarks.
In 1983 the steeple was repaired and
painted and all 110 high arched, hand-carved windows were
In 1984, after ten years of vacancy,
and at a point critical to its preservation, the rapidly
deteriorating monument was purchased by the Ness County Bank
Building Foundation, Inc., using $30,000 in Federal Revenue Funds,
donated by Ness County, and, $15,000 in Industrial Revenue Funds,
donated by Ness City.
The Foundation enlisted the help of
both engineering and architectural firms to determine the necessary
steps to prevent further deterioration and to structurally
stabilize the building. Following their recommendations: a new
roof was installed; exterior stone was re-pointed; gutters and
downspouts replaced; windows re-glazed; unwanted material removed;
and building and grounds were cleaned.
In 1988, the west portion of the
main floor was remodeled to house the Ness City Chamber of Commerce
In 1989, the Ness City Chamber of
Commerce donated a "Gift of Lights" to the building. This imposing
structure, outlined in lights during the Christmas season, is an
inspirational vision worth the traveling just to experience.
Renovation of the Great Room in the
east portion of the main floor was completed in 1990. The Great
Room is used as a common hall and exhibit area. It lends itself
well to community meetings and programs. A variety of events are
An adjoining room was converted into
a modern, efficient kitchen in 1991, completing renovation of the
In 1994, the lower level was
transformed into a "Kansas" store - Prairie Mercantile. Foods,
books, ironworks, pictures, wheat weavings, post rock carvings,
quilts, etc., etc., made in and indicative of Kansas, are in
abundance. "Manned" by volunteers, all profits go toward the
remodeling of the building.
Text provided by the Ness County Bank Building Foundation