Warren Corman, the Kansas University architect who has worked on roughly 700 projects throughout his career, returned to one of his early buildings Sunday in the midst of a community effort to help restore the site.
"It's worth saving," Corman said of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Depot in east Lawrence.
Corman spoke to about 55 people at the depot. He recalled the architects' early vision for the building.
More than 50 years ago, Corman and fellow KU alumnus and architect Warren Jones, both employed in the railroad's architectural office in Topeka, were called on to design a new depot to replace an 1880s building that had been damaged by flooding. The higher-ups requested a traditional design.
"Warren Jones and I were young and kind of mavericks, I guess," Corman said. "We didn't know anything about old, traditional stuff. We didn't learn about that at KU."
The two men chose to pass on the expected and, instead, designed a sleek building with flat roof, lots of glass, and terrazo floors.
"I think it's a classic for its time," Corman said.
The building today continues to be a way station for people coming to and from Lawrence by train.
City commissioners have expressed interest in a low-cost purchase of the building, which is undergoing a restoration effort by volunteers. City staff are working with BNSF regarding the city's options for owning or leasing the building. The city recently sent BNSF a list of repairs, such as roof repairs, that city inspectors believe need to be made to the building. The city is awaiting a response.
"To the extent that we can get any kind of repairs done before any kind of the transfer of ownership, that's in our best interest," Diane Stoddard, assistant city manager, said.
Sunday's event was organized by Depot Redux, a community group dedicated to the building's preservation. Corman said he believes the site could be used for offices or receptions.
"I think it only cost us about $100,000 to build back in the 1950s," he said. "Now, it'd probably cost a couple million."