Topeka To Auction Sumner School

Next month the city of Topeka, Kan., will auction off Sumner Elementary School, a deteriorating National Historic Landmark that helped launch the nation's Civil Rights Movement as one of the schools at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

11 most markBuilt for white students in 1936, Sumner Elementary became a pivotal catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement when the school board refused to admit Linda Brown, an African-American student. Although the school was only seven blocks from her home, Brown was forced to either walk one mile across a railroad switchyard or travel for more than an hour by an unreliable bus service to attend the all-black Monroe Elementary School. 

The Jan. 22 auction is the city's fourth attempt to find a steward for the school since its closing in 1996. Still, city officials will not simply sell the structure to the highest bidder. A minimum bid of $50,000 is among several stipulations set forth by the city.  

"Obviously we want a responsible owner," says David Bevens, city spokesman. "We'd like someone who can refurbish the building based on historical standards, while maintaining a sustainable program for the building. We don't want someone to come in, fix it up, and then just let it sit."

This year the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Sumner Elementary School one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Two weeks before the auction, potential buyers must submit detailed plans of any activities or programs to be housed within the building. They must also provide detailed financial plans to the city. The new owner will also be required to include a visitors center in the southwest lobby.

The auction will be held in the first-floor conference room of the Holliday Building in Topeka at 6:00 pm. For more information, call Kevin Rooney at 785-368-3711 or e-mail the auctioneer.

Learn more about the National Park Service's Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site 

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.

Subscribe to the Today's News RSS feed