The new owners of the historic Woman’s Club of Topeka building are preparing to offer “bare bones” tours of the space, and ticket sales from the tours will benefit a local nonprofit.
According to a news release Tuesday from owners Shelby Brokaw and Courtney Stemler, tours of the building will be offered the third weekend in February.
Those who decide to embark on a tour can expect to see historic features of the building that have been uncovered during the renovation process, as the new owners transform the former Woman’s Club into a downtown event venue named “The Beacon.” Those touring the space will also hear about the owners’ upcoming plans.
Stemler said in an interview Tuesday with The Topeka Capital-Journal that she and her co-owners are nearing the end of phase one of the renovation process, which includes demolition in some areas and working with the project architect to finalize plans.
The former Woman’s Club of Topeka building was built in the 1920s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so any future renovation plans would have to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.
Stemler and Brokaw co-own the space, at 420 S.W. 9th St., with Chris Stemler and Nic Irick. The group officially took over ownership Nov. 9 and since then, have been pulling up drab carpet, removing office cubicles, and exposing hidden gems, as they work to restore the Woman’s Club building to its former glory.
According to the news release, the owners have uncovered architectural elements during their renovations — including stained glass windows, art deco light fixtures, a stage, balconies and more — that have been hidden for 40 years. Historic photos will also be on display during the tour.
Stemler told The Capital-Journal that she and her business partners have been thrilled to uncover some of the details they had previously heard stories about.
“I think we’ve all been really excited about the stage art and some of the theatre details that were covered up by sheetrock or temporary partitions or the drop ceiling,” she said. “The other things we’ve been really excited about are light fixtures and some details in the ceiling that we couldn’t really see until we got all of the ceiling tiles out.”
Previous reporting by The Capital-Journal indicated the first floor of the building once held a theater, but the event space has been covered by a raised floor for years, giving way to offices that were most recently used by the Kansas Insurance Department.
A revived theatre that may once again play host to live productions is expected to be one feature of The Beacon event venue.
The owners expect to officially open The Beacon early next year. In the meantime, the upcoming bare bones tours will give Shawnee County residents a glimpse of the progress.
Tours are $10 per person and are expected to take place Feb. 19-21. Tickets may be purchased online at BeaconTopeka.com/barebones. They must be purchased at least a day in advance of the date a person would like to take a tour, and ticket buyers must choose a specific tour time.
According to the release, tours will be conducted in groups of 10, and there will be three tours held each hour on that Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Face masks are required to participate in the tours. The release also indicates tours aren’t recommended for children under 10 due to the ongoing renovations.
All ticket proceeds are expected to benefit CASA of Shawnee County, which advocates for children and youths involved in the court system.
Stemler said she and her co-owners chose to support CASA of Shawnee County because the organization had to cancel its annual Homes for the Holidays fundraiser this past year because of COVID-19.
Though Stemler doesn’t expect to raise as much as CASA would have during its annual event, she hopes the ticket sales will make up some of the difference.
“And all of us have an interest in the greater good of the community,” she said, “so helping out nonprofits like CASA and Doorstep and those types of people who are doing good in the community is a way that we can kind of give back with what we’re doing.”