Norton’s downtown business district received State and National Historic District designation in 2011.
Property owners in this district who want to renovate approved buildings are eligible for incentives including both state and federal tax credits, and qualification for federal and state historic preservation grants.
The district is generally bounded by East Lincoln Street on the north, East Penn Street on the south, South Norton Avenue on the east, and South First Street on the west.
The historic designation started a wave of restoration and rehabilitation activity that is still ongoing. In the last ten years approximately $6,595,000 has been invested in the Norton Downtown Historic District. The community’s commitment to reinvestment in their downtown has provided space for new commercial businesses and retail establishments to develop their markets. As a result many new businesses are locating in this area.
The Norton County Community Foundation (NCCF), Norton Downtown Restoration Committee and Norton City/County Economic Development (NCCED) have partnered to provide the resources to rehabilitate downtown Norton.
NCCED has been able to obtain grants for several non-profit business owners that in turn created new economic development opportunities. It is a vision of the community to create a healthy downtown ecosystem with a blend of for profit retail and entertainment venues.
One of the first restoration projects was the Norton Business and Visitor Station. This project emerged when Roger and Michael Moffet donated the former Kent Oil Company service station, located at 205 S State Street, for a community purpose. After much consideration and input from the community, it was felt the building would be best utilized as the Norton City/County Economic Development and Norton Area Chamber of Commerce/Travel and Tourism offices.
With the assistance of many individuals and organizations, improvements to the exterior of the building began in 2008 and the interior was completed in 2011. With grant funding from the Kansas State Historical Society and assistance from NCCF, Mick and Colette Miller led the renovations to the interior with the help of many individuals and businesses. This building is very eye-catching because it retains the look of a 1930’s service station. This is a great example of repurposing a building and preserving the history of downtown Norton.
The largest project undertaken in downtown Norton is known as the Heaton Building, located in the middle of the block between State Street and Kansas Avenue. This 3-part building formerly held the businesses of: The Sewing Box, K&S Center, and Thunderchord Guitars on the west, Whitney Law Office and Ken Schultz Insurance Agency on the east. The Heaton Building Project was launched when Warren and Wanda Heaton generously donated the middle third of this prominent downtown building to NCCF. The south portion of the building was also donated to the foundation soon after, and NCCF acquired the north section as well.
The complete exterior restoration of this historic building began in 2011 and was critical to ensure the stability and future life of the structure. The storefronts were completely rebuilt in their original style with new materials. Interior renovations to the second floor were completed in early 2016 and all the commercial offices are filled. Construction on the main floor was completed in 2017 and includes a coffee bar, public area, retail and commercial spaces. NCCF was able to take advantage of the historic district designation status by receiving tax credits on the construction costs. This project is vital to the redevelopment of downtown Norton and the preservation of our commercial history since it is located in the center of one of the main blocks of downtown.
Another great project was the 1905 building on the northwest corner of Main and Kansas Streets which was the Ben Franklin Store until the 1980s. By 2013 it had deteriorated to the point of being unsightly and potentially unsafe. Attorney Mark Whitney needed to relocate his office and this location, across from the courthouse, was perfect. With assistance from Northwest Kansas Planning and Development and Norton City/County Economic Development, he applied for and received rehabilitation funding from the 2013 Downtown Commercial Rehabilitation Grant, which also required an owner match. Repairs to the property included the foundation, roof, and stabilization of the walls.
The most recent restoration was completed in 2016 and took place on the McClymont Law Office building at 120 S State Street. Built in 1907, the original design included many intricate architectural details of the era. Over the years it had undergone many exterior changes that attempted to modernize its appearance. Those efforts had stripped away or covered its original grandeur, but that has now changed. Owner John McClymont has had the exterior restored, highlighting the remaining original features and creating new designs that complement the historic elements. This building is one of the first seen when entering Norton from the south and it now serves as a beautiful gateway to our downtown.
These are only a few stories of the numerous buildings in downtown Norton that have been renovated, repurposed and contribute to the unique atmosphere that is Norton’s Downtown Historic District. We invite you to park your car and walk around the area, visiting the many unique destination businesses.
Any building owner in the district who is considering renovations can contact Norton City/County Economic Development at 785.874.4816 for information or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries can also be made to the Kansas State Historical Society at 785.272.8681 or visit their website, http://kshs.org/.
Sept. 2017: TRAVELING KANSAS is a local production from Smoky Hills Public Television that highlights communities, people and attractions across the state. This episode explores the past and present with a spotlight on the restoration of several historic buildings in Norton and the economic development efforts throughout the county.
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