Lee’s Summit has a few recognizable icons.
The water towers off 470 and near Fire Station No. 7. The downtown Lee’s Summit train depot. Multiple familiar sights around Longview.
One of the most iconic, though, is the Hartley Heart near Third and Douglas streets.
The heart is the most identifiable portion of the plaza that was dedicated in 2009 in the name of Dale Hartley, who for more than half a century owned Hartley’s Furniture. Dale was a founding board member for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street and someone who truly had a heart for what the district meant.
Hartley’s closed in the summer of 2006 as redevelopment began to consume that busiest of corners in downtown Lee’s Summit.
Still, Dale Hartley stayed active and involved, even travelling at the behest of Cameron’s Home Furnishings owner Steve Tominia to Oklahoma City in 2010 to be a part of one of the great honors a downtown can achieve, that of the Great American Main Street Award.
Dale passed away in 2015, but long before that, DLSMS had named an annual honor after him — the Dale Hartley Service Award — which has been given to such downtown champions as Amy Robertson and her father, Steve Tominia, as well as other past-presidents Ryan Smarr and Gary Fruits, volunteer extraordinaire Walter Heid, historian Kathy Smith and downtown champion Brad Culbertson.
In true downtown collaboration, DLSMS and local metal gurus Dave Eames and Ben Wine worked side-by-side to restore the decades-old heart and bring it back to life, just in time for the Main Street Big Bash to descend upon the business district. Tominia, for one, is thankful to see it back up and symbolizing the man he called a mentor in the downtown that truly has his heart.
“The fact that they dedicated a heart to that area is very symbolic to him,” he said. “He had a heart for downtown.
“We’ve gotten a lot of recognition and a lot of awards, but what people shouldn’t forget are those that stuck it out through thick and thin.”
DLSMS Executive Director Donnie Rodgers said restoring the heart for the upcoming bash was a priority.
“The Hartley Heart has become a symbol for our downtown. It represents to us the dedication and service of Dale Hartley and so many others that came before us to revitalize downtown, the heart of our community,” he said. “None of our success today would have been possible without those dedicated individuals that laid the foundation for Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street.”
Eames and Wine — both connoisseurs of old signage and pros at metal work — took on the project.
“You couldn’t pick a better person than Dave Eames to have restore the heart,” Tominia said.
Eames, who estimates the heart at least 60 years old, teamed with Wine to first look at the heart about two years ago when electrical issues cropped up.
“The Big Bash came up and that spurred a deadline for us to completely restore it,” Eames said.
They cut the heart off the existing post, delicately removed neon and Wine worked to repair the sheet metal, the inside components, got the broken neon to a neon shop to be replaced and the duo operated in tandem on the metal work, sanding, priming and painting.
“The sheet metal had been rusted out, so we had to patch and repair a lot of it,” Wine said. “If we have to repair it in the future, now, we can just take it right off the pole instead of cut it off.”
A thick layer of red paint was applied to ensure the heart will stay bright for years to come.
“The heart is such a wonderful symbol for downtown, just the heart alone. The icon,” Eames said. “We both loved working on that project, beyond our own personal love for old signs, it was just a fun project. It means a lot to a lot of people. And those are the projects that are meaningful to be a part of.”
It’s the kind of project that’s personal to Fossil Forge Design, Eames’ company, also located in the heart of downtown.
“That whole project is kind of the essence of what we like to do,” he said. “Right in our backyard, these are the projects we always want to help with.
“As an icon of the community, it’s a great place to take photos, a place to be seen with your friends.”
And a spot that many can show their heart, while remembering the hearts of the prior leaders that helped shape our downtown.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.