The Building at 815 Main

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In the early 1880s, Newton was growing.  The ‘rougher’ cowboys and the businesses associated with them had moved south to Wichita with the cattle trade.  Town leaders focused on building a community with stable businesses.  Several businesses were soon established along Main, just north of the railroad tracks between 5th and Broadway including banks, hotels and general stores.  The Ragsdale Opera House at the corner of Broadway and Main was completed in 1885.  North of the Opera House there was still plenty of room for businesses.  The First Methodist Church was located at the corner of 7th and Main. The new Harvey County Jail had just been completed between on the east side of Main between 7th & 8th, otherwise few businesses had moved that far north.  There were opportunities for growth in Newton, Kansas.

In 1883, 22 year old William Bergh, a native of

“Luxemberg, Germany,” arrived in Newton Kansas.  He must have been skilled at working with metal because within four years he established the Newton Cornice and Tin Works at 815 Main, next door to the Bretch Building which was built in 1888.

Bergh married Jeanette Dreyfuss on 23 November 1887 and they had two children.

Bretch Building (811 Main) and Newton Cornice & Tin Works (815 Main) in 1910

Bretch Building (811 Main) and Newton Cornice & Tin Works (815 Main) in 1910

Bergh operated his business until 1918, when he retired.  His obituary stated that “he was the owner of the largest cornice and metal works business ever constructed in Newton.” Bergh died in 1933 at the age of 71.

Over the years, the building at 815 Main has been home to a number of businesses. Often the second floor served as apartments.

In 1971, it became the location of Cuellar Sewing Machine Co. Rosalio ‘Russ’ Cuellar grew up in Newton.  After graduating from Newton High, Cuellar worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, but soon he was looking for another opportunity.  He started working for the Singer Sewing Machine Co as a salesman and technician.  By 1967, he was able to open his own store in Newton. Four years later, he became the “first Hispanic business owner on Main Street in Newton” when he moved his business to the building at 815 Main.

In addition to his business, Cuellar served as a court interpreter and was active in various community organization and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.  He married Judy Macias in 1951 and they had six children. Cuellar died in 2010 at the age of 79.

In 2003, the building at 815 Main was included in “Main Street Historic District No 2” on both the National Register and Kansas Register of Historic Places.  At that time the building was described as an

“elegantly designed building . . . one of the eye-catching gems of Main Street.  It has a three-sided bay window, topped by a cast iron railing; above a metal cornice with urn finials at each end, and a Mansard roof.”

Billie Jo Wilson, Historic Preservation Planner, City of Newton, provided additional architectural information from the nomination forms for the National Historic Register.

The architectural style and details were described as follows:

“This two-story, three-bay masonry building dates between 1886 and 1896.  It is one of the more high style Italianate buildings remaining on Main Street.  The ground floor has received some alterations, but it retains the door to the upper floor.  A substantial cornice separates the first floor from the second.  On the second floor, there is an ornamented, projecting three sided bay.  The front window opening is arched, and the two side windows of the bay are long, narrow rectangles.  The top of the bay is surrounded by a bracketed cornice, above which is a cast iron railing.  The windows on either side of the bay are also in arched openings, but unfortunately, all of the arched windows have been removed and replaced with flat top windows.  Above these arched windows are particularly ornate cornices. The second floor is capped by a large decorative bracketed metal cornice, featuring urn finials on each end.  Above this is a diamond patterned shingle roof, which looks like the bottom section of a double-pitched mansard roof.  There remains one metal cornice cap at one end above this shingled section.  The 1896 Sanborn Insurance map indicates that this was a three-story building with a framed roof, and shows a dwelling on the second floor and furnished rooms on the third.  The 1915 maps shows a third story, which this building appears to share with the three story building next door at 813 N Main as the Bethel Business College.  The adjacent three story building was demolished some time after 1963 [The building was demolished in 1994].  “The south wall of the current building, which would have been the party wall between the two buildings, is now stuccoed.  It is probable that the rest of the mansard roof was removed at the same time as the demolition of 813 N Main.  The north wall displays its limestone construction and retains two chimneys.”

Today, the building is empty.

Update June 18, 2019

The space has been re-imagined to a area for food trucks to gather.

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  • Sanborn Insurance Company Maps, 1884, 1891, 1896, 1909, 1915.  HCHM Archives.
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902-03, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1973.
  • US Census: 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.
  • Evening Kansan Republican 21 July 1933. William Bergh Obituary.
  • Newton Kansan, 22 April 2010.  Rosalio ‘Russ’ M. Cuellar Obituary.
  • Newton Kansan 30 June 2010 “Cuellar Sewing Shop, Wonder bread outlet close doors for good.”
  • The Historic Preservation Commission of Newton and North Newton, Ks.  At The Crossroads of Kansas: Architecture, History, and Preservation at Newton and North Newton, Ks, 2003.
  • Waltner, Rachel. Brick and Mortar: A History of Newton, Ks Mennonite Library & Archives, N. Newton in Cooperation with the City of Newton, 1984.

