Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Junction City: a Town Built with Local Limestone

As you drive around Junction City take a moment to look at the buildings. You see that many of the old buildings are made of limestone. Not surprising since we have an abundance of it right here. It was quite a local industry because of the accessibility and quality of the limestone in this area.
The best limestone used for building was located about 12 to 15 feet underground. When it comes out of the ground it was extremely workable but hardens with exposure to air and the elements.
There are two types of limestone quarried in this area, yellow and white. Yellow was used for many of the early sidewalks in Junction City. White was much more desirable for the buildings because it could be cut in larger blocks.
The Junction City Sawed Stone Company, started by Major O.J. Hopkins, was one of the first commercial businesses in Junction City. At its peak it employed 60 men and sold $1500 worth of stone per month. They operated out of the McFarland Quarry, one of the first in the area. 
Our forefathers wholeheartedly supported the limestone industry as many of the city and county buildings were built using it. They must have been on to something because these buildings have certainly held up admirably.  Do you ever wonder about the people who designed these beautiful old buildings?
One of the most prolific Kansas architects around the turn of the twenty century was a Topeka architect by the name of James C. Holland. He was born in a log cabin in Lima, Ohio in 1853.  He studied architecture at Northern Ohio Normal School for two years before attending Cornell University in New York.
After graduation he returned to Northern Ohio Normal School to teach. He also worked as an architect for several Ohio building firms.
In 1885 James and his wife Elizabeth moved to Topeka, Kansas.
From 1895 to 1897 he served as the state architect. During this time the central wing of the capital, not including the dome, was being built. He also designed all but one of the homes on Governor’s Row in Topeka.
But you don’t have to travel to Topeka to see Holland’s handiwork it is featured prominently around Junction City. In 1898 Holland collaborated with the local construction firm of Ziegler and Dalton to design a beautiful Opera House where a pile of rubble once stood after the original Opera House burned to the ground.
A year later they teamed up again to design the Geary County Courthouse. The style is described as Richardsonian Romanesque. It was completed in May of 1900 at a cost of $35,000. The stone was quarried locally and was so soft that it was hand sawed and tooled by the masons.   
Around the turn of the century the Junction City School Board decided that Junction City must have a high school separate from the elementary school because of the increasing number of older students. This shows how progressive our town was because this was at a time when across the nation people were lucky to have an eighth grade education. 
On July 29, 1903 the Junction City Daily Union featured Holland’s proposed design for the new Junction City High School. The drawing showed a building with multiple towers. The bids on this design ranged from $27,422 to $28,888. The school board decided that the cost was too high and requested a simplified design which is the building you see today that houses the Geary County Historical Society. The construction bid was awarded to Ziegler and Dalton for $24, 820.
Holland worked in several styles including Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. He always incorporated local building materials into his work showcasing the best the area had to offer.
Other examples of his work that you may have seen in this area are the Clay County, Riley County, Mitchell County and Washington County Courthouses.