Awards of Excellence:
Community House – Manhattan

Year(s) Listed:
Location Class:
Built: 1917 | Year Saved: 2019
Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance

The Manhattan Community House was built by Mont Green from H.B. Winter’s 1917 plans. It was the first permanently constructed community house in the United States, built to serve the soldiers during the war and the community afterward. A plaque on the building is inscribed, “1917 Manhattan Camp Funston-Community Building-A Tribute from the Citizens of Manhattan and the Rotarians of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma-To Our Soldiers He profits most who serves best” (Camp Funston is the name of the WWI camp at neighboring Fort Riley). The building was federally owned until after World War I. The city owned it between the war years. During World War II, the federal government purchased the building from the city and used it as a USO building.

A variety of clubs and organizations have used the building for meetings throughout the years. The City implemented a renovation project in 1987 (Brent Bowman and Associates) the converted it to a community rec center. Sold to private developers in 2019, the building now houses offices on the lower level, apartments in former offices and craft rooms as well as the formerly enclosed stage, and Turbine Training Center, a flight training company occupies the gymnasium.

Today the building closely resembles its original appearance with new windows matching the historic style and no significant exterior modifications. The architect’s design focused on retention of key character-defining features including the front entrance and main stair, and basement fireplace. Existing offices and craft rooms were developed as new apartments, flanking the main/front stair. Additionally, the stage and backstage area that had formerly been enclosed and used as an activity room, was converted to a two-story apartment. Basement offices are centered around a shared central space with the original fireplace. The open gymnasium presented the biggest challenge but owners secured a new tenant that could use the entire space with minimal enclosures needed. Glass walls were used to create a two-story office pod in front of the enclosed stage and flight simulators were located on the open gymnasium floor.

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