Contained within the walls of the three-story limestone building at 517 Merchant are more than 126 years of stories from this community. Thousands upon thousands have been told: from stories of celebration to stories of tragedies; from birth announcements to obituaries; from fierce community debates to those of our town coming together for the sake of something good.

Each one, a piece of our history and our identity as a small town in middle America.

517 Merchant has always been the home of The Emporia Gazette, purchased by William Allen White in 1895, who by “sheer luck” found himself in the newspaper business.

Well over a century later, the building has remained the home to one of the longest-standing businesses in town, chronicling the daily events of this community day after day, year after year.

As years went on, though, the building changed with the times. With each generation, the paper would adapt, expand or modify the space to help serve the community better. From a print shop in the 1900s, double printing presses and Emporia’s first cable television system in 1960s, new off-set press in the 1970s, to a growing web presence in the 2000s, the business and the building have helped facilitate the best community journalism possible. No matter what was needed the building could always seem to accommodate the daily news.

Growing up at the paper, and as the fourth generation to run the paper, the building has always just been an extension of home for our family. While the staff may have changed over the years, the building was always a constant. The creaky hardwood and Parquet floors, the heavy entryway doors, the photos hanging on the walls of presidents and other dignitaries who visited, and other idiosyncrasies of the old building (that only those who have spent time there would appreciate) and were somehow reminders that this building was more than just a place of business.

Thirty years ago we never would have dreamed a day would come when the building and the business would part ways. But that day has come, and today is that day.

As The Emporia Gazette has become more digital, our space and building needs have changed significantly and for the first time in the building’s history, this big, beautiful space needs something more ... and we, the newspaper, need something a little less.

Not seeing a renovation of the building as something The Emporia Gazette was willing or able to take on, we decided to look for someone else who had the vision and capacity to breathe a new generation of life into one of our town’s most historic spaces.

We knew finding a new owner, and more importantly, the right steward, would not be easy. We wanted someone who had the knowledge and ability to renovate the building right and someone who cared about the history and the community.

Today we are proud to announce that just the right people have purchased The Emporia Gazette building: Rick and Colleen Mitchell.

Anyone who knows the Mitchells knows they are the perfect fit for the special space. Rick and Colleen are longtime Emporians who have worked hard to raise their family here and make our community better and a more beautiful place to live. They own Mitchell-Markowitz Construction and have the right vision and experience to make the project work.

We got to know the Mitchells when we bought their house on Rural Street. We quickly fell in love with their craftsmanship, attention to detail and ability to seamlessly blend the old with the new in a historic Emporia home. We are confident they will be able to do the same with 517 Merchant.

Their vision and plans for the space are still in the works, but we have no doubt it will be just what the building will need for the next 100 years or more.

As for the newspaper itself, we won’t skip a beat. We will continue to report on and deliver the day’s news just like we have for the last 126 years. We will just be housed in the office to the north at 109 W. 6th Ave. Watch for details on an official moving date in the next few months.

It has been a privilege to call 517 Merchant our home for over a century and we thank our subscribers, readers and advertisers for their ongoing support.

Now on to today’s news!

(4) comments

Rod D

[sad] [sad] Knew it was a matter of time before, we lost the building. Once they moved the printing to Lawrence it was a forgone conclusion. Not taking anything away from the new owners Congratulations Rick and Collen.

jamesbordonaro

I offer my best wishes to the Walkers and look forward to seeing the Mitchells' plans for this historic building come to life.

grammy

Congratulations Rick and Collen.

Clyde and Joyce

Mark W.

I started as a news carrier for the Emporia Gazette as a 10-year old and worked at the Gazette in the mail room through college, a total of about 12 years. I enjoyed working for Paul D. Walker and my friendship with Katherine White. People have made movies just using their Apple cell phones and I am sure that if you can make a movie on a call phone you can probably publish a newspaper on one as well! Best wishes to the Emporia Gazette in this new digital age that WA White would be amazed to see!!!

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