Old House Still Serves: Carnegie Library Building Part 2

By Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Join us this Saturday, May 3 from 2-4 p.m. for a building birthday party! Explore the museum exhibits, play games and  eat birthday cake with us as we  celebrate our building’s 110th birthday!      A  free event.

This post is the second of our two part series featuring our building. For Part 1:

“Beautiful and Adequate.”

By 1916 space had become a problem in the library. The Library Board contacted Andrew Carnegie about providing financial support for an addition, but the request was denied. The matter was tabled for several years, but in 1923 the Board began investigating the possibility of an addition.

The architectural firm of Lorenz Schmidt was hired. An addition to the west was constructed. The extension was completed in 1924 and cost $5,000. J.A. Hunter, Library Board President, noted that the addition was “both beautiful and adequate” and more than doubled the available space. The stacks were moved to the new addition and as a result the reading rooms had “an air of unaccustomed roominess which is pleasing and restful.”

HCHM Postcard, Carnegie Library, Newton

“When rain comes, roof leaks.”

As the building aged, problems began to appear, especially with the roof.  In the early 1920s, the librarians began reporting that  “when rain comes, roof leaks.”  The problem came to a head in June 1926 when two Board members were “caught in the library during a heavy rainstorm.” At the following Board meeting the problem was discussed at length.  Local contractors were called in to repair the leaks; however, in what was to become  an endless cycle, the roof continued to leak.  In 1927, “rubberized roofing” was installed, but in her annual report, Board President Hattie L. Plummer noted that Carnegie Hall was closed to the public because “we cannot keep the room in repair, because we have been unable to stop the roof from leaking.”

In 1928, it was local contractor   M.R. Stauffer’s turn to fix the roof.  He submitted his bid with “a ten year guarantee against leakage.”  At the Board meeting following the completion of his work, the librarian noted it was her “unpleasant duty” to report that the new roof continued to leak.  New guttering was installed next and for a number of years this seemed to solve the problem.

By 1950, the Board was dealing  with the almost constant problem of roof leaks.  Over the years various contractors inspected the roof and attempted to provide solutions.  In 1960, M.R. Stauffer was again called upon to inspect the roof and offer a solution.  In his report to the Board  he noted “that the wrong means of roof repair had been used for years.”  He recommended that the metal roof should be painted, rather than covered with tar which led to deterioration. Maintenance of the building would continue to be more and more important as the structure aged.

Children's Library

“My 2nd home when I was a child :).”– Diane Kyle Hendrickson, Facebook post, 15 April 2014

In January 1937, library Board member, John B. Heffelfinger, identified the need for a space for children in the library.  Architect Lorenz Schmidt was asked to give an estimate to remodel the basement to include a Children’s Library, office space, meeting room and lounge.  M.R. Stauffer was employed as contractor.  The Children’s Library was opened in November 1937 with Miss Mary Funk (Mrs. E.E.  Roberts) serving as children’s librarian.

Story Hour in Children's Library

For the next 30+ years children eagerly bounced down the green checkerboard steps to the basement for story time or to check out a stack of books to read at home.

Steps leading to the Children's Library

Steps leading to the Children’s Library

“Many . . .  realized how important the library was . . .”

“The library is one of the oldest buildings in town, but by repainting the walls, repairing the furniture and fixing the windows, it is a pleasant and comfortable place.” -Mrs. Irene Schroeder, 1949.

As the building aged, other problems began to appear. On December 28, 1953, the heating system, which had served the building since 1904, failed and the library had to close for ten days and “many people realized how important the library was to them.”

Despite the care given to the upkeep of the building by the Library Board and Staff, the world of libraries was changing in the 1960s and 70s.  To meet the new expectations and needs of library patrons, a new structure would need to be considered.

In 1962, a serious push was made to construct a new library, but the bond issue was defeated by voters. The time was right in 1972-73, and a new library was constructed  on Oak Street near Military Park. At that time, the Carnegie building was deeded to the Harvey County Historical Society for $1.

The Carnegie Library Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and continues to serve the public as the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives.


  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form # 74000840, 1974.
  • Allbaugh, Alden. “The Newton Public Library 100 Year History, 1886-1986” HCHM Archives.
  • Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1918. “William W. Rose”
  • Diericks, Mary B. ,”The Architecture of Literacy Carnegie Libraries in the U.S.” National Trust for Historic Preservation November 3, 2006.
  • Gardiner, Allen. Carnegie Legacy in Kansas Kansas State Library, 1985.

We Very Much Desire a Building of Our Own

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“We very much desire to have a building of our own, where we can keep up the library as it should be.” -J.W. Patterson, President, Newton Free Library, Letter to Andrew Carnegie, 17 February 1902.

