J. Eric Engstrom, 75, an attorney at Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch until his retirement in 2017, has submitted his resignation from the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review to Gov. Laura Kelly, due to health issues, after 40 years of service.
The Historic Sites Board of Review is a statutorily-created body that meets quarterly to review and recommend nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas places. Engstrom was first appointed on the recommendation of Lt. Gov. Shelby Smith to Governor Robert Bennett in 1977. He has served as Governor’s Designee, and often Board Chair, continually to present under nine governors, with the exception of the Finney administration. He received the Kansas Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in 1994.
During Engstrom’s tenure, the number of Kansas properties on the National Register of Historic Places increased from 231 in 1977 to 1,467 currently, while the Kansas Register has grown from its inception in 1977 to 185 currently.
The Heritage Trust Fund was created in 1990, and from 1991 to 2018 $25,360,810 has been awarded for the restoration of historic properties listed on the State and National Registers under the Board’s supervision. The Board has also awarded $3,855,990 from the Historic Preservation Fund, primarily for survey and National Register nominations, from 1993 to 2018.
As Board Chair, Engstrom conducted many open meetings including two controversial public hearings with the State Highway Patrol present to ensure order. These involved the status of the Quindaro Free Black town site near Kansas City and the closing of the Indian Burial Pit near Salina.
“Eric has been such an important part of the Historic Sites Board of Review, we will greatly miss his valued council, “ said Jennie Chinn, Executive Director of the Kansas Historical Society and State Historic Preservation Officer. “We cannot thank him enough for his years of dedication to preservation in the state.”
Over the years Engstrom traveled to Topeka over 160 times for the quarterly board meetings and committee work.
Engstrom said he had been honored to serve the state in this capacity.
In addition to his work on the Historic Sites Board of Review, Engstrom served on the Kansas Historical Foundation Board of Directors beginning in 1982. He served as president of the organization from 1988 to 1989 and served for many years on the executive committee as chair.
Engstrom also was appointed by governors to the Eisenhower Commission, the Capitol Area Plaza Authority, the Kansas Statehood Quarter Commission, and the Wichita State University Board of Trustees.