Rath & Bainbridge Drug Then and Now

501 First Avenue (now 200 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard)

There are a million resources for learning about the Rath family in Dodge City so I won’t attempt to reinvent the wheel here. A reader asked me to take a look at the Rath & Bainbridge Drug store and I obviously knew a little (having been raised in Dodge) but I had never really pieced the story together because my focus has always been on everything Beeson.

For example, I had never made the connection with the whole Rath and Bainbridge thing. I know, right?! So there was some weirdness with Charles Rath divorcing his wife, Carrie. She later married a Bainbridge so Rath and Bainbridge was initially a partnership between Robert M Rath (Charles and Carrie’s son) and Carrie.

The building in question is at First Avenue and (modern) Front Street but I’m going all the way back to the beginning because I can’t help myself. Rath and Bainbridge was not a new venture. Dr. Thomas L. McCarty opened the City Drug Store circa 1877.

Ford County Globe, January 1, 1878

This next announcement surprised me a bit. I didn’t realize Dr. McCarty had moved his store but it turns out his previous location was one door east of F. C. Zimmermann’s hardware store on Front Street.

Ford County Globe, March 11, 1879

This is a photo my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Beeson, had of the City Drug Store on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Front Street but I’m not sure about the date. Possibly around 1887? The elder Dr. McCarty operated the drug store while also practicing medicine in a separate part of the building for several years. If you compare the 1884 and 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, you can see how the business grew over the years.

Photographer unknown

Walter F Pine is pictured above, standing in the middle background. Pine worked at City Drug Store for quite a while and appeared to acquire at least part of the business around 1895, possibly with some help from a man named Amos. Then somehow Amos & Gwinner owned the store. This all took place in a relatively short period of time.

The Globe-Republican, July 25, 1901

Patent medicines were super sketchy. The terrifying concoction advertised below contained chloroform, morphine, and pine tar.

The Globe-Republican, November 7, 1901

I found this nugget quite by accident; It turns out Robert M Rath dabbled in the arts.

The Globe-Republican, March 6, 1902

Apparently, the “vice of nagging” could be cured by a laxative containing 18% alcohol.

The Globe-Republican, March 13, 1902
Dodge City Democrat, September 26, 1902
Dodge City Democrat, January 2, 1903
The Globe-Republican, September 24, 1903
The Globe-Republican, December 17, 1903
The Globe-Republican, March 17, 1904
The Globe-Republican, April 14, 1904

This one’s a real doozy.

The Globe-Republican, September 1, 1904
The Globe-Republican, January 5, 1905
The Journal-Democrat, July 21, 1905
The Journal-Democrat, August 31, 1906

Rath & Bainbridge also sold Victrolas. Click here for a list of dealers in Kansas. Here is a link to a photo of their sign advertising prices.

The Journal-Democrat, February 22, 1907
The Globe-Republican, May 2, 1907
The Globe-Republican, May 9, 1907
The Journal-Democrat, June 7, 1907

Rath & Bainbridge Drug moved to their new location at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Chestnut Street (now the Front Street parking lot) in early 1908.

The Journal-Democrat, December 20, 1907

A new plate glass window was installed facing Chestnut Street and they anticipated the new space would be ready for occupancy by April 1.

The Globe-Republican, February 13, 1908

The 1905 Sanborn Map shows the grocery store next to open lots on First Avenue. This map was created before the new Masonic Temple had been built. You may also note this map was created before Dodge City standardized street addresses. Later maps will show different addresses for this building. There has been a building on this site with the same orientation since at least 1884, when it held stick-built lodge rooms. By 1887, the IOOF had replaced the wood structure with a brick building. The basic footprint remained the same but by 1899, the building had been split with a storage room being assigned the 710 1/2 street address.

The Journal-Democrat, March 6, 1908

Wait a minute…liquor license applications went to the…Probate Court??? Tell me that’s an error.

The Journal-Democrat, April 10, 1908
The Globe-Republican, August 13, 1908
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, April 16, 1909
1909 Post Card, Photographer Unknown
The Globe-Republican, May 20, 1909

I literally cannot even with this one. When my grandma explained how Chalk Beeson Theater manager Wolf Goldstein was run out of town for being a Jew, my child brain couldn’t process the information. Like, what did Judaism have to do with successfully managing a theater? Who ran him out of town? Oh right…the f-ing Klan. Got it. This ad makes me angry.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, February 25, 1910
1910 Post Card, Photographer Unknown

The 1911 Sanborn Map is quite interesting. The 1910 post card above shows the Rath & Bainbridge building on the left and the Masonic Temple on the right but there’s a space in the middle which would later be occupied by the Bainbridge building. By the time the 1911 map was printed, the Bainbridge building had been constructed and occupied. You’ll also notice the addresses on First Avenue show both the old and new numbering systems.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, March 15, 1912

“He is about 28 years old, and bright, except for his craving for drugs.”

