The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Rookery reopens after renovations

  • After several months of renovations, the oldest building in Kansas has reopened on Fort Leavenworth.

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  • After several months of renovations, the oldest building in Kansas has reopened on Fort Leavenworth.
    This week, people will be able to view the residence during an open house.
    Then the building, which comprises the addresses of 12 and 14 Sumner Place, will be ready for occupancy, according to Bryan Market, project director for Michaels Military Housing’s Frontier Heritage Communities.
    Frontier Heritage Communities was created as a result of an agreement Michaels has with the Army to privatize housing at the fort.
    Construction of the two-story Rookery began in 1827, the same year Fort Leavenworth was established. It was occupied by spring 1829, according to Kelvin Crow, assistant command historian at Fort Leavenworth.
    He said a lot of famous people have passed through its doors.
    The Rookery initially was the residence for commanders of the post.
    One of the early commanders, Stephen Watts Kearny, was married to the stepdaughter of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
    Clark also visited the post in 1836.
    “We are reasonably confident he stayed here (in the Rookery),” Crow said.
    The building also was used by the first territorial governor of Kansas, Andrew Reeder.
    “So this is where he runs Kansas for a short period,” Crow said.
    The historian said Douglas MacArthur lived in the Rookery while he was a lieutenant in the Army. MacArthur lived there with his widowed mother.
    Crow said it’s not known how the Rookery got its name but there are three theories. One theory is the name is a reference to a colonel’s eagle rank insignia. A rook is a type of bird.
    Another theory is that lieutenants who lived in the building made a lot of racket, sounding like a nest of young birds.
    Crow said rookery also is an old term for a poorly built or slum dwelling. He said the building went through periods in which it probably needed repairs.
    The recent renovations took about four months.
    “It basically was just tired,” Bill Thomasset, development manager for Michaels Military Housing, said of the building.
    Market said officials involved in the project wanted a good balance of modern amenities with the historical features of the building.
    Renovations included things such as refinishing hardwood floors and restoring hinges and other old hardware on doors and windows.
    Market said workers made sure each window could be opened.
    “Many of the windows were painted shut,” he said.
    Original floor joists, which were made from rough hew lumber, remain in place and can be viewed from the basement. Market said the floor joists are still functional.
    He said the trees that supplied the lumber are believed to have been about 50 years old when they were cut down. This would mean they were growing around the time of the Revolutionary War.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Rookery’s open house will continue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day through Friday.
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