|Year(s) Listed: • 2023
|City/Town: • Bonner Springs
|Location Class: • Government • School
|Built: 1918 | Year Saved: 2021
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places • Register of Historic Kansas Places
|Awards: • Medallian Award
|Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance
The Bonner Springs Government Services Center (GSC) unites the city’s operational services into one complex that blends historic architecture with modern amenities. The project involves a full city block in downtown Bonner Springs and includes two buildings – one old and one new. The project team transformed the historic 1918 school building, listed on both the Register of Historic Kansas Places and the National Register of Historic Places, into the Bonner Springs City Hall and constructed a new police facility adjacent to the historic building.
Located in downtown Bonner Springs, Kansas, the city originally acquired the school building in the 1980s with plans to renovate it for office space. The building remained vacant, however, and in 2009, became occupied by the 3rd Street Asylum haunted house. Over the years, residents advocated for the building’s revival as a key part of the downtown character. A citizen group was instrumental in obtaining the state and national historic register listings and mothballing the building. After a citizen survey revealed a high level of support for city infrastructure and buildings, the 1918 school building became part of the city’s strategic plan.
Thirty years of sitting vacant and unconditioned combined with the occupancy of the building by the haunted house greatly compromised the historic features and finishes, resulting in an intensive effort in their restoration. Craftsmen repaired and replaced the three-coat plasterwork; restored the original concrete floors and base; restored original features such as the multi-paneled wood doors, classroom bookcases, and running trim; and uncovered and restored the original auditorium proscenium for the backdrop of the new city council dais. New mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection infrastructure utilized original horizontal and vertical chases so as not to destroy the historic spaces.
The addition to the rear façade of the 1918 building houses a new elevator, staircase, and building entrance that is visually connected to the new police facility across a new public plaza. The design of the addition and police facility complements the historic building, while remaining distinctly contemporary. Native Kansas limestone matching the historic limestone of the former school building clads the new addition and police facility but with a honed finish in lieu of the rough-cut finish of the historic building. The base of the addition matches the datum line of the base of the historic building.
The citizens of Bonner Springs have taken great pride in filling the hallowed hallways and display niches (repurposed from the areas formerly housing students’ lockers) of the renovated school building with historic photographs and artifacts. The fully constructed complex was completed in 2021 and the building was dedicated on August 27, 2021.