The Dodge City Daily Globe, April 8, 1913

“The treatment consists of plenty of sleep and food and no drugs.” This is beyond parody. Also, if you let me out I’m pretty sure I won’t need drugs anymore. Scout’s honor!

The Dodge City Globe, April 24, 1913
The Dodge City Globe, February 26, 1914
The Dodge City Globe, April 30, 1914

Roy Bainbridge was Robert Rath’s half-brother.

The Dodge City Globe, February 25, 1915

Imagine having to stop by the drug store every day for box scores.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, April 20, 1915
The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 7, 1915

The 1918 Sanborn Map shows the neighborhood filled in with very few wood frame structures.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920
The Dodge City Journal, February 3, 1921

1921 Post Card, Photographer Unknown – 2022 Photograph by Author

The Dodge City Journal, October 12, 1922

Carrie Bainbridge had been in poor health for several years and died in November of 1923.

The Dodge City Journal, November 29, 1923

Very soon after Carrie’s death, Rath & Bainbridge Drug announced new owners had taken over the Rexall franchise.

The Dodge City Journal, January 3, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, January 10, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, May 8, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, May 8, 1924

And there you have it.

Etrick’s Ford County Directory, 1924

The 1926 Sanborn Map doesn’t reveal many changes to the neighborhood.

The Dodge City Journal, July 11, 1929

Mrs. T. J Phillips died in June of 1932 after surgery at St. Anthony’s Hospital and the pharmacy changed hands soon after.

The Catholic Advance, February 3, 1934
Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kans.) Directory, 1953
Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kansas) Directory, 1962

A & A Drug Store still occupied the space in 1967 but the building was vacant by 1970. John Wilson retired at some point and died at age 81 in January of 1982. It was later home to businesses such as the Corner Café and State Farm Insurance.

I haven’t been in the Rath & Bainbridge building formerly at 501 First Avenue or the adjoining Bainbridge building at 503 First Avenue in nearly 20 years. They have been remodeled into office spaces and I’ve never seen the residential areas upstairs. At the time, I had no idea where I was standing so I didn’t pay any attention at all to the particulars. I hadn’t gotten any good photos during my previous visits, so I took the opportunity while I was home for the concert at Chalk’s grave:

I have a reputation for speaking my mind and I certainly won’t hold back now. The reason I hadn’t taken any good pics of this building or the one next door is because they’re both hideous and good photos are literally impossible. If you look closely at the third photo in the slideshow, you can see a bit of exposed red brick. So apparently some galaxy-brain genius decided to put a lame brick veneer on this bad boy. Look at how deep the window casings appear as a result. Every ornate element has been obliterated. Whoever glazed the windows deserves a beating. Did they not own a level? It’s just so painful to look at! And then the vomit-colored Bainbridge Building next door! The red brick where the National Register plaque is located is from the old Masonic Temple and I…like…does no one know how to remove sloppy paint whoopsies?!? How embarrassing! I hate seeing buildings allowed to rot.

Anyway, I had fun looking through all of the old Rath & Bainbridge ads. If there’s a building or location you would like me to research, send me a message or leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. With any luck, our Arizona tiny home will be on-site soon and I’ll be able to annoy you with our DIY updates.

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Kansas Power Co. Plant Then and Now

709 W Locust [Santa Fe] (Trail) Street

There is nothing I can tell you about this building that can’t be found in the Kansas Register of Historic Places documents, which are the most detailed I’ve ever seen for historic buildings. The nomination form gives an exhaustive history of the plant as well as the evolution of the power companies in Dodge City. The inventory includes interior photos as well as some historical shots. It’s definitely worth your time to scan through all of the materials.

This building was right next door to the Water Department building that was recently destroyed by a fire. I’ve always thought it had a neat style but I didn’t know anything about it. Since the research has already been done for me, I focused mostly on newspaper articles and advertisements. I’ve also included links to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps that are available online so you can zoom in and take a look at the changes to the plant buildings and the surrounding area over time.

Ordinance No. 100 granted franchise and the exclusive rights to light the new city to Dodge City Incandescent Electric Light Co.

The Dodge City Democrat, May 15, 1886
The Dodge City Times, June 3, 1886
The Dodge City Democrat, June 5, 1886

This next piece is amazing. Think about how quickly this all came together. The Wickedest Town in the West was pretty damned modern! Also, in case you didn’t know, the word “dynamo” wasn’t being used as a descriptor; it was a generator.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 24, 1886

The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the facility on Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street between First and Second Avenues.

