Riverside schools donate historic building to library district

Jul. 6—A historic Doniphan County building will officially belong to the library district thanks to a donation from the Riverside School District USD 114.

The Lincoln School Building in Elwood, Kansas, was donated to Library District #1 to use and renovate. The Lincoln School Building is part of the National and State Registers of Historic Places. It was the last building in Doniphan County to be used for racially segregated education. According to the Kansas Historical Society, the school served African-American students in Elwood from 1935 to 1955.

John Whetzal, superintendent of the Riverside School District, said the library district had been renting the school building for close to 20 years, if not longer.

"I was able to find some of the older lease agreements going back more than 15 years ago," Whetzal said. "We had been leasing that building to them for a dollar a year for quite some time."

If Library District #1 were to sell the school building in the future, the school district would take back possession.

Whetzal said the school district decided to donate the building because the library has more time and means to use it.

"As with any public school, your funding priorities tend to go towards your students and your facilities," Whetzal said. "We were maintaining that building but admittedly on a minimal basis. We weren't giving it the due diligence and justice that it deserved."

Dan Glynn, president of the Board of Trustees for Library District #1, said they were excited to receive the donation.

"It helps us because we've been looking for another site in Elwood to have a library but we didn't have the resources to buy a building or to buy land and then build a building," Glynn said.

Library District #1 now can make many improvements to the building.

"Now they're free to do whatever remodeling or restructuring that they want that falls within the guidelines and rules of that building being on the State Historical Register," Whetzal said. "It gives them an opportunity to maintain it up to the standards that they feel it needs to be maintained."

Glynn said there are plans to better use the building space.

"We'll be able to have a much better library and a better facility because we'll be able to use the main room as our library and then we'd have two other rooms that we can use for meeting rooms," Glynn said.

The library district also shares the building with the senior center, where older residents are given meals.

Whetzal said the donation is a win for everyone.

"It's a win for our students," Whetzal said. "It's a win for their own community. It's a win for our taxpayers and for our patrons. We have not had many situations in the last two and a half years where it's been an entire win in the decision-making process. You take those wherever you can get them."

Repairing the roof and electric rewiring are some of the first planned renovations. Glynn said the hope is to get grant money to help with the cost of revamping the school.

"My hope is that we'll be able to tap into some grant money from Rural Development Agency and maybe work with the Kansas State Historical Society," Glynn said.

Glynn said he thinks this building will mean a lot to the community.

"I'm just happy that we were able to get that building and that we'll be able to provide a good building for Elwood," Glynn said. "It'd be nice to have a good library and other services that we can provide for the town."