Since its founding in 1974, Historic Kansas City (HKC) has been the only greater Kansas City nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the area’s heritage, neighborhoods and historic built environment. Two weeks ago at their annual Preservation Awards ceremony, HKC celebrated the people – developers, building owners, architects and preservationists – that have demonstrated exceptional leadership in historic preservation across our city.
We are honored that our work on the renovation of Park University’s Norrington Center was among those honored for its preservation and reinvestment in the last remaining Carnegie Library on a college campus in the State of Missouri. The Norrington Center received an Excellence Award in the Contemporary Design in a Historic Context category, which is given to a project that displays innovative contemporary design in a historic context.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York built 35 public and academic libraries in the state of Missouri between 1899 and 1917. Only one of the academic libraries is still remaining today and that is Norrington Hall on Park University’s campus. Built in 1908, Norrington Hall originally served as the campus library until those services were relocated in the 1980’s. At that time the interior was converted into office and classroom spaces. In 2015, Park University initiated a renovation to return the building to its original roots as a 21st century state-of-the-art library and academic commons.
The majority of the historic character on the interior of the building had been removed during previous renovations but the Helix design team preserved those most defining of the building, including the grand open entry stairwell that connects the first and second floor, the stained glass window in the stairwell landing, ornamental guardrails, wood handrails, stone wall cladding and terrazzo floor finishes in the entry hall. The interior environment was transformed into modern academic and study spaces that will serve the university and make the building viable for years to come.
The three-story steel and glass floor library stack spaces were inaccessible and unusable for today’s modern academic library. It was removed and the second floor was expanded to create a gallery space with access to restrooms while the first floor was converted into a coffee shop and study space. The design solution increased the functionality of the space while preserving the original windows that spanned the first two floors.
In order to provide ADA accessibility without altering the historic front entry facade of the building, a new ADA accessible entry vestibule was designed on the rear of the building along with an open patio to create a welcoming secondary entry point along a primarily pedestrian circulation route between the historic Norrington Center and the campus’s historic and iconic administration building, Mackay Hall.
Park University’s investment ensures people will continue to experience the beauty and craftsmanship of this historic structure for years to come.