TOPEKA — At its regular quarterly meeting held at the Kansas Historical Society last Saturday, the Historic Sites Board of Review voted to list one property in the Register of Historic Kansas Places and to forward 13 nominations to the office of the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C. The sites will be evaluated by their professional staffers. If they concur with the board’s findings, the properties will be included in the National Register.
The National Register of Historic Places is the country’s official list of historically significant properties. Properties must be significant for one or more of the four criteria for evaluation. Properties can be eligible if they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. They can be eligible if they are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past. Distinctive construction can qualify properties for the National Register if they embody the characteristic of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction. Lastly, properties may be eligible for the National Register if they have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in prehistory or history. The National Register recognizes properties of local, statewide, and national significance. Here's the history of the three local nominees:
North Topeka Baptist Church, built in 1921 and 1922, is located at the southeast corner of NW Gordon and NW Jackson streets on the western edge of the historic commercial core of North Topeka. The building was designed by Williamson and Company of Topeka and built by G. Carlson and Son contractors for $40,000. It is an example of Classical Revival architecture and features a monumental front-gable portico supported by four Corinthian columns. A key turning point in the history of this building came in 1951 when a devastating flood affected much of the Kansas River valley. Much of North Topeka was under water as the Kansas River spilled out of its banks. Water was several inches deep in the church sanctuary. The congregation salvaged what remained, remodeled the interior, and built a new Sunday school building onto the south side of the church in 1952. The building, which still serves the same congregation, was nominated for its architecture.
The John and Mary Ritchie House is located at 1116 SE Madison Street in Topeka. The Ritchies moved to the Kansas Territory in 1855 and became involved in abolitionist activities and local temperance and women’s rights organizations. This house was built on Ritchie’s 120-acre preemption purchased in 1855 adjacent to the original Topeka town site. The house is an excellent early example of the mid-19th century vernacular house type known as a double-cell with two rooms of roughly equal size on each level that reflects trends of the National Folk style. It is constructed of limestone walls, with the front elevation distinguished by a full façade layer of brick applied over the limestone with decorative brick quoins at the corners. The Shawnee County Historical Society acquired the building in 1995 and began a multi-year plan to rehabilitate and interpret the property. The house was nominated for its association with the Ritchies and for its architecture.
Built in 1930 at the corner of Fourth and Taylor Streets in Topeka, the Hughes Conoco Service Station was strategically located to be accessible from two primary arterial streets allowing the station to pull in traffic from all directions. Typical of early 20th-century gas stations, this one was built in the Tudor Revival-style to both blend in with its residential surroundings and serve as a corporate advertisement. The brick building features a round-arch entrance, narrow multi-light casement windows, and a steeply pitched side-gable roof. Its 198 square feet include a sales room and two washrooms. In 1956, Edwin Hughes leased the Conoco Station and added a cement block garage to the east elevation. Hughes became one of the first African Americans in Topeka to operate a business outside of Topeka’s established black commercial district and the first African American in the city to operate a station selling gas supplied by a major petroleum company. The building was listed in the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2009 and was nominated to the National Register as part of the “Roadside Kansas” multiple property nomination for its associations with local commercial and transportation history and for its architecture.