On Saturday, May 3, we will celebrate the 110th birthday of the building that houses the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives.   A free event, all activities will take place in and around the Museum building from 2-4 pm.  Join us for birthday cake, games and fun!


In 1901, the Newton Free Library Board began to think about a library building.  Prior to this the library had been housed on the second floor in various buildings along Main.  This was less than ideal.  To grow as a library and serve the community, a building was needed. At the same time, Newton mayor, G.W. Young became aware that Andrew Carnegie, “American iron and steel manufacturer and philanthropist,”  was providing money to communities to build libraries.  Library board member, J.W. Patterson, contacted Carnegie to request funding.

A positive response came from James Bertram, Carnegie’s secretary.

“If the city of Newton pledges itself by resolution of Council to support a Free Public Library at a cost of not less than one thousand dollars a year and provides a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish ten thousand dollars for the erection of a free public library building.” -James Bertram, sec’ty to J.W. Patterson, President, Newton Free Library, March 14, 1902.

After some additional correspondence, Carnegie agreed to increase his financial gift to fifteen thousand dollars for the construction of the new library.

The Library Board then searched for the best location.  For the next year, the Library Board and the City Council debated the proper location of the new building.  Initially, five different locations were considered, but was soon narrowed to three sites.  The Library Board favored a site at 2nd and Main. The City Council advocated for one of two locations; the corner of 6th and Poplar or the corner of 7th and Main.  Despite elections and resolutions, the situation remained “snarled” until late December 1902 when the Library Board resolved to “express to the City Council our desire to cooperate with it in every way possible to ensure the speedy erection of the library on the above named site,” at the corner of 2nd and Main.  The three lot site was donated by Newton businessman E.C. Lewellyn.

In the spring of 1903, plans moved forward.  The library board hired noted Kansas City architect, William W. Rose and accepted the bid of $11,445 submitted by contractors Reikowsky and Bartel of Hutchinson.  Bids were also accepted for the plumbing and gas from Mr. Hollinger and for steam fitting from Mr. Follet.

William Rose, Architect

William Rose, Architect

The original plans called for gas lighting, but at the August meeting, the Board voted to have the building wired for electricity.  On January 12, 1904, architect Rose reported that the building was completed and that final payments could be issued to the contractors.

Like many Carnegie Libraries, the Newton Free Library was classical in style with masonry construction, two stories with a high base and steps that led to the front entrance.  The first floor windows were set high on the facade. 

Construction 1903

Building the Carnegie Library, Newton, Ks, 1903 Corner of 2nd and Main, Newton

Carnegie Library buildings typically featured large, open interior spaces with a reference desk located so that the librarian could see into several spaces. The layout reflected a commitment to providing public access and a move to professional staff.

Floor Plan examples of Carnegie Libraries

The main floor of the Newton Free Library was devoted to reading rooms, a reference desk, and closed stacks.

The second floor was known as “Carnegie Hall” with a stage and “a neat little dressing room in the southeast corner.” The space was perfect for “dramatics” and other public meetings.  

On Monday, March 14, 1904 the Evening Kansan-Republican announced;

The Opening Today of the New Library Marks Another Epoch In Newton’s History”

The paper reported that “a constant stream of men, women and children visited the Carnegie Library” on opening day.  The reading rooms were declared “the most beautiful with its handsomely finished walls , oak wood work and beautiful furniture.”  The reporter concluded by wondering, “how the city or librarian ever managed without it so long . . . It is certainly a charming place to spend and hour . . . and will be a favorite retreat.”

Andrew Carnegie provided funds for libraries from 1883-1919 with most of the funding between 1901-1917.   He contributed over $40 million dollars to communities in the United States with most grants awarded between $15 and 30,000 and 59 libraries were constructed in Kansas with the help of Carnegie.

HCHM Postcard, Carnegie Library, Newton

HCHM Postcard, Carnegie Library Newton

To read about the first librarian at the Newton Free Library click here.

Watch for Part 2 of our series on the Carnegie Library building next week and plan to come celebrate on Saturday, May 3.


  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • Newton Weekly Kansan Republican; 16 January 1905.
  • Evening Kansan Republican;  12 March 1904, 14 March 1904, 15 March 1904.
  • “The Newton Free Library” in Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary 22 August 1922, p. 75.
  • National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form # 74000840, 1974.
  • Allbaugh, Alden.  “The Newton Public Library 100 Year History, 1886-1986” HCHM Archives.
  • Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1918.  “William W. Rose”
  • Diericks, Mary B. ,”The Architecture of Literacy Carnegie Libraries in the U.S.”  National Trust for Historic Preservation November 3, 2006.
  • Gardiner, Allen.  Carnegie Legacy in Kansas Kansas State Library, 1985.