McPherson's Main Street is about to see a little more history — and a lot less metal — with a building's facelift on Tuesday.

McPherson's Main Street is about to see a little more history — and a lot less metal — with a building's facelift on Tuesday.
The historic front of the old Cox Communications location at 322 N. Main St. was hidden for more than 40 years by a metal siding façade. Now, the Anderson-Crain Investment Group plans to restore the space to its original beauty of 1917 and fill it with local businesses.
"It was closed off in 1973 and no one has seen the face of this building in 43 years," explained managing partner Graham Crain of Anderson-Crain Investment Group. "There's a lot of potential issues we could face with this renovation, but we really didn't know what to expect until we pulled of the siding."
Right now, the building features three levels of exposed brick and high windows, with an old elevator riding through the middle and a street entrance with stairs to the basement, which will be cleaned and brought up to code with renovations. The original façade was preserved behind the metal, so the designers and contractor are hoping to focus efforts on restoration.
Crain explained that local historians like David Nigh, president of the McPherson County Historical Society, guided the design process with several photos of the original façade.
"Our goal is to restore it to that original state, so we're using a photo of the front from 1917," Crain said. "We're really excited to see what’s behind that metal."
The space was built in the late 1800s as the James Smalley & Company Seed facility, across from the railroad tracks. James Smalley's son Carl, an art dealer and artist, then used the building to host exhibitions with Lindsborg's renowned artist Birger Sandzen and sell pieces to the public.
Cindy Mines, journalist, historian and author from Canton, writes about Carl Smalley's influence over the revival of art and culture in McPherson County in her book "For the Sake of Art: The Story of a Kansas Renaissance." During that time, McPherson held the highest amount of art per capita, perhaps due to Smalley's success as an art dealer. Once Smalley moved his gallery, Poehler Grocery and Mercantile purchased the site.
In 1973, the corrugated metal façade was put on and the space was used as a commercial office and store. The most recent tenant, Cox Communications, sold the building to Anderson-Crain Investment Group in 2016.
The building is fully booked for commercial office space, including the Anderson-Crain Investment Group's offices, and the main level will be the home of a community medical clinic.
"This building will be for the community, so we wanted to use all community-based businesses to renovate it," Crain explained about the native hands at work on renovations. "The McPherson Chamber of Commerce and McPherson Main Street have been very helpful in this process."
McPherson-based contractor Ash Jones of Ashcraft Construction is bringing a wealth of experience to the renovations, as this building is his sixth Main Street project.
A majority of the work will be completed in the summer, and Crain is expecting tenants to move into offices in August and September, with a grand opening in October.
"This building is an end-cap to Main Street, so we have to uphold that vibrancy that Main Street has here," Crain said. "Our goal is to contribute to that vibrancy of downtown McPherson."