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Brookville Hotel removed from Historic Register

The owner of one of the most iconic buildings in Kansas said Wednesday she had no choice but to change the look of the original Brookville Hotel.

“There is no need to have two Brookville Hotels in competition,” said owner Judith Dobson. “We are renovating the building and will turn it into a fancy upper-end thing.

“We thought about this a long time. Why have a building that looks exactly like another building?”

The original 143-year-old Brookville Hotel was recently delisted from the National Register of Historic Properties after state preservation officials determined a recent renovation had negatively affected the historic integrity of the building.

The hotel was constructed in 1870 when the town served as a railroad hub and a terminal for cattle drives from Texas. Visitors included Kansas governors and Old West icons such as Buffalo Bill, who had signed the guest register. For decades, it was famous for its family-style fried chicken dinners until the family-owned restaurant relocated to Abilene in 2000, where a replica Brookville Hotel was constructed.

Brookville, located about 15 miles southwest of Salina on K-140, has about 300 residents.

The Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review usually makes recommendations as to what Kansas buildings will be added to the National Register of Historic Places, said Sarah Martin, the National Register coordinator for the Kansas State Historical Society. It’s rare when the board asks for a building to be taken off.

“Most often it is for buildings that didn’t make it – they’ve been torn down or suffered a fire that is so drastic we have no other choice,” Martin said. “Rarely do we delist something that is still standing.

“But the Brookville Hotel had changed in appearance so drastically from its historic appearance, it was no longer eligible.”

Dobson, the owner, said when she purchased the Brookville building five years ago, she knew it would no longer qualify for the national register. She said the former owners had installed siding on the building.

“That in itself did it in,” Dobson said. “You are supposed to keep the building like it was when it was placed on the register.”

Dobson, who owns the Courtyard on Main – a wine bar and restaurant in her hometown of McPherson – said it is her intention to turn the old Brookville Hotel building into an Italianate/Spanish inn with a saloon. She hopes to open within the next year.

Brookville Mayor Ralph Johnson said he doubts it will matter much in the community whether the building is on the national register.

“I haven’t heard anybody complaining,” Johnson said. “I think people are more looking forward to having a restaurant.”

Buildings placed on the National Register usually are required to go through a review process when owners apply for construction or renovation permits. It is state law that they do so, Martin said.

The state preservation office is typically notified of such projects when building permits are taken out. That didn’t happen in the Brookville case.

Martin said she doubts whether Dobson or Brookville will face a penalty for not notifying the state preservation office.

“Private property owners can change and renovate their properties within the limits of their local permitting processes,” Martin wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle. Because it is such a small community, “It is my understanding that the property … was not subject to review under state law.”

Another Kansas landmark was also delisted from the national register – the Krueger Building (Opera House) in Hays. The building was placed on the National Register in 2006 but had been vacant for years. There was an attempt to rehabilitate it, but the city of Hays demolished it in August 2012.

“In that case, the project fell though and things kept getting worse,” Martin said. “We knew that one was coming.”

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