For more than 110 years, the original Basehor library has stood in the same location, on private property just off 155th Street and Leavenworth Road. On Saturday, that changed when the library was carefully moved to its new home down the street in Basehor City Park.
Originally constructed in 1903 by Reuben Basehor, one of the city’s founding fathers, the library reflected his passion for education. Basehor is said to have helped construct the library by hand, along with other community members. It was placed at that site just a few steps from the nearby school at that time. When Basehor died in 1910, he left a $1,000 gift to keep the library stocked with books.
Gradually, the library was no longer used and it was left untouched until the late 1980s. At that time, members of the Basehor Historical Museum Society opened the library doors to see if anything was still inside. They found 26 books tucked safely within the library’s thick cement walls. Those walls had protected the books from sunlight and the heat and cold of the Kansas climate for all of those years.
New homeowners Kelsie and Anthony Vallacqua bought their home knowing that the original Basehor library was on their property. They recognized the significance of the history attached to it and wanted to ensure that it would have an appropriate new home for all of the citizens of Basehor to enjoy.
“We have been dying to put more landscaping and a nice fence for our dog,” said Kelsie Vallacqua. “We’ve been patiently waiting and working with the local historical society to make sure things are handled right. Today is the day and it is being moved just down the road.”
Moving the library is a process that began in 2012. More than $10,000 had to be raised by the community. Large donors who helped preserve and move the library include the Basehor Community Library Trustees, 1st State Bank and Trust of Basehor, ICS Construction of Raytown (Tom Brown) as well as a grassroots fundraising campaign.
That fundraising campaign, Save Our Reuben Basehor Library Shoe Drive, collected more than 8,000 pairs of used shoes. Those shoes were sold by the pound to a company that provides shoes to people in developing countries. More than $3,000 was raised through this effort alone.
Preparation for the moving process started in mid-May when digging around the library’s foundation began. Over the years, the building had settled about two feet into the ground. The concrete building had to be slowly raised over the course of a couple of weeks.
“It’s important to preserve the historical perspective of this local landmark,” said Basehor resident Jason Weiser, who was on hand to watch the process.
Once the 24-ton library was loaded and secured, the truck slowly made its way down Leavenworth Road to Basehor City Park. Leavenworth Road was lined with Basehor residents who wanted to watch history being made.
Once at the park, the library was placed in its new location, just inside the entrance on the east side.
“It’s great to see the old library in a new place for the community to enjoy,” said Basehor Historical Museum Society member Ken Massengill. “We are planning to put a fence around it and add a sign to explain the history.”
The entire library is made of concrete because Reuben was afraid that it might catch fire and burn down, losing the books. There had been previous fires in downtown Basehor around the turn of the century as well as the sacking of nearby Lawrence in 1863 by William Quantrill and his raiders, which were fresh in his mind.
Local resident Tammy Potts was an integral part of the library move and was on hand Saturday morning.
“This may be the biggest fete in our history,” she said. “People don’t realize how much history was in a side yard of a home at 155th and Leavenworth Road.”
Once all of the enhancements are complete, a grand opening is scheduled for later this fall and will reflect the “remembering history for the future” theme.
Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org