Baxter Springs resident helps restore a piece of Southeast Kansas history


BAXTER SPRINGS, Ks. — Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the toll time can take on a building.

Over hundreds of years a structure can fall into disrepair and sometimes the only option is to tear it down and salvage what remains, erasing history in the process.

One man is trying to save the past in Baxter Springs, and while it’s taken some time, the community is standing behind him.

“It is such a symbol of what was going on in America at that time,” says Carla Jordan, Historian, “The boom bust history of Southeast Kansas is also the history of America.”

Just off of Military Avenue in Baxter Springs lies the Rial A. Niles house.

“A landmark in Baxter Springs Kansas and in the region,” says Jordan, “Starting with it’s construction in the late 19th century.”

Originally built for Niles after he moved to the area following a shift in the cattle industry.

Since then the home has had many owners.

Jordan says, “It served as a women’s club in the 1950’s, it served as after that an Episcopalian church.”

Over time it fell into disrepair, but since 2018 it’s been in the hands of Baxter Springs resident Geoffrey Roberts, who wanted to take the project on after hearing years of requests to preserve it.

“I think it’s meaningful to the community. If this house had been torn down, once it’s gone it’s gone, and that’s true in every town around here, we’re losing our history,” says Roberts, “We’ve let people have some insight, and we’ve gotten many, many, many comments which are very much appreciated, that’s what really keeps us going.”

Now with restoration potentially only a year away from completion, Roberts hopes his story inspires others to do the same.

Roberts says, “We’re hopeful that whenever we get this house done that … this will encourage people to take a house and take a project on and … Bring it back for other people to enjoy.”

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