Watkins Research Room and Archives

Lawrence, KS (2022)

1047 Massachusetts Street

The Watkins Museum of History, owned by the Douglas County Historical Society, is a historic building constructed in 1887 in downtown Lawrence. It exemplifies the Romanesque influence on Kansas buildings. The original building was the Watkins National Bank owned by a Lawrence financier, Jabez B. Watkins. The building served as the Watkins Bank until a bank merger in 1929 left it vacant. It was donated to the city of Lawrence and served as the City Hall until 1970; it transformed into a museum in 1975. Hernly Associates helped rehabilitate the Watkins Research Room and Archives, a 1,200 square-foot area on the second level.

The research room and archive space on the second story, where the bank offices originally were, needed to be better utilized and feature more storage. The biggest goal was to design a public, open space for research. Large windows made it difficult to use the wall space, so the ceiling height was utilized. A wall that does not reach the ceiling was constructed and several bookshelves were added flush to the walls. The archives were made accessible and have room to expand. The flooring was redone, walls were plastered and repainted, and the column capital was exposed and painted. The bathroom was made accessible and the wood siding was salvaged for the wall. The windows were also revealing, displaying oak crown molding and showcasing an abundance of natural light.

The Watkins National Bank property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It is a member of the Douglas County Heritage Alliance and a partner organization in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. State Historic Tax Credits were utilized for this project. The Watkins Museum of History has been preserved and continues to serve the community by providing programs and public events, educational resources and activities, research support, and exhibits exploring Douglas County’s legacy.

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