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Baden Hall Renovation a Step Closer to Reality

From the Winfield Daily Courier Winfield, Kansas - Saturday December 11, 2010

Former St. John's College building nominated to Register of Historic Places

Former St. John's College building nominated to Register of Historic Places

By DAVE SEATON, Winfield Publishing Chairman

The restoration of Baden Hall has cleared a major hurdle in Topeka, and several people involved with the project said they expected construction on it to begin early next year. Winfield City Manager Warren Porter said Friday the building had been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, a step that allows the developer, MetroPlains LLC, to seek tax credits that would make the project feasible. Some paperwork, including papers that close the city's sale of the building to the developer for $1, remains

to be completed, according to Verne Hanson, copresident of MetroPlains. Hanson oversees the Baden Hall project for his firm. Porter expects this paperwork to be completed soon. "We hope to have the documents ready for the (city) commission meeting Dec. 20," he said. Porter added he hoped work could start as early as February, and Hanson agreed this was the goal. MetroPlains has sent inspectors to Baden Hall, and a contractor is lined up, Hanson said.

A final agreement with United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development on a loan guarantee was still outstanding, he added, but he said he did not expect that to delay the project. Structures nominated by states for the national register are normally accepted, according to Hanson. "I would say it's just a matter of going through the process at the national register:' he said. Sarah Martin, national register coordinator at the Kansas Historical Society

in Topeka, said Friday she had sent the Baden Hall nomination to Washington, D.C., and expected to have a reply within the required 45 days. Martin agreed it was likely the building would be accepted on the national register. The state's nomination of Baden Hall was approved Nov. 20 by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review, which is part of the Kansas Historical Society. A letter from the society dated Nov. 23, 2010, informed Porter and others of the nomination. The review board also acted to list Baden Hall on the Register of Kansas Historic Places, which qualifies the building for several state preservation programs. The decision of the review board was without dissent, Martin said,

although two of the board's 11 members abstained and two were absent. Porter, who appeared before the review board, said he sensed some reluctance to approve Baden Hall because its windows had been altered and stone wall replaced with brick. The alteration was done more than 50 years ago, Porter pointed out, and the review board nominated Baden Hall to the state and national registers as it presently is configured. A structure more than 50 years old can qualify for the national register. Cowley County Registrar of Deeds Nancy Horst is a citizen member of the review board, appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Horst too, noted some reluctance on the part of the board about Baden Hall, but she said Porter effectively made the case that the community was behind its restoration and that its historic value to Winfield was great. "I think Warren was very instrumental in getting it (Baden Hall) on Horst said. Baden Hall was the original site of St. John's College, an institution of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. The

college closed in 1986 after being in operation since 1893; the campus, said Horst, was purchased by the city and is now Baden Square. Funds raised locally and from St. John's alumni for Baden Hall now amount to about $250,000 after earning interest, Porter indicated. Adelaide Baden Barnard, honorary chair of the Baden Hall Preservation Committee, said Friday she was pleased to learn that the project appeared headed for construction. "I'm delighted:' she said. "I think that's wonderful." MetroPlains has developed apartments at Rehwinkel and Mundinger halls at Baden Square, E. Eighth Ave. at College St., and at the former Osage Hotel in Arkansas City. A subsidiary, MetroPlains Management LLC, manages these and other apartments, according to assistant regional manager Harvey McFarland. All of the appointments to the Kansas Historic Site Board of Review are made by the governor. Dave Seaton is a member of the Baden Hall Preservation Committee.

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