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Ad Astra: Historical museum to restore Heritage Square Park

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, June 22, 2014, at 1:19 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, June 23, 2014, at 6:27 a.m.

Photos

Ad Astra series

This is one in a series of vignettes celebrating Kansas history. The series’ name comes from the state motto, Ad astra per aspera: To the stars through difficulties. For more Ad Astra stories, go to: Kansas.com/tothestars.

A Wichita park with a historic legacy is going to get a makeover.

The Wichita/Sedgwick County Historical Museum signed a five-year lease with the Wichita Board of Park Commissioners and will restore Heritage Square Park, east of the museum. The museum, 204 S. Main, plans to use the park as a place to host special events, concerts, weddings and perhaps even gallery exhibits.

Museum director Eric Cale said plans call for restoring a statue that used to be in the park but was vandalized. The museum, which has secured $200,000 in pledges for the project, also plans to replace fencing. A completion date for the restoration has not been set.

“It will make our museum space more flexible,” Cale said. “We could have an outdoor gallery as part of the museum.

“And, sometimes we will get a group of school kids that need to integrate a lunch into their visit. Before now, that hasn’t been possible.”

The space was originally a turn-of-the-20th century stone building that housed Wichita’s central fire station. It was a two-story structure that had room for fire equipment and horses on the first floor and bunk rooms on the second, according to the “Wichita Century” book, published in 1969.

By the 1930s, the building was converted into space for the city’s police department, Cale said.

But it soon became clear that the building wasn’t large enough to handle all the needs of a growing police department and city. In the 1960s, as plans were being prepared to build a new Sedgwick County Courthouse and then a new City Hall, there was an effort to save the old buildings, Cale said.

When the city of Wichita moved out of the stone building in 1976, there were plans to immediately turn the building into a museum, Cale said. However the old building adjacent to the City Hall building was torn down.

“Everyone deemed then that the addition was not worth saving and demolished it,” Cale said.

The Heritage Square Park was created in 1976 by the Junior League of Wichita.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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