Esbon Land Bank razes first building
January 26, 2023
The Esbon Land Bank was organized in February, 2022. The Esbon Land Bank joined the other Jewell County communities of Burr Oak, Formoso, Jewell and Mankato which had establiehed land banks.
The mission of the land bank is to acquire, manage, maintain and repurpose vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties. They can also have structures razed if they are unstable.
The properties are acquired by purchase or donation.
The Esbon Land Bank is in the process of completing their first project. A long vacant commercialbuilding located at 408 Grand Avenue was purchased. The funds were provided from a seed grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
The bank board of directors settled on the former M & M Variety Store building as their first project. The building had been vacant for many years. It has been used for storage after its days of being a retail outlet ended.
The Ezbon Town company was chartered in 1887. Ezbon was named for Ezbon Kellogg, son of A. B. Kellogg, who was one of the first settlers in the area. The spelling was changed to Esbon when The Esbon Leader newspaper was established in June, 1892.
The wood frame building which was razed had a long history in Esbon. It was not possible to establish when it was constructed but it appears to have been built in the late 1890s.
The earliest reference to the building was in 1895 as the site of a hardware, furniture store and undertaking business. It was owned and operated by the Campbell Brothers.
The business was purchased by William H. Beam in 1907. He completed a course in embalming in Kansas City. He operated the business until his death in 1939.
J. W. Chelander and John J. Young, were experienced undertakers from Randolph, Kansas They purchased the furniture and undertaking business from the Beam family. Young moved to Esbon. Young's wife was a sister of Chelander. Young died in 1960. Chelander came to Esbon and operated the funeral business until November, 1963 when it was closed.
Katie Mendenhall purchased the variety store business and changed the name to M & M Variety.
The business closed and the building was sold at auction to Mary Putman in 1972.
The building fell into disuse. The plate glass windows on the first floor were long gone, replaced by boards as were the second story windows.
Water intrusion and termites contributed to the decay of the building.
The land bank made the decision to purchase the building as it was a fire hazard. It was located near the bulk petroleum tanks of Central Valley Ag. A fire would have the potential of causing extensive damage should the tanks explode.
Destiny Flavin, of the land bank, explained the razing of the building expended their funds. The land bank is now back in fund raising mode. Box lunch socials were a favorite fund-raising source when Esbon was founded. Maybe it's time to bring back the tradition. The goal is to repurpose the land and to beautify the one-time jewel of Jewell County. A worthy goal indeed.