The Kress Building was constructed in 1929 and was designed by architect George E. Mackey. The building was part of a company of five and dime stores established by Samuel Henry Kress in 1896 as S. H. Kress & Co. The brand grew to over 200 stores and became part of McCrory Stores in 1981. The parent company went out of business in 2001. Nine other Kansas towns have Kress buildings standing; the Emporia and Wichita buildings are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kress Building is part of the Emporia Downtown Historic District. The historic district map is below. Amanda's Bakery and Cafe on the ground floor of the Kress Building has been serving up tasty treats for years.
Backstory and Context
The Kress Building is a two-story brick structure with a footprint of 50 by 130 feet and a full basement. The two-part commercial block building is notable for its distinctive architecture, something the S. H. Kress & Co. brand was known for. The company favored building designs with historical details meant to distinguish them from their neighbors. The Emporia building features a crenelated parapet with a sign panel lettered in relief, decorative brick in a crosshatch pattern, and elaborate terra cotta trim, crests, and belt courses.
The choice of S. H. Kress & Co. to build a store in Emporia was a source of pride for the town, which was in the midst of a building boom in the 1920s. The S. H. Kress & Co. brand was bought out in 1964 by Genesco, Inc. The new owners emphasized store locations in the newly popular shopping malls and paid less attention to stores in downtown neighborhoods. The Kress Building was purchased by John Mellon and the Inno-Vest Corporation who worked to restore and preserve the structure; it was the first of many such projects locally for Mr. Mellon, who passed away a few years ago.
The Kress Building is one of over 100 contributing buildings in the Emporia Downtown Commercial District, clustered along Commercial Street from 3rd to 10th streets and nearby intersecting and parallel streets. In 2011, the second floor of the Kress Building was being used as a dance studio and one of the downstairs commercial spaces was empty. The original ground floor details were still in place: Corinthian capitals atop columns and beams covered in molded decorative plaster. Decorative pressed metal panels covered the upstairs ceiling, and the original elevator occupied part of the east end of the building.
A number of spaces within the Kress Building are currently available to lease. The basement could be used for a variety of purposes while the first floor is suited to retail or services. The mezzanine and upper floors are suited for office spaces. Besides Amanda's Bakery and Cafe on the first floor, an insurance agency has offices in the building.
Emporia Main Street. 702 Commercial Street - The Kress Centr, Available Properties. January 1st 2020. Accessed July 6th 2020. https://emporiamainstreet.com/available-property/property-702-commercial-street-the-kress-center/.
Loughlin, Amanda. 111-1660-00066 Kress Building, 702 Commercial St, Kansas Historic Resources Inventory. Accessed July 6th 2020. https://khri.kansasgis.org/index.cfm?in=111-1660-00066.
Rohr, Cassy. Architectural Feature: The Kress Building, J. P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. blog. December 7th 2017. Accessed July 6th 2020. http://www.weigand.com/blog/2017/12/kress-building/.
Small, Nora Pat . Hanschu, Steven. NRHP Nomination for the Kress Building. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1983.