Letter: McDanield School needs preservation
To the Editor:
Preservation of McDanield Schools perhaps as city hall, is being considered. Taxpayers, we must make sure that McDanield School is never purchased by the city (we 6,700 residents) for $1, as the 1918 building was from the School Board.
Preservation of this marvelous "art deco architecture" must be done by preservationists, not taxpayers. The School Board could sell McDanield to the preservationists for a dollar, and they in turn could make arrangements with a developer specializing in preservation to purchase the building and turn it into a dinner theater, using its historic auditorium. The developer could be responsible for obtaining grants, and preservationists could be responsible for digging up matching funds though contributions and fund-raisers. Rooms could be decorated and rented out as bed and breakfasts for people from everywhere to spend a night and attend the dinner theater.
Downtown Bonner shops would be open after the theater presentation. The city band or orchestra could work up a premiere performance and the Kaw Valley Community Choir and the library actors could perform. A Harlem-type young people's choir and musical instrumental ensemble made up of the top talented musicians black, Spanish-American, Indian and white children and a dance troupe could be developed and presentations given. Prose and poetry writers of all ages could give readings of their works. An art gallery like Johnson County Community College has in its theater building could be established in McDanield, and artists' opening receptions hosted; a culinary interest group could be developed to serve meals and receptions in a banquet room at McDanield like Johnson County Community College has. Johnson County cultural advantages could be present at McDanield for our entire community at practically no expense to taxpayers.
If there was ever a building that needs to be preserved, it is McDanield School. Of course, with Bonner history in mind, preservation of Lincoln School ,where the black children once attended kindergarten through eighth grade, would automatically be preserved. I believe the Ku Klux Klan had gone underground in Bonner by 1934 when McDanield was built, but segregation was in full bloom. Lincoln School is only a quarter- mile from McDanield on Leroy C. Tombs Drive. Happy Tombs, an important individual in the 1918 building, lived just across the street. That drive could be part of the cultural heritage preservation area, such as is the Constitutional Walk around Harry Truman's home in Independence.
By this time, the 1918 building would have been sold to the preservationists, and an owner preservation development specialist would have turned it into condominiums, or apartments for people who wish to be near the Senior Center, and a library reading room which would always be provided there, (books could be brought in from our main library, located elsewhere for additional needed space), and the Lion's Club paper bin for the visually impaired could be decorated by young local artists, and would remain where it is. A welcome to Bonner office with small cubicles for the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Bonner Inc., tourism, and Welcome Wagon as well as a coffee shop and gift shops could also be built in the 1918 building which would welcome people of all ages to mix with senior citizens, or they could stop at the Dairy Dine restored to its Rio Theater days special menu following a presentation at McDanield Dinner Theatre. This use of these buildings could be income producing from rental of condominiums, apartments, bed and breakfasts, and sales from coffee and gift shops, theater, banquet and reception tickets.
People who bought condos would be eager to invest in the McDanield Dinner Theatre goings-on. Young musicians, actors, writers and a dance troupe could travel around the state performing, and soon people would want to come to Bonner to see where these children developed their talents. Twenty-four hour police protection would be provided in the historical district.
Our municipal court could continue to meet in the 1951 gym until a city hall could be provided. Trailers could be temporarily placed for added space. The money we are being forced to spend on the 1918 building, along with the millions to be spent on preserving Lincoln and McDanield Schools, could be applied to building a state-of-the-art city hall. If this idea were well thought through, our city, you and I, could get out of the mess of owning and restoring buildings. The preservationists would be admired and respected for all time, all three schools could be preserved on the national register, our young people would be richly blessed as the drug-free Harlem's Young People's Choir is and both taxpayers and preservationists would be happy.