'Historic Harvey Building' coming down

Chad Frey
The Kansan
The Historic Fred Harvey Building, located at First Street and Sand Creek, is being torn down. First constructed in about 1905, the building was used for processing milk, poultry and carbonated beverages when constructed.

A piece of railroad history is coming down this week, as demolition has begun on what is commonly referred to as "The Historic Fred Harvey Building" on west First Street. 

"The owner took a demolition permit on Monday and they have begun the process of razing the structure," said Rebecca Likiardopoulos. Office of Revitalization and Preservation, "This building, while prominent in Newton’s history and heritage, is not a historic property listed on local, state or federal registers nor is it located within a historic district."

According to the Harvey County Historical Society, at one time the Historic Fred Harvey Building was "an important cog in the Fred Harvey System providing fresh food for passengers and diners throughout the western part of the country." 

Fred Harvevy moved facilities from Kansas City, Missouri, to Newton in 1905 — establishing the "Fred Harvey Farm."

It was part of a farm system he created, which according to the book "Appetite for America" by Stephen Fried, included dairy and poultry facilities in Newton; Temple, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas.

The Harvey Building also contained facilities for for bottled carbonated beverages. 

According to the county historical society, the Fred Harvey Farm in Harvey County covered 500 acres and employed 150 people. In 1921, 60,000 gallons of milk, 20,000 gallons for cream, half a million pounds of poultry, a half a million dozens of eggs and 45,000 cases of soda were shipped.

The Fred Harvey Farm ceased to operate in 1960.

In the last three decades a couple of businesses have tried to make a go of it in the building — including a computer parts storage and repair shop and a night club called "Harveys" in the 1990s. 

The building has sat predominately empty during that time. 

The Fred Harvey Building at 607 W. First is being torn down by its owners.

"Because it is not a listed property and/or in a district, the City’s Historic Preservation Commission, nor the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) nor the National Parks Service has purview or jurisdiction to review proposed changes to the building or property," Likiardopoulos said. "As it is located in an industrially-zoned property; it is privately owned, it is not situated for redevelopment as an attraction or destination — although there has been much discussion of such an option over the years."

Building owners received a permit to raze the building May 3. 

The building sits due west of what was once "The Ranchito," where hispanic families would settle when they arrived in Newton. In about 1911, the Santa Fe Railroad provided housing to laborers and their families at the site.  Those buildings, including the first Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, were torn down in 1959 and 1960. 

The Fred Harvey Farm processing facilities were located on West First Street by Sand Creek — due west of the Ranchito.

There is construction slated to start in the area, as the city of Newton is planning to replace a water tower in that area that was constructed in 1939. The inside of the tank was last painted in 1997. In 2012, a structural inspection revealed that roof-framing members are “severely deteriorated” and there was water seepage from the base of the tank.

With the location of feeder lines from the Mission Water Station to the city of Newton, it was determined the best place for the new tank would be southwest of the current tank — on property owned by BNSF.