Awards of Excellence:
Ambassador Hotel – Union National Bank Building

Year(s) Listed:
Location Class:
Built: 1926 | Year Saved: N/A
Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance

Upon completion in 1926, the Union National Bank building, financed by Chicago’s Edith Rockefeller McCormick Trust, has proudly occupied the intersection of Main and Broadway.  The prominent fixture in Wichita’s skyline is best known for its contribution to Civil Rights history.   In July of 1958, a youth member of the NAACP was refused service at the building’s Dockum Drug store (Kansas’s largest drugstore chain), leading to a sit-in to urge the chain to desegregate. The Dockum Drug sit-in was the first such sit-in predating the better-known Greensboro, North Carolina sit-in by two years. After 3 weeks of non-violent protest, Dockum Drug desegregated all their lunch counters.

The building was vacant for more than a decade.  Unfortunately, many of the building’s character-defining features, including those tied to the Civil Rights era, were casualties of an unfortunate 1970s remodel.  The building’s reinforced-concrete construction allowed for flexibility in its reuse.  The $23 million project transformed the derelict shell into a luxury 117-room hotel with restaurant and meeting rooms.  Missing terra cotta pieces were reconstructed, the historic storefront plane, which had been recessed, was restored and new double-hung enameled steel windows installed. This work set off a chain reaction, spurring $40 million in public and private investment including the development of a city parking garage, rehabilitation of the long-vacant Henry’s Department Store, and the construction of the Kansas Leadership Center and Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center.

Federal and state historic preservation tax credits were utilized to fund this rehabilitation.

The project team included Ambassador Hotel Collection LLC, Marketplace Properties, WDM Architects, Key Construction and Davis Preservation.

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