While most renovations are entirely personal, Patty Reece, a longtime community leader in Kansas City, has dedicated the last few years to renovating the historical Volland Store near Alma, Kan. The result is a successful rehabilitation that has evolved into an active and inspiring community resource in the Flint Hills.
What inspired you to renovate the Volland Store?
PR: The owner of the building was going to accept an offer to tear it down for the bricks if she couldn’t find someone to renovate it. I couldn’t bear the thought of another historical building disappearing into the landscape, especially when it had beautiful, straight brick walls that begged to be saved.
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The most important reason, however, was preserving the old general store because of the memories it held. Neighbors living in the community would light up when they spoke of the storekeeper Otto Kratzer and his humor, kindness, and zest for the latest and newest of everything. They remembered their school bus stopping by the store after school for a soda, walking down the road with their dad to buy a new cane fishing pole every spring, buying a sack full of penny candy for a penny or shopping there as newlyweds. These stories are still told with great fondness.
The store is a community gathering space. What kind of events do you typically host?
PR: Art exhibits that feature noted mid-career artists from across the country and a wide range of free community programming that is often inspired by the art. We host poets, authors, scientists, historians, cowboy poets, and musicians, stargazing events and arched-roof cellar tours.
How has the community responded?
PR: Everyone is delighted to have the old store “back.” People inside and outside of the community have told us of driving by for years, watching it deteriorate and hoping it would be saved. They like to come on Sunday afternoons, just to be there. Our community has grown to include loyal contingents from Kansas City, Manhattan, Topeka, Wichita and points in between. It presents an opportunity for rural and urban citizens to connect and exchange ideas.
It must be satisfying to see that the store is such a success. What’s next?
PR: The natural result is the development of a rural residency program for the arts and humanities in Volland. The Volland Foundation, Inc. will refurbish the three houses next to the Volland Store and will make them available to practitioners of the arts and humanities. The houses will also be available as short-term rentals to the public.
Are you managing the design yourself?
PR: We are very fortunate to work with the fifth-year architecture students in the Design+Make Studio at Kansas State University who have begun work on the first cottage. Students spent their first semester delving into Volland’s history, landscape, and architecture. They researched rural residency programs and understood how Volland and its houses could fill that role. This semester they are focusing on the design and construction of the 1927 Sears “kit house” on Volland Road. The target date for completion of the house and its first “residency” is the fall of 2018. We are so grateful for the students’ talent, energy, and enthusiasm.