Originally published in The Ottawa Herald, June 26, by Greg Mast.
The Historic Post Office venue is becoming well-known around the region.
The owners said people come from all over to visit and rent space for weddings and other events. A state preservation organization took notice of how they took a rundown vacant building and turned it into a must-see event space.
The Historic Post Office was recognized in May with the 2019 Medallion Award for Excellence at the annual Kansas Preservation Alliance Awards Ceremony for their major renovation of the historic building on Second Street.
Rob Boyer, CEO Narthex and owner of the building, said the award is special.
“One thing that is important to Narthex is historical property,” he said. “We have a passion for historical buildings. For us to be recognized for the quality of the restoration work we did at the Historic Post Office, that’s a great validation for something we feel really passionate about. We felt a tremendous sense of pride. Not for just us, but the whole team — Clockwork Architects, Loyd Builders, and the city of Ottawa. It is the most beautiful iconic building in the city of Ottawa. It is an award we share with everybody.”
Boyer said the significance of the restoration award is more than meets the eye.
“They recognize excellence in restoration,” Boyer said. “They typically recognize 10 to 20 properties a year across the state. They don’t make [buildings] like that any more. If you tear them down, they are gone forever. I really am happy to see — not only in Ottawa, but statewide — we are doing a lot of restoration work.”
Boyer said the preservation group told the story of the restoration project.
“They do a really nice job of showing pictures of the before and after and explaining in construction terms what work was done and how it was carried out,” Boyer said. “They tell the story of the restoration from a construction and architectural point of view.”
Boyer said Ottawa is a growing and changing city and the building’s restoration enhanced that movement.
“A city leader in Ottawa said in their opinion, Ottawa is undergoing a renaissance they have not seen in 100 years,” Boyer said. “The restoration of the Historic Post Office is one of the centerpieces of that effort. People are recognizing the value of Ottawa and the beauty of that building. They are willing to make the drive out there.”
Boyer said several people have told stories of the building’s historical significance.
“We get that feedback almost weekly…somebody whose dad worked there or husband work there,” he said. “They went there to buy stamps with their mom when they were a kid.”
Boyer said once he laid eyes on the building, he was sold on its potential.
“We typically do church properties,” Boyer said of his Kansas City company. “The Historic Post Office was too beautiful. We could not resist it.”
Leading the renovation efforts included Narthex real estate and leasing company, Boyer and his wife, Fernanda Paiva, Clockwork Architecture and Design, and Ottawa’s Loyd Builders, general contractor.
“My wife’s eye and Clockwork’s Architects, those guys were fantastic,” Boyer said. “We have not had any major hiccups. I am really grateful to the city of Ottawa. They have been terrific to work with. Everybody has come together to make that a successful venue. We could not do it without them. It was meant to be.”
The Historic Post Office, a limestone landmark, was originally constructed in 1913 by Oscar Wenderoth, supervising architect, and William G. McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury. Eventually it became the Ottawa’s Federal Post Office before remaining vacant for a couple of decades.
Renovation began November 2017 and in June 2018, The Historic Post Office reopened as a weddings and event venue. The renovated space features a 4,000 square foot ballroom, a ceremony space, a speakeasy lounge, and bride and groom suites. The venue utilizes historical distinct features, such as the original marble floors, while bringing modern elegance to the building with its geometric chandeliers and unique warm hardwood floors.
“There are a lot of uses for that space and people are finding ways to get in there,” Boyer said. “We have been thrilled with the building. It is a remarkable building. It rarely gets colder than 65 degrees or rarely gets warmer than 77.”
Paiva said the venue has brought joy to Ottawa and the region. Boyer said 60 percent of the weddings being booked are from people in the Kansas City area.
“We are beyond thrilled to see this remarkable building come back to life and be celebrated by the local community now and for decades to come,” Paiva said. “We’re truly grateful for our creative, dedicated team who helped to make everything possible.”
Boyer said a final piece of the puzzle was the workmanship of the grounds by Jane Creighton.
“She does all the flowers in front of the Historic Post Office,” Boyer said. “It is beautiful. It is such a nice thing that she does. It is such a warming feature of that building. It looks fantastic in pictures.”