Crowson: Wichita's Wrecking Ball

May 31, 2017

Century II under construction in 1968.
Credit century2.org

Sometimes it seems like Wichita sits inside of a giant pinball machine. A spring-loaded lever gets pulled and a big ol’ ball rolls around banging into this and into that. Except what it’s banging into are historic buildings, and as for the ball itself: It’s a wrecking ball.

Bing! Bing! Bing! There goes the Allis Hotel. Pow! The Crest Theatre is hit!

A recent story in the Wichita Eagle by Tim Potter spotlighted the latest potential target: Wichita’s Main Library building. Construction finished in 1969 on this iconic structure that’s been hailed as a terrific example of what’s called “brutalist” architecture. To some of us it’s a strikingly individualistic building. Local architect Dean Bradley puts it in the same class as the 1915 Carnegie Library and our 1892 City Hall building, across the street from the library.

Those buildings were preserved. But just a little ways west of the Main Library building sits Wichita’s blue and beige jewel: Century II. Rumors abound that some of the powers that be here in Wichita want it gone. City Manager Robert Layton proclaimed it as looking “old and dated.” To his everlasting credit, Bill Warren of Warren Theatres fame has begun a campaign to save Century II.

Here’s hoping the Main Library building and Century II can survive. They are iconic to our city and a big part of our downtown’s character and individuality.

The wrecking ball that bounces about Wichita, pinball-style, deserves to be tilted – away from our architectural heritage.

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