The exterior of the renovated building, now a VA medical records facility.
Leavenworth Building 19 in Leavenworth, Kansas doesn’t look much different on the outside from when it was built in 1886, but that’s the idea. It has the same Romanesque Revival architecture, the same charming red brick exterior, and the same row of dormer windows lining the slanted roof.
On the inside, though, Building 19 is every inch a state-of-the-art office building, chock full of modern amenities and bright white lights. It’s come a long way since its days as the dining hall of the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, a campus built in the 1880s to house Civil War veterans. In 2012, the repurposed building was recognized with a Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A penny postcard of the dining hall at the Home for Disabled Veterans, built in 1886.
The campus, comprised of 38 buildings, was in continuous use until 1995, at which point it was abandoned in favor of more up-to-date facilities.
“They sat vacant for basically 10 years,” says Rick Kready, senior vice president of operations at The Pioneer Group, Inc., the development company that bought the entire campus. “They looked like vacant buildings, they smelled like vacant buildings.”
The buildings were slated for demolition in 1999, but a group of determined citizens formed Veterans Administration Leavenworth Opportunity for Reuse -- or VALOR -- and worked with The Pioneer Group to find ways to repurpose the history-rich edifices.
The renovated exterior
As it turned out, the old dining hall proved to be the perfect space for a new Veterans Administration medical records office. “This one turned out to be a charm,” Kready says of Building 19.
The whole project took 14 months to complete, and with the help of private funds from the Veterans Administration’s Enhanced Use Lease program, the construction team was able to preserve the historic integrity of the building while making it an ideal up-to-date office space. The project also brought an additional 400 jobs to the town of Leavenworth.
“Finding the right use for it was a challenge,” says Kready. “It’s a beautiful building that drew a lot of attention.”
Do you have a successful preservation project in your community you think deserves recognition? Nominate it for a Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award! Applications for this year's awards are due March 8, 2013.