Don Harness

Advocacy Award for Excellence
Don Harness, Garden City (Finney County)

In 1994, preservation efforts in southwest Kansas were nearly non-existent. The 1887 Windsor Hotel, a Garden City landmark, sat deteriorating with a grim future. Enter Don Harness, who began organizing preservation efforts for the hotel and helped the founding of the Finney County Preservation Alliance in 1997. Wheelchair bound due to multiple sclerosis and unable to enter many of the historic buildings he loved, Don did not let that stop him from being a force for preservation in Garden City. From organizing the initial cleanups of the Windsor Hotel that removed 17,000 pounds of waste and debris from the building, to securing the purchase of the building by the Finney County Preservation Alliance, to securing investors for the 1910 Sabine Hall that is now renovated into apartment housing, Don spent the last 20 years of his life dedicated to saving the history of his city. When the Finney County Preservation Alliance was founded, the Windsor Hotel was the only property listed on the National Register in Garden City. Now, seven additional properties have been listed, including the creation of the Bungalow Historic District. Don’s tireless efforts at fundraising and grant writing led to the $1 million stabilization of the Windsor, assuring that it will stand for generations to come. When he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in November of 2014, he launched a “cancer wish” campaign to raise the funds needed for the restoration of the Windsor’s elaborate cupola. The campaign, launched in May of 2015, raised $40,000 in four months, meeting the goal and funding the work. Don passed away on November 15, 2015, leaving behind a legacy of preservation successes where before stood only buildings in need of a friend. He will always be remembered as the face of historic preservation in Garden City and Finney County.