Archive for Monday, June 16, 2014

Baldwin City to mark 100th anniversary of downtown landmark that Ives, Hartley built

Lumberyard Arts Center

Lumberyard Arts Center

June 16, 2014

The summer of 1914 was unusually busy. A fascination of the time appeared to be doing things faster and with more power, so the season began with René Thomas’s victory in the Indianapolis 500, averaging a breathtaking speed of 82.5 miles per hour. Five weeks later, Dodge City hosted the first motorcycle race in America, a distance of 300 miles around a 2-mile dirt track. As the summer drew to a close, the Panama Canal opened, reducing the voyage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from weeks to as few as 20 hours.

In July, a pitcher so young and naive his teammates called him “Babe” debuted with the Boston Red Sox. He would soon be rewriting the record books as a position player, hitting home runs farther and more often than anyone could have imagined.

Perhaps the most noteworthy event of the summer would occur at the end of June with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria. The consequences of this act escalated at a frightening pace. By August, European powers would align and the Great War was underway.

By comparison, things were fairly calm in Baldwin City. Baker University students had gone home for summer break and their professors were enjoying a more relaxed schedule. The weather was unusually mild and wet, providing area farmers with ideal conditions for crops and livestock. By all standards, the Kansas summer was following a familiar, lazy Midwestern pattern.

But there were signs in June that change was coming to the downtown Baldwin City business district. At the beginning of the month, the wooden shed which had served as the office of the Ives-Hartley Lumber Company was relocated east of town. Over the next several weeks, a more substantial brick structure would be built to house the growing business.

When it was completed, news reports in The Baldwin Ledger proclaimed, “Baldwin City now possesses one of the best equipped and most up-to-the-minute lumber yards in the state of Kansas … It is thoroughly electric lighted and possesses great storage room for lumber ….” The official opening of the new building was set for June 27, from 2:30 to 10 p.m.

Accounts suggest the opening was a grand event. Guests were presented with picture postcards of the building and tickets to the Gem Theatre, where they could view images of the steps in the lumber industry process from the harvesting of trees to finished products as they would appear in a completed building. Festivities continued into the evening, with the Baldwin City Band giving a regular Saturday performance to rave reviews.

One of the unique aspects of the new lumber yard building was the “Women’s Rest Room,” described as “nicely furnished for the use of the women who come to Baldwin City to trade.” Rather than the modern meaning of this term, this space was an area in which women could gather while their husbands or fathers transacted business. The purpose of this room was celebrated during the opening with refreshments and music played by a local orchestra.

The Baldwin Ledger made special note of the women’s room. “This is the social side of the lumber business that is an innovation to Baldwin City and speaks highly of the public spiritedness of the Ives-Hartley Lumber Company.” This room wasn’t particularly ornate, nor did it generate significant revenue. It was noteworthy because of what it represented: The company valued building community as much as it valued building physical structures. It was a commitment that would characterize the company throughout its existence.

A century later, the lumber company is gone, but the building still stands. And the sense of “public spiritedness” noted when the building was initially opened lives on in the form of the Lumberyard Arts Center. But it is the Ives-Hartley building, the structure which has welcomed countless community members in its past, that continues to foster a community spirit by serving as a gathering spot for current and future generations of Baldwin City residents.

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