McPherson Community Building Gets a Makeover

Exterior of McPherson Community Center

August 20, 2020 • Taylor Clark • Civic + Cultural, Renovation + Historical Preservation

In 1928 the McPherson Community Building was constructed as a “community use facility” for about $13,000. Its’ historical use was a gymnasium, auditorium/theatre and separate, approximately 1933 addition area (on the south) that housed the McPherson Fire Department. Although the gymnasium and auditorium/theater are generally still intact, the south addition has been converted over the years for use as storage for Civil Defense (1963), the McPherson Art Guild (1973), and the McPherson Municipal Court (1998).


In the early 1970s there was push to demolish the building to open up additional space for the downtown. Community outpouring against the concept of demolishing the building ultimately led to a change in momentum to perform an addition and incorporate and “updated facelift” instead of demolition. On August 6, 1974, a bond issue to update the building was passed by voters. The additions and face lift incorporated bathroom additions, a new boiler, a new roof, a rubberized gymnasium floor, a metal panel façade on the north elevation, replacement windows on the south façade, a dressing room, a small meeting room, new gym floor (uni-turf), carpeting, a new length of gym ceiling tile, remodeling of the stage, removing the northeast exterior exit door and adjacent glazing in the gymnasium and replacing it with an overhead door, removing the east mezzanine in the gymnasium and selective masonry repointing.


TESSERE was engaged in early 2018 to rehabilitate this historic community facility back to its original design and construction of 1928. Our team collaborated closely with 5 different community-based organizations that represented interests of the city. Through this process, our team put their all into matching parameters with the available building space and worked through floor plans to create an appropriate space with input from each organization.


“There is a lot of ’forensic architecture‘ that occurs with preservation projects. At one point, the team got very hands on and crawled around several attics and basement crawl spaces to discover much of the original historic fabric and design intent,” says Project Manager Mike Seiwert.  


Upgrades to the community center included restoration of the original gym design and lobby as well as transforming the theater space for reuse into a community multi-purpose room. The original steel sash glazing system was refurbished and all 500 glass panes replaced. To get just the right balance, a combination of energy-saving glass, tempered glass, interior storm sashes and tinted glass were used to create a spectacular display of natural light that eliminates glare, addresses life safety and is highly energy efficient.


The newly renovated, $4.7M community center provides a gathering space for functions such as sports, meetings and special events to support the McPherson community. The center was released to the city in September 2019.


Mike says, “Judging from the grand opening reception, the renovation was very well received by the community.  In fact, they supported the City Council throughout the entire design process by attending public meetings and presentations in meaningful numbers.”


This project was accepted to the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places. The renovation is now eligible for historic tax credit funding.