Awards of Excellence:
W. R. Gray Studio

Year(s) Listed:
Location Class:
Built: 1900 | Year Saved: N/A
Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance

A highly unique building type, the W. R. Gray photography studio in St. John was built in 1900, and was the first structure in the state of Kansas built specifically as a photo studio. Containing both the studio storefront at the street and the residence at the rear, the wood framed building served continuously as a photography studio for 76 years. A unique large sloping window in the middle of the building allows plenty of natural light into the studio space. Gray specialized in glass-plate photography, and worked in the studio from 1905-1947. Gray’s daughter Jessie worked with him, and continued using the building as a photo studio until 1981. After being neglected for several years, water damage from a failed roof had destroyed 320 square feet of the original dark room area, leaving a hole in the roof and the floor. The purpose of the project was to repair the roof, stabilize the structure and repair the exterior envelope of the building. Work performed on the exterior included a new roof, painting and repair of the original wood siding, and restoration of exterior window sashes and doors. Inside, the dark room area was demolished and rebuilt, while the front wall was left in place and repaired. Outside, trees growing too close to the house were removed and a parking lot was added to provide better drainage away from the house to the street. Thanks to this work, this unique building will continue to stand on the Main Street of St. John.

The project team included: Gray Photo Studio, the Gray Photo Studio Restoration Board, Sutherland Builders Inc, William Morris Associates Architects, Mike Saylor, Mark Batchman Construction, Smiley Concrete, and Davis Electrical Inc.

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