By RON WILSON
“Built to last.” It’s a phrase we often use to describe something built with the painstaking craftsmanship and solid materials of yesteryear – something that stands the test of time, like a solid old school building from it. decades ago.
Today we are going to discover a group of volunteers who have taken such a building and reused it for the modern use of their community. Thanks to Dr. Steve Smethers of K-State for this story idea.
Jack Donaldson is one of the founders of the Kincaid Community Center. Jack grew up in the nearby community of Selma where he attended elementary school. He went to high school in Kincaid and married Ann who also attended Kincaid before high school closed in 1967. Around this time it was converted to a college which then closed in 2005.
Jack has had a career in the trucking and construction industries. Then he and Ann opened a bed and breakfast in Moran. In 2016, they retired to Kincaid.
After the school closed, the building was purchased by a couple from Utah. They couldn’t do anything with it and returned it to the city.
The mayor approached Jack about the building, which remains the property of the city. “It was built as a WPA project in the 1930s,” Jack said. “It was very solid, built to last.” For example, he said, “instead of 2 x 6 floor joists, there were full 2 x 16 joists.”
As president of the high school alumni association, Jack checked with the alumni. They gathered the necessary donations to reimburse taxes and create a museum in the old school. A volunteer board of directors has been created to raise operating funds.
Today, the Kincaid Community Center serves as the site for the municipal library, the senior nutrition center and the community museum. “A lady named Jennifer Gum-Fowler took over the library in what had been the upstairs school library, and it’s now part of the Southeast Kansas library system,” Jack said.
The Great Science and Biology Room has been converted into the Kincaid Museum, housing many of the community’s artifacts. “We have most of the annual directories,” Jack said.
Artifacts donated for the exhibit include a 1936 stroller, a pedal-operated sewing machine, quilts, old-fashioned items such as dresses from grocery bags, a collection of fairground books dating back to 1909 and more Again. Ann spent several days repainting rooms in the old building.
A smaller classroom has been converted into a museum for the region’s even smaller rural communities, including Selma, Bush City and Lone Elm – population of 25. Now it is rural.
The old classroom and shop are now an exercise room, equipped with exercise bikes and other equipment. “The agriculture teacher had taken a lot of photos of his students’ projects,” Jack said. These are now displayed on the walls around the room. “There are probably over 650 photos. ”
Meeting space is available for hire to the public. The old school kitchen is available to caterers. “We get money from the township, but otherwise the museum has to support itself through donations and rentals,” Ann said. Several women’s clubs help raise funds. “People like to donate,” Ann said. “Everyone is mobilizing. ”
The museum is open by appointment. “The city clerk will open the museum to the public when notified,” Ann said. “A lot of people have helped do it,” Jack said.
For more information, search for the Kincaid Community Center on Facebook.
Built to last. This is how Jack Donaldson described the structure of the old Kincaid High School building. Now he and others have helped convert this structure into a community center that meets the needs of today’s community. We congratulate Jack and Ann Donaldson and the many other donors and volunteers who support the museum. They make a difference that lasts.
And there’s more. Do you remember the collection of fairground books from 1909? These fair books were from the free fair that has been held in Kincaid for over a century. We will learn about that next week.
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Ron Wilson is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, those interested can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.