Historical Architecture

Historic Eaton Place

Historic Eaton Place Case Study By WDM Architects 2

Preserving an Entire City Block

It was on December 27, 1900, that hatchet-wielding prohibition crusader Carrie Nation stormed into the hotel’s bar one evening famously smashing mirrors and causing other damage. This history-making raid became a contributing factor to later listing the Carey House on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Left Image: WDM Architects drawing noting the historic location of the steam baths in the basement level of the Eaton • Right Image: Carey had his likeness sculpted and prominently mounted above the east entrance

Impressive Historic Buildings

In 2000, WDM completed a major undertaking — the historic renovation for adaptive reuse of an entire city block of long-neglected historic commercial buildings known as the Carey House Historic District — and finished in just a short 12 months.

The location of this massive project is on East Douglas, the historic commercial center of Wichita, Kansas, near the railroad, which has been both a boon and a bane to the district over the years.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the Carey House is a beautiful example of Second Empire architecture and dominates the district as one of Wichita’s most impressive buildings. When it opened its doors in 1886, it towered above two- and three-story buildings in the area, a full five stories of red brick and contrasting white stone, crowned with a mansard roof with dormers and brick chimneys. The beautiful hotel has extensive stonework on the exterior walls, varying from dressed to quarry-faced stones and panels with classically-influenced carved designs, large semicircular arched openings framed with cut stone. The northeast corner of the building is enhanced by a projecting tower extending the full building height and terminated in a truncated steeply pitched pyramidal roof with gabled dormers.

“There was a bathhouse in the basement with big concrete tanks for people to bathe,” remarks Ralph Flanagin who worked on WDM Architect’s team to assess the historic building.

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Construction Boom

Carey House / Eaton Hotel

523-527 E. Douglas • (1886)
From 1900 to 1910 the district had a construction boom. Carey House was located on the southwest corner of St. Francis and Douglas Street, commercial artery of Wichita. A series commercial buildings were built to the west of it in the Beau-Arts and Romanesque Revival styles, until by 1910, they became a continuous commercial frontage of brick.


Carey House Expansion

519 E. Douglas • (1904)
Around 1904 the Carey House had a 25-foot addition built at the west side of the larger arched entrance on the north façade. The addition is identical in style and material to the original and cost $50,000.


Wichita Hotel

511-515 E. Douglas • (1902)
A three-story stone and tan brick building in the Classical Revival style. The flat roof is accented with an elaborate cast-iron cornice and a pedimented parapet, featuring classical floral designs in the tympanum. A corbelled brick band is beneath the cornice. The face of the building is divided into three wide bays, each with a pair of windows on the floors above the storefront. The third story has elaborate brick semi-circular arches above the windows in the central bay.


Kirkwood Building

509 E. Douglas • (1902)
This two-story brick building with a widely projecting cornice has egg and dart molding, acanthus leaf and fleur di lis. A pedimented parapet is embellished with finial urns on either side, and the words “Kirkwood” and “1912.” The storefront level features a recessed centered entry, with flanking display windows and a white tile floor with a classical band in black, and “Stern’s 509.” The second story has paired windows set beneath semi-circular arches with keystones and contrasting stone bands.


Brontson Building

505 E. Douglas • (1903)
This two-story brick building has tripartite windows with semi-circular arched tops and keystones on the second story. The storefront level features a recessed entry flanked by display windows.


Schweiter-Bissantz Building

507 E. Douglas • (1905)
A two-story brick building that lacks the ornamentation of its neighbors, but retains the historic theme. A centered storefront entry is flanked by display windows.


Lawrence Block Building

501-503 E. Douglas • (1906)
A large three-story brick building is built on the southeast corner of Douglas and Emporia. The northwest corner of the building is curved, which corresponds to a cast-iron parapet above with the words “Lawrence Block.” A large corner entry is bracketed by carved stone Doric columns and many round-arched window openings with keystones and dentils. In 1926, The Wichita Eagle stated this building was home to Bower’s Hotel, Lunger Café and several smaller stores.


Lexington Hotel

112-114 S. Emporia • (1914)
On the same block, this two-story, painted brick building has a flat roof and two storefronts on the first story, the second story has simple windows.

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In 1910, the Carey House was renamed Eaton Hotel

for Ben Eaton who managed and then purchased the hotel in the late 1890s. It continued to be a convenient stop for travelers and popular with area businessmen until the era of the Great Depression, when out-of-work men rode the rails in search of work and gathered in the neighborhood surrounding the train tracks. The district became known as Wichita’s Skid Row. After suffering decades of neglect and abuse, in the 1970s the City of Wichita identified the area near the tracks as needing renovation. Though attempts were made, the area remained in disrepair.

Steps to Renovation: Recognition as Historically Significant

Obtaining a listing on historical registries is key to accessing Historic Tax Credits which can contribute to funding a full-scale renovation. A historian makes a sound case for historical significance in a detailed report. Once a property is recognized, that listing can then be used to recognize other historic properties in the area.

1972: National Recognition for Carey House.

In 1972, The Carey House (Eaton Hotel) was listed as historically significant on the National Register of Historic Places, due in part to being the location where Carry Nation smashed the bar in 1900, beginning the temperance movement that led to the Prohibition.

1972: National Recognition for Carey House.

In 1972, The Carey House (Eaton Hotel) was listed as historically significant on the National Register of Historic Places, due in part to being the location where Carry Nation smashed the bar in 1900, beginning the temperance movement that led to the Prohibition.

1977: District recognized by the City of Wichita.

In 1977, the entire south side of the 500 block of East Douglas was named as the Carey House Historic District on the Wichita Register of Historic Places. This included the Eaton Hotel on the east end of the block, the Wichita Hotel next, the Kirkwood Building, Schweiter-Bissantz Building, Brontson Building and terminated on the west with the Lawrence Block Building on the corner of Emporia.

