Baxter Springs is a town of approximately 4,000 people in the southeast corner of Kansas. When the Baxter Middle School program moved to a new building in 2014, Prairie Fire Development Group acquired the former high school building for rehabilitation into affordable housing for senior citizens.
The school building occupies a three-acre lot and consists of the original 1918 building, a 1939 (WPA) gymnasium addition, and a free-standing 1964 industrial arts building. The school contained classrooms and an auditorium. It had been heavily used throughout its history and had undergone numerous renovations. Replacement windows and the loss of a prominent cornice at the roofline had altered the building’s historic character and negatively impacted its integrity. Rosin Preservation worked closely with the Kansas State Historical Society (SHPO) to devise a plan to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places, despite the building’s compromised integrity.
Rosin Preservation collaborated with Clockwork Architecture + Design to ensure the proposed work met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The most dramatic transformation was on the exterior when the cornice was reconstructed and windows were replaced to match the configuration and appearance of the original windows. On the interior, historic wood floors in classrooms were restored. Although the corridors retained the dropped ACT ceiling, the ceilings were recessed around the historic doorways to reveal the original transoms and door casing. Doors with a more appropriate paneled configuration replaced the non-historic slab doors at the classroom entrances. The auditorium and gymnasium were kept and no work was performed in those spaces.
The rehabilitation of this historic school provides twenty-eight apartments for the area’s seniors. The retention of the building’s historic fabric contributes to the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood and maintains a significant piece of the town’s built environment.
Baxter Springs, KS