On September 19th, we’re holding an open house at Thrive Allen County’s new office space, at 9 South Jefferson Avenue in Iola. It’s a historic building, and has undergone extensive renovation. Here’s a sneak peek of our new home!
Kress Store History
Just as the courthouse clock struck three this afternoon, the doors to Kress & Co.’s new store were flung open to the admiring public. An orchestra was playing as the crowd of men, women and children filled the store. For two hours before the store opened, the entire east side of the square was filled with the waiting throng.
Kress & Co. have erected within a very short time a building which as a structure is an ornament to the city, and have started a store equaled by few in Southeastern Kansas.
Each guest of Kress and Co. today is given as a souvenir of their opening, an imported Japanese pin tray. Thirty one pretty girls and eleven polite men are showing their guests about their new home, pointing out the things of interest.
Sadly, the new Kress building was completely consumed by fire in February 1909. It was rapidly rebuilt, and a second grand opening was held on August 20th, once again with a orchestra and souvenirs for guests:
With a large handsome building and a complete line of stocks, the Kress company’s store is a credit to the city and community. Iola and Allen county people deeply regretted the loss sustained by the firm when its store burned here last winter. The immediate raising of a fine structure over the ashes of the devastating flames was an evidence of the confidence of the company in Iola’s future.
The Kress building caught fire again in 1916, destroying most of the store’s goods, as well as a dental office, a realty office, and the Iola Business College, which were located on the second floor. The store was rebuilt yet again, in the process adding a mezzanine level and a freight elevator.
The S.H. Kress & Co. empire was begun in 1896, and over 250 stores were built in 29 states, through 1955. Other Kansas Kress location included stores in Chanute, Coffeyville, Emporia, Fort Scott, Hutchinson, Independence, Lawrence, Parsons, Pittsburg, Salina, and Wichita. Kress stores were known for their classic and art-deco architecture. Samuel H. Kress envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape.
The Kress 5-10-25 cent department store was a fixture of Iola retail through the bulk of the 20th century, until its closing in 1978. It was a two-story structure, with the lower floor devoted to retail, a mezzanine level for store offices, and the upper floor leased as office space for doctors, dentists, architects, and other professional services.
After its 1978 closure, the Kress building has housed a number of businesses, including a furniture store and a Dollar General store, and most recently the Treasure Chest Flea Market, which operated through 2016 (and currently occupies the north half of the building, as Treasure Chest Divas).
Here are some views of the Kress building over time:
Thrive Headquarters Renovations
Thrive Allen County purchased the building in 2016, and has extensively remodeled it into modern offices. The south half of the downstairs floor is composed of a reception space and public meeting rooms. The upper floor houses the majority of the Thrive staff, as well as a large conference and meeting room. A portion of the upstairs area has been set aside to serve as a business incubator space, which will be offered to small startups who need office space and related services.
Thrive is proud of its new home, and happy to restore this downtown landmark to its former luster. With vintage wooden floors, stamped tin ceilings, period-appropriate windows and light fixtures, and a restored front facade, as well as state-of-the-art networking and video conferencing infrastructure, we hope that the historic Kress building remains a prominent feature of the nation’s largest downtown square for generations to come.
“Thrive’s renovation of the Kress Building is symbolic of what we’re trying to do for Allen County as a whole: bring forgotten and neglected assets back to life.” said Thrive CEO David Toland. “Our investment in this building is proof that we are here to stay as a force for good in Allen County, and it’s also a tangible vote of confidence in the future of downtown Iola. We’re proud to dedicate our new headquarters to the people of Allen County and to the mission of becoming the healthiest rural county in Kansas.”
Thrive would like to thank the USDA’s Office of Rural Development for helping to finance this $400,000+ investment in Allen County, as well as a number of private donors who will receive special recognition later this Fall.