1979: District recognized by The State of Kansas.

In 1979, the State of Kansas recognized the Carey House Historic District, stating these buildings “form a continuous series of generally early 20th Century commercial building facades along the south side of East Douglas.”

2004: Enlarged District receives National Listing.

Later in 2004, The Carey House Historic District buildings and other historical properties in the district were grouped together for a National Register listing. The Lexington Hotel which is on the same block as the Carey House/Eaton Hotel and included in the block-wide renovation by WDM, was included in this historic registry. “The back half of the building was demolished, you can see it still partially standing,” describes WDM’s Flanagin.

Renovation and New Construction

In the late 1990s, the City of Wichita acquired ownership of the entire city block and sought developer involvement. A partner was selected and the project began in December 1999.

Finance Sources Used for $16M Development

  • Historic Tax Credits — $2.5M
  • Industrial Revenue Bonds
  • Low-income Housing Tax Credits
  • Tax Increment Financing
  • Developer equity
  • Federal Home Loan Bank
  • HUD’s FHA Multifamily Mortgage Insurance
  • HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Programs and HOME programs

Meanwhile, The City of Wichita worked to relocate existing tenants before the renovation.

Public-Private Partnership

Together, city officials, developer, WDM Architects, and Key Construction as general contractor held a workshop with the goal of committing to quality and overcoming obstacles in an open, solution-oriented spirit. “This collaborative effort has resulted in what is to date the largest historic preservation project in Kansas history,” notes The Kansas Historical Society in their October 2001 newsletter. It further stated that the project “saved the last contiguous block of buildings from original 1887 Wichita. Every building fronting the block is historic.”

Joan B. Cole, former City of Wichita Council Member, Former Advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation praised the project team by saying it could only be accomplished through “the commitment and dedication of all parties involved and to their willingness to do whatever it took.”

Building Assessments

“When we went in to assess and measure the buildings, there were holes in the roof, snow on the floors, and pigeons in the hallway,” said Flanagin. “When I measured one apartment, I noticed a calendar on the wall was displayed just the month before. I couldn’t believe people had been living there in those conditions.”

The Kansas State Historical Society agrees with Flanagin’s remarks, saying the Eaton’s rooms were in “deplorable” condition with “severe sewer problems” and that “two other buildings on the block were near collapse and seriously threatened adjacent buildings.”

The historic brick exteriors needed to have old paint removed, cleaned, sealed and some tuckpointing for repairs. Each building needed re-roofed and rusted metal exterior fire escapes were removed.

All the windows needed renovation, including fitting and installing 410 historically accurate aluminum sash replacement windows in the Eaton alone, and extensive restoration of wooden frames inlaid with glass.

Structural Renovations

“Eaton itself had challenges of uneven floors,” Dan Wilson, WDM Founding Partner. “A lot of structural work that had to be done.”

“It was structurally unsound when we went in to measure for renovation,” notes Flanagin. “I think we had to raise the center of the building about six inches to get it all level again because the foundation and footings had sunk over the 100-years. You kinda expect that when you’re doing renovations of these older buildings.”

WDM’s Flanagin comments on the Eaton by describing it having a “very interesting construction type, eight-foot tall trusses are in the walls with joists between to support the floors.”

New Construction: The Annex

To address the need for expanded parking and extend the area’s economic viability, WDM designed a new six-story, 54,900-square-foot annex to the south the Carey House/ Eaton Hotel. The annex features 40 apartments on the four floors above a two-level parking garage. Though the building is newly constructed, its exterior echoes the historic Carey House/Eaton Hotel in the use of materials and design to remain consistent with the neighborhood. Elevated walkways connect the historic apartment building with the new to allow residents direct access to the parking garage.



Interior renovation proceeded with the demolition of “non-corridor” walls to open up the spaces. Insulation was added and new walls went up to support the new one- and two-bedroom floorplans. An existing elevator shaft was converted to a refuse chute and new elevators were installed. New lighting fixtures, paint, trim, carpet, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets and appliances were all installed in apartments. Where possible, apartments have charming historic exposed brick and rafters.

Public areas beaten down by time were restored to their original aura of old-time quality and luxury. Worn-out flooring was removed and original wood, mosaic tile and concrete floors were revealed and refinished. Historical metal ceiling tiles were repaired and painted. Finishes were selected to coordinate with the historical color scheme. Mechanical systems were brought up to date.

Over the years, as various businesses leased the commercial frontage, doors were installed between buildings. Access through the buildings was created on the second floor to go from St. Francis to Emporia without leaving the buildings.

Measure of Success

The Eaton Place project is called “a shining example of what can be done to preserve, restore and enhance inner-city landmarks,” by the Kansas City HUD office.

The entire city block of distressed buildings were historically renovated including a new construction of a six-story, 54,900 square-foot annex with a parking garage was completed in a short 12-month time frame. The resulting mixed-used development has 115 market-rate and low-cost apartment units on the upper floors with 30,000 square-feet of commercial leasing opportunities on the street level. Owners report a 97-98% occupancy rate for the apartments.

The resultant project is a showpiece for Wichita’s Old Town development and has received numerous awards for historic renovation and urban redevelopment.

Joan Cole wraps it up by saying “WDM was one of those wonderful partners and I recommend them, without reservation, as experts in their field who would make a superb partner in the restoration or redevelopment of old and historic sites.”

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Project Overview


500 block of E. Douglas 112-114 S. Emporia Wichita, KS 67202


Area: 157,000 s.f.




Started: Dec. 1999 Completed: Dec. 2000

Team Involved

Architects: WDM Architects P.A. General Contractor: Key Construction

Historic Eaton Place Portfolio Project

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