From the outside, the building at 80th and Santa Fe doesn’t stand out. Its brick facade and simple design blend in with the surrounding commercial buildings in downtown Overland Park.
But beyond the exterior walls of the structure at 8001 Santa Fe Drive sits a piece of Overland Park history. And after years of waiting for the opportunity, the Overland Park Historical Society is set to make a move to preserve it.
The original structure was built in 1906 as the depot for William Strang’s Interurban Railway, which took Johnson County residents to downtown Kansas City, Mo. It was the first commercial building in Overland Park. In the century that followed, and with the railway system defunct, the building was massively added on to and renovated to the point that it looks like it does today — a nondescript structure that looks just like the other buildings along Santa Fe. But inside, much of the original depot structure remains intact.
“It looks like it was built in the 1950s or 1960s, and to the casual eye that’s a fair assessment,” said Brad Moore, president of the Overland Park Historical Society. “Most people don’t realize that inside that building is the original structure of the Strang Depot.”
When the owners of the building that currently houses Suburb Decorations announced they were looking to sell, leaders of the historical society started organizing to put in a bid. Last month, they announced the group had entered a contract to purchase the building, with a closing date set for August.
Moore said the deal will achieve a “lifelong goal” for the group, which was founded 25 years ago this fall. The group plans to use part of the facility as offices for the historical society as well as its public museum and archives. Another portion of the building will be made ready for occupancy by a tenant.
The group plans to use rental income from a tenant at the building as well as tenants at the other properties it owns — including the former Strang Carriage House at the north end of Santa Fe Drive in downtown OP, which houses Traditions Furniture — to make payments on the loan it is taking out to buy the 8001 Santa Fe Drive property. But it will be mounting an aggressive 18-month fundraising campaign in the coming months in hopes of covering as much of the purchase cost as possible.
“We are hoping to get the note down on the property dramatically, but the worst case scenario is that we can make the monthly payments through the money we get from the buildings we own,” Moore said. “But this opportunity allows us meet that goal we’ve had for so long to preserve the handful of Strang era buildings that are left. We really believe that if we didn’t buy it, the chances of preservation would be pretty slim.”