Salina's historic Lee Lofts building at 254 N Santa Fe in Downtown is undergoing a second phase of renovation. When complete, it will house a total of 50 apartments on the 2nd-5th floors, ranging from one to three bedrooms, and will include the original beams and ceiling rafters, which today have evidence of indigo dye from the days of producing jeans in the building. The courtyard between buildings two and three will also be opened, with a playground and dog park built incorporated into the space.
The elevator will remain in place and will be retrofitted with a new elevator. When completed, the finished building will be similar to the first building completed under Phase I just a few years ago, with strategically sloped floors towards the outside of the building to make warehouse work easier being leveled for apartment living, and the joists and beams exposed.
The Lee Lofts building has a rich history dating back to 1889 when Henry D. Lee opened his first business in Salina, the H.D. Lee Mercantile, a wholesale grocery store. The original building was a four-story wooden post structure that stretched from Santa Fe to the alley between Santa Fe and 5th Street. In 1903, a major warehouse fire consumed the H.D. Mercantile Co. building, which prompted the community to donate approximately $500,000 to rebuild.
In 1904, H.D. Lee built two twin brick towers in the place of the original Mercantile Building, which were more than double in size. Today, the north tower, known as Lee Lofts Building 1, originally housed the H.D. Lee Mercantile Co., while the south tower, known as Lee Lofts Building 2, originally housed the H.D. Lee Hardware Company.
The two buildings were constructed of brick masonry and timber-frame construction with brick exteriors and simple corbelled brick cornices. To prevent another total fire loss, Lee equipped the buildings with sprinkler systems, fire doors, and fire walls. The interior of the H.D. Hardware Company's office space on the first floor has a historic finish and once housed wholesale hardware, heavy hardware, and paints and oils in the basement.
The Lee Buildings stand firm from a time when economic expansion was creeping north in Salina. Today, they remain for all to see that economic expansion doesn't necessarily mean tearing down our history. On the contrary, history can be incorporated into the present times that we know and live in.