New Building Progress!

After analyzing the results from almost 200 surveys and receiving positive responses from our stakeholders, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with a feasibility study. This study will estimate the costs involved in the project and provide potential building designs. 

The company we have decided to work with is Nabholz, inc. Nabholz is experienced in the unique challenges of museum buildings and, interestingly, several team members have Volga German heritage! The team visited ECHS on March 25 to learn about our site, go over display and storage requirements, and to speak with the board and staff.

Our need for a new building is based on practicalities, financial realities, and industry standards. Due to the special requirements of building and storage material, climate control specifications, and other steps that need to be taken in order to preserve our artifacts and exhibits, we’ve found it prudent to look into a building that meets all of our needs.

ECHS owns the block of 7th Street from Main (our current location) all the way to Fort Street, north of the alley. This means we have room to build at the western end of our property.  If we decide to move forward with a new building after the study is completed, staying on our current campus would enable us to continue the use of the Volga German Haus, the harness shop, and the Fire Department Museum.

Please let us know if you have questions, feedback, or would like to be involved in the project!

14 thoughts on “New Building Progress!

    1. Dawn,
      Excellent question! The buildings that currently house archives, collections, and the exhibits are an interesting mish-mash of the first and third buildings of the 1st Presbyterian Church. The limestone church was built in 1879 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And it’s beautiful. We plan to renovate the church for use as an exhibit and/or event space. Both the stone church and the brick church have crumbling mortar between the stones and the brick. In 2017, we had a study done to estimate the cost of replacing the mortar, which is called repointing. The total for both buildings was a little over $350,000, just to fix the mortar. Because of so many repairs and replacements needed to keep the brick church going (complete HVAC system, plumbing problems, upgrading electrical, repair water damage, etc.), we feel it’s a better investment to build a new structure that will have enough room to house everything we own and give us room to grow. The brick building would likely come down once everything usable had been removed.

  1. What would happen to the current building? I believe it is a historic building, it would be interesting to know it’s fate.

    1. Amy, you are correct that the stone church is on the National Register of Historic Places. We don’t want to hurt that building in any way! The brick portion was built between 1922 and 1926, and is neo-classic architecture. Neo-classicism was very popular in the early 1900s, and can be seen in many old Carnegie Libraries throughout Kansas. Because this architectural style isn’t unique and does not reflect a particular building style in our area; and because the poor old girl is falling apart, we will most likely raze the brick building. We will salvage as much as we can, whether we incorporate it in our new structure or invite a reclamation business to salvage it.
      Please also read my response to Dawn above.

  2. If a new building is truly needed because the old one isn’t cost effective to maintain, yes, move to a new location. I like seeing history in historical buildings. It would be hard to move your limestone church and Volga German house to new locations and extremely sad to lose them. The volga German house is typical of plains dwellings of its era a long with the soddies and homes dug into a hillside or bank. This is the only stone one I have seen. Most were wooden structures, cabins.

    1. Lori, you think like we do! In addition to what I’ve explained above, there are additional concerns to our current situation. Neither of the main buildings (stone church and brick church) are accessible for folks with mobility issues. We can’t get a wheelchair in the brick building unless it’s carried in. We currently rent two large off-site storage locations because we are overflowing with objects, photos, and documents. The mortar on both buildings is crumbling. The north and south walls of the brick building turn into waterfalls during heavy rainstorms, which is pushing the plaster off the interior and causing ceilings to sag.

      If you drive by our building on 7th Street, just past the Volga German Haus is a two-story grey residence. We own that and the empty space all the way to Fort Street, north of the alley. The residence is not used for anything, and we would LOVE someone to buy (at a very reasonable price) and move it to a new location to save the house. If not, it will be demolished and salvaged to make more room for the new building. As lovely as the residence is, it has the same problem the brick church does–no handicapped accessibility. It also has lots of large windows and tight corners, which make it less than ideal for artifact storage.

      So, since we have a good chunk of open land, we will not change locations. We’ll still be on 7th, just on the corner of Fort rather than Main. The Volga German Haus will stay exactly where it is, and so will the stone church. A little more about the VG Haus: it was constructed on site in 1983 with help from the Volga German Society. Local Volga Germans (Willie Pfeifer, Norbert Dreiling, Leo Dorzweiler) researched the design of the German Russian houses in our area and designed the Haus. The stone was taken from the ruins of a few different original houses in the county. There are no more original stone homes standing in Ellis County. Ours is a very good replica, and is built on the inside like a modern building, with insulation and drywall. It is also heated and cooled so that the original 1880s artifacts inside are kept stable. If you haven’t been inside, come by ECHS any time Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm and we’ll take you on a tour!

