FAIRWAY, Kan. (WDAF) – Buildings on an historic site in Johnson County are in poor condition, and it will cost millions to make needed repairs, according to a new report.

The Shawnee Tribe hired an historical architecture firm to study the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway.

The Tribe says the report found the site in an “overall distressed condition with many problems that threaten the future” of the buildings, and there is not a plan to restore the Mission that originally opened as a school in 1839.

The Kansas Historical Society and the City of Fairway manage the site and say that is not true.

While the Kansas Historical Society was not asked to participate in the report commissioned by the Shawnee Tribe, it says it did provide copies of site records to the architecture firm.

The historical society says some of the issues raised in the report are not accurate, while others will be addressed by it’s five-year capital improvement plan for the mission.

The Tribe has designated the site as Mission as a Sacred Site which means the place is of significant cultural import that the Tribe seeks to protect from any acts of desecration.  

Shawnee Tribe Statement

Despite what the Kansas Historical Society says, Shawnee Tribe leaders said they’ve discussed the study, and its findings, and claims there is not a plan to repair the problems at the mission.

According to the Shawnee Tribe, the study found the following issues:

  • Buildings in Significant Disrepair
    • Roofs on all three buildings show signs of significant deterioration
      • East Building needs new roof “before next major rain or snow season”
    • Buildings need significant repair and maintenance work
    • Repointing of brickwork on all buildings needed to keep them watertight
    • West Building needs extensive repairs partially due to a water leak in 2013

According to the Kansas Historical Society, replacing the wood shingle roof on all three buildings is a top priority. It is also included in the sites five-year capital improvement plan.

The current roofs were installed in 2002 and are nearing the end of the 25-year life span. The roofs are not currently leaking and are regularly monitored, according to the historical society.

  • Historically Significant Elements Already Lost
    • 2013 water leak in West Building destroyed all interior finishes
    • 2021 HVAC leak destroyed interior finishes in the North Building

The West Building is currently mothballed until its future use is determined, according to the Kansas Historical Society.

The Historical Society said it replaced the entire HVAC system in the East Building this past summer. 

  • Restoration Efforts Hampered
    • Assessment of prior work to buildings hampered by limited availability of records
    • Unable to determine which features are original due to poor record keeping
    • Past stabilization/waterproofing cited as “below grade” in report
  •  Ongoing Conditions
    • East and North Buildings show signs of ongoing water leak issues
    • West Building may or may not have water leak issues

The historical society says it invites Fairway leaders, the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation, and tribes to be involved in the plan for the building’s future.

  • Estimated Costs to Repair and Restore
    • Shawnee Tribe wants site restored and repaired, including refurbishing all windows
    • Likely to cost more than the $13 million estimate provided in December 2021

The Kansas Historical Society has been the steward of this important site since 1927 and has preserved the property at the highest preservation standards as they have evolved over time and will continue to do so in the future.

Kansas Historical Society Statement

Fairway officials responded to previous coverage about the site with their own statement.

If the Shawnee tribe were to acquire the site, there would remain a culturally and historically significant site, rather, the tribe could attempt to use the site for economic development. Fairway officials added the city and authority over the use of the land or buildings on it and that the Shawnee Tribe could even close that land to the public.

City of Fairway

The Shawnee Tribe says it asked Kansas lawmakers to allow it to take over management of the historic site. It expects to learn more about the request after lawmakers convene in January.