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A peek inside 'the new' Bown-Corby

Apartment complex retains some old school flair

Staff writer

If there’s a Marion structure people have been peeping inside of as of late, it’s the old Bown-Corby school building.

Work crews are in the final stages of transforming the historic building into a new 12-unit apartment complex.

“The appearance stays original,” Wichita developer Tom George said. “It still has that old 1927 school feel only with 2016 amenities.

“It seems like there is a big need for apartments in rural communities. We did the same thing, the same process in Wichita with the old Sunnyside and Kellogg Elementary schools.”

George said Bown-Corby rooms were renovated according to National Historic Registry regulations and approved before construction began.

The building’s exterior still looks similar as to when it was constructed, right down to the giant windows and a reverberant church bell that became the school’s bell.

“People can ring it,” general contractor Joe Konnesky said.

However, the interior has a new face or rather the face has a new expression.

“About 70 percent of the interior is still original,” Konnesky said.

Hallways were given a new coat of paint but the original terrazzo steps and hallway floors remain, as does much of the period wood trim. Some trim was reproduced.

Downstairs is carpeted. The attic was reinsulated. New plumbing, electrical, and appliances were installed in each unit but the original classroom doors remain along with their old room numbers. The bathroom doors still have “Boys” and “Girls” attributions painted on them even though they are both are apartments. The old custodians’ office will serve as on-site laundry.

“I can’t move anything of historic value,” Konnesky said. “I had a pencil sharpener on the wall without a cover on it; we had to leave it there and build the new closets around it.”

Chris North, a contractor who works with Konnesky, said many of the doorknobs, hinges and hardware are original. New knobs were matched as close to the originals as they could find.

“I just think how many hands touched that knob,” North said. “All the chalkboards are here, too. They’re original slate, a slice of slate taken right out of the ground.”

Upper level apartments feature 12-foot ceilings, large bathrooms and closets, as well as open kitchens and living rooms.

Crews sanded about a quarter-inch of historic crud off the original maple floors in upstairs apartments, then refinished them to make the hardwood shine anew.

“You can’t even find wood like that anymore,” North said. “It had been growing for over a hundred years before they harvested it.”

Old storage cabinets with the doors that slid up into the wall remain, too. Konnesky said the National Historic Register forbade them to paint over the pastel paint inside of the storage cabinets.

An open house is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 6. More information is available by calling (316) 630-8002.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2016

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