  3. I received the survey form in the mail and was told to come here to take the survey online, but I can’t find the survey on line.

    I support the idea of a new building, and will talk to friends about it, but I have no funds to offer.

    I am a charter member and an honorary life member and am very much interested in Ellis County history. It was great to see the latest Homesteader actually contain some history.

    1. Fr. Burkey, it’s wonderful to hear from you! I’ve heard many good things and am familiar with your research.
      The location of the survey link is on this page above the comments, but below the photo. In red letters, it says “Click here to take the Survey.” Don’t worry about contributing financially. We need all kinds of support to make this project happen, and we’re happy to have yours.

  4. When & If the Rose comes up for sale, buy it and move the bulk of your exhibits across the street. This way the unmovable exhibits will be close by.

    1. Moving across the street to The Rose and Gutch’s is an avenue that was explored in the past, but the owners like it being a bar. Good idea, though!

  5. This is incredibly disappointing to hear that the neoclassical style building will get razed…. I disagree completely that this building isn’t unique. It’s dissappointing to hear this coming from the historical society. I don’t understand why the building wasn’t maintained over the years and allowed to get to this point.

    Also, to touch on the house you had for sale on your property, it’s not cost effective for anyone to purchase a house for the price you are asking and then to move it, on top of paid purchase price. The only way moving a house is economically feasible is by purchasing the house for free, or close to free. I’d love to see this house saved by someone but you have to make it realistic for someone to do so.

    1. Larissa,
      I started work here in March 2016. Before me, many improvements and repairs were made on the building, to the financial ability of the organization at the time of repair. I’m not familiar with the earliest changes after the building was purchased in 1972, but in later years, the roof has been replaced, necessary mortar repair was conducted, plexiglass was added on the outside of the stained glass windows to protect it, a new HVAC system and boiler were put in, and many other small repairs and changes were made. By the time I came on, for a complete restoration of only what already exists was in the millions. In addition to repairs, law necessitates that the entire building be ADA compliant, and that still doesn’t fix our storage needs. It’s always a difficult decision in historic preservation whether to go to extremes in order to save an old property, or to give up and let it go. As hard as it is to think about, just because something is old doesn’t mean that it has historical significance. Anyone in this kind of business struggles with that regularly, and it’s never easy.

      As for the residence, we do not currently have it listed for a particular price. We are ready to negotiate with a buyer in order to save the home. If you know anyone who is interested, please send them our way!


  6. So the “historical society” is planning on demolishing a few VERY historical buildings due to the work they need? This is incredibly disappointing to a Hays Kansas native. There are few historical buildings left in that town and the fact that the “historical society” makes no effort to renovate and save these buildings is very sad. I would think more thought would go into this. Where are the ACTUAL estimates in the renovations of the building? Mortar is fixable, sagging ceilings are fixable, electric is fixable, it’s ALL fixable. There’s a serious issue with this situation if measures are not taken to preserve what little we have left of our history. Yes it costs money, There is plenty of money in that city and very little thought going into this situation. How much does that new building cost???

    1. Jamie,
      You are correct that everything in the brick building is fixable. In 2008, a complete study of the brick church and a plan to renovate it to museum specifications was performed by Stecklein Architects. The plan included leveling the sanctuary floor and installing an elevator. The estimated cost at that time for everything was $6,138,187 to $7,470,476, excluding the new HVAC system we need and ADA accessibility into the building. The Board chose not to go ahead with the remodel at the time, and I’m very glad they didn’t. Soon after that decision was made, we received the history collections from the Sternberg Museum, which drastically increased our storage needs. The 2008 ‘brand new’ building would have not had enough space and further construction would have been needed to house all of our artifacts.

      If you read my response to Larissa above, you’ll see that big efforts have been made over the last 37 years that the Historical Society has owned these buildings. When the brick building was built between 1922-1926, building materials were less durable than they are today. Even the bricks and mortar were less dense and have improved.

      At our meeting last night, on February 25, 2019, the Board unanimously decided to go ahead with the feasibility study proposed by Nabholz Inc. At the end of that three month study, we will have drawings of the best option for layout and a complete cost estimate, in addition to other needed information.

      If you have further concerns, please let me know.

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