Carrie Rengers

QuikTrip saves Victorian home on North Topeka near where it plans new store (VIDEO)

QuikTrip is paying to move this 1902 Victorian home at 715 N. Topeka near where it plans to build a new store. The Historic Preservation Alliance hasn’t decided where to put the house yet, but QuikTrip will pay to build the new foundation, too.
QuikTrip is paying to move this 1902 Victorian home at 715 N. Topeka near where it plans to build a new store. The Historic Preservation Alliance hasn’t decided where to put the house yet, but QuikTrip will pay to build the new foundation, too. The Wichita Eagle

Some neighbors might share a cup of sugar or keep on eye on your place while you’re out of town, but QuikTrip is taking neighborliness to another level.

The Tulsa-based convenience store chain is preparing to replace its store at Broadway and Murdock. That included taking down a couple of houses where it needs property to expand.

QuikTrip didn’t have to take down the house at 715 N. Topeka, but spokesman Mike Thornbrugh says the extra land will enhance the new store.

However, the Historic Preservation Alliance and the descendants of the late Kenneth and Bettie Betzen, who owned the 1902 Victorian home, asked the company for help saving it.

“The folks contacted us and said would we consider the option of buying and moving it?” Thornbrugh says. “To us, it’s not only good business. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Alliance president Greg Kite says the Victorian house isn’t just any 1902 structure.

There’s a crow’s nest, curved bays, pocket doors and a grand staircase.

“The architectural features of this are simply phenomenal,” Kite says. “How many houses have Corinthian columns between the entryway and the front parlor?”

Moving the 2,800-square-foot home, which has two and a half stories, wouldn’t have been an option without QuikTrip, Kite says.

“Certainly QuikTrip is demonstrating an understanding of and an appreciation for historic preservation big time.”

He says Unruh House Moving placed 75,000 pounds of steel under the house to inch it off its foundation on Thursday. The house is still sitting on the property while the Alliance figures out where to take it.

“This is 707 right now, not 715,” jokes Sam Nance, vice president of the Historic Preservation Alliance. “It’s a mobile home now.”

Sometimes when houses move, their porches don’t make it with them. Nance, a former Boeing design engineer, rigged a system so this porch could be saved.

“If you can make Boeing jets fly, you can stabilize a front porch,” Kite says.

Kite says in addition to buying the house and paying to move it, QuikTrip will build a new foundation for it.

Though a new property hasn’t been selected yet, Kite says 1250 N. Emporia is an option.

“That’s not in concrete, no pun intended.”

He’s not sure what the Alliance will use the house for yet.

“Our immediate concern is simply getting it where it needs to go.”

Randy Betzen, one of the Betzens’ four children, says his parents would be pleased their home will be saved.

“I think they would probably think it’s a good thing,” he says.

“We’d all be crying if it was torn down today,” Nance says.

Kite says he’s impressed with QuikTrip and its dedication to this project.

“They’re more interested in being thought of as a member of the community as opposed to simply another business.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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