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Historic Iola Building Given New Life

It was March 8th, 2013 and Kansas Highway Patrol along with their highly trained SWAT team had just raided 1 N Jefferson looking for an alleged Murderer. Despite the flash bombs and army of agents, the murderer wasn’t found. But something that was evident is that this building was no longer serving the same productive purpose it once did and in many ways, was now bringing the wrong attention to the Iola Square.

Original Garlinghouse Building Photo

In the year of 1901, OL Garlinghouse originally built what today is called the Garlinghouse Building, to utilize the upstairs for his thriving medical practice. The downstairs was leased out to a number of businesses over the years, including a hardware store, video store, and even a drug and jewelry store at one time.  Although somewhat prestigious back then, upstairs medical offices were eventually phased out because laws require medical care providers to make their services available and accessible to everyone including those with disabilities (elevators were not always practical).  When the medical offices and other professional businesses left the upstairs, many of the top floors of these buildings were abandoned with no useful purpose.  This was the case with the Garlinghouse building, most of the upstairs vacated an estimated 50+ years ago.

Later in 2013, I was given an opportunity to walk through the upstairs of this piece of Iola History and my eyes were opened to just how much character and potential the Garlinghouse Building still had.  Solid hard wood floors and two staircases that were structurally sound.  Antique doors with transoms and plaster that was falling off the original interior brick work.  I was in love and eventually fortunate to have an opportunity to own this building.  Real Estate investment can be very difficult in small towns, so a purchase like this would require a sound business plan and a little luck to assure the 6000-square foot and thousands of dollars would not be a waste.  The ultimate goal was to bring all 6000-square foot back to life, and an asset to the community, one unit at a time.  This would hopefully be done while also cash flowing the insurance, taxes, utilities, and maintenance, which can be sizable on buildings like this.

Refinished trim and original pocket doors.

Initially the focus was revitalizing the upstairs and utilizing the space as four nice apartment units. This phase took well over a year and has provided nice living units for several people over the last three years, all of whom praise the apartments and location seated right on the Iola square. The units are nice, safe, and amazingly efficient considering the triple width brick exterior.  Each unit comes with an amazing view with 24 windows wrapping all the way around the building and overlooking the Historic Iola Square.  The inside has all the modern day comforts while still demonstrating much of the original but refinished wood work and other items as a reminder to the buildings past.

Dancers from Supernova Dance Authority.

A short time later, Marielle Melvin had a vision of offering a Dance Academy for children in the area  and soon came the Supernova Dance Authority.  Instantly a great fit for the front unit of the Garlinghouse building and an even better fit for the community as another thriving downtown business was added to the Iola square.  The other two commercial units have been home to a couple different businesses, but in over 4 years’ time were yet to find the perfect business for the space.

A few weeks ago, Tracy Keagle, the director of Humanity House, contacted me regarding their need for commercial space for their nonprofit business.  They have grown in their mission of serving others and were in desperate need of space. Only caveat is they weren’t interested in being a tenant, they wanted to buy the downstairs half of the Garlinghouse Building, so they could remodel the final two commercial units to their business’ needs.  The front unit will be retained by Supernova Dance Authority as a tenant.  A deal was made and the future of the Garlinghouse Building was even brighter, as this transaction

Tracy Keagle and Georgia Masterson with Humanity House, handing out fresh produce.

would mean the final two units of the building would be brought back to life and used for the community’s benefit.  Somewhat of a rare strategy to split ownership between the two floors, but likely a strategy that should be more common when it presents a win-win like it did here. Humanity House touches a lot of lives in this area and what a perfect ending to the revitalization effort of the Garlinghouse building. When complete, all 6000-square foot will have been improved and the potential of this building will be maximized, again meeting OL Garlinghouse’s original mission.  A rarity for these downtown buildings that have been located in the heart of Iola for over 100 years, and an example of how one building defied the odds as a result of newfound energy, team work, and a lot of hard work.


Ryan Sparks, President
Grow Iola