Monday, December 13, 2010

The Columbian Building

With an address of 112-114 W 6th St., the Columbian Building is a fine Victorian-era office building in downtown Topeka.  Designed by Seymour Davis in the Romanesque-Prairie architectural style, it was built in 1888 and opened in 1889 as the United States Savings Bank.  Projected to cost $50,000 to build, the final total ended up closer to $75,000.  It's original name was the William C. Knox Building.  Mr. Knox was the founder of the U.S. Savings Bank.  Unfortunately, the bank closed in less than five years during a depression in the early 1890's. 

Since then, many owners and tenants have come and gone.  From 1902-1907 the U.S. Weather Bureau had it's offices on the top floor.   One of the most colorful moments in the building's history occurred in 1901.  At that time the Anti-Saloon League, the leading Prohibition organization in the United States, had an office in the building.  Carrie Nation, Anti-Saloon League member and famous for taking her hatchet and vandalizing bars in the name of temperance, attempted to visit her attorney in the Columbian building.  An angry mob followed her there.  They eventually forced their way into the building and began searching for her.  She was led down a back way into a basement boiler room, and eventually out the back door to safety and freedom.

The building wasn't called the Columbian Building until 1920.  The former Columbian Bank in Topeka was started in this building before relocating to 8th and Kansas.  A fire in 1937 did major damage to the top two floors.  Renovations in the late 1970's and early 2000's have kept the building looking nice.  It has been on the National Historic Register since 1977.

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