The 1905 Sanborn Map shows the Midland Water, Light, and Ice Co. building on what was then called Locust Street.

The town was growing and it quickly became clear that expansion would be necessary.

The Globe-Republican, September 19, 1907

It seems like a lot was going on in that one plant but the company was also selling all sorts of electric contraptions that facilitated the sale of more electricity.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, May 7, 1909
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, August 27, 1909
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, October 8, 1909

There were disagreements between the Company and the City (and the citizens, apparently) about pricing, costs of infrastructure improvements, and the service expectations. A split was inevitable, leaving the City to handle the Waterworks.

The Wichita Eagle, January 21, 1910

The timing made me laugh. Of *course* no expense would be spared once the Waterworks could be spun off to the City. I’m not even mad at him. That was good maneuvering!

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, August 5, 1910

The 1911 Sanborn Map shows the new plant next door to the Waterworks facility on Santa Fe Trail Street.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 23, 1912

Dodge City residents were hooked and more expansion was required.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 13, 1913

The Dodge City Daily Globe, August 4, 1913

The 1918 Sanborn Map shows the expanded facility.

Some of the advertising was gag-worthy but whatever. Also notable was the latest name change.

The Dodge City Journal, October 7, 1920
The Dodge City Journal, September 22, 1921
The Dodge City Journal, October 5, 1922

I would have preferred the electric train, thank you very little.

The Dodge City Journal, September 27, 1923
The Dodge City Journal, January 24, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, April 3, 1924

Things started getting very corporate in 1925 and that trend continued for pretty much the rest of the 20th Century.

The Hutchinson News, April 9, 1925
The Southwest News, January 21, 1926

The 1926 Sanborn Map shows further expansion of the plant.

The folks at the City didn’t like the deal they were getting on electricity from their new corporate overlords.

That certainly didn’t take long.

The Hutchinson News, May 30, 1927
The Ford Progress, March 29, 1929
The Dodge City Journal, December 11, 1930

1932 was when the Trail Street plant became a backup.

The Ford Progress, April 17, 1931

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, May 1947

The Trail plant continued to be a backup until 1996. I had forgotten about Centel and all of the wild mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s and ’90s. You’re so lucky to have Victory Electric now. I just remember shitty service and rates that fluctuated like crazy during those regulatory fights.

Here are some photos I took before I knew anything about the building’s history:

Next time, I’ll take a look at the Rath & Bainbridge Drug Store. This one was a reader request so if there’s a building or landmark you would like to know more about, feel free to send me a message and I’ll see what I can do!

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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John Deere Plow Co. Then and Now

I know I said I wasn’t doing this anymore but it’s just this once. I can stop whenever I want.

John Deere equipment has been present in Dodge City from the very beginning and of course, it could be purchased at F. C. Zimmermann’s store.

The Dodge City Times June 7, 1879

After Frederick Zimmermann’s death in 1888, his widow formed the Zimmermann Hardware and Manufacturing Company.

The Dodge City Democrat April 19, 1901
The Journal-Democrat August 3, 1906

John S Rush first worked at the store as a clerk, then as manager, and he ultimately bought out Matilda Zimmermann’s share of the business.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal August 6, 1909
Post card, photographer unknown
The Dodge City Kansas Journal August 19, 1910

John Rush began selling parts of his business in 1922 and retired completely in 1923. The other implement dealers in Dodge carried Case, International Harvester, McCormick, and other brands but I wasn’t able to identify another local John Deere dealer until Dodge City Implement Company was formed on March 17, 1926.

The Dodge City Journal July 4, 1929

In August of 1929, the City of Dodge City transferred land to John Deere Plow Co. This block is where City Hall once stood per the 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance map.

The Dodge City Journal August 29, 1929

By October, Dodge had exciting news.

The Dodge City Journal October 10, 1929
The Dodge City Journal February 27, 1930
The Dodge City Journal February 27, 1930

I had been walking my poor dog all over town taking photos of all the buildings I find interesting and this was one of them. I really knew nothing about it other than I love the John Deere ghost signs, which can be seen from all over the central part of town. One day, I just happened to look through my copy of Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir from May 1947 (Published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce, Printed by Journal, Inc., with “The Story of Dodge City” by Merritt L Beeson and Carl F Etrick) and look what I found!

That sign on the roof must have really been something to see! Now I want to know what happened to it so if you have any ideas, drop me a comment.

Here’s how she looked a few months ago:

The roof is relatively new (I checked) and the place is being used, thank God. I won’t start in on the windows and doors because it could be so much worse.

I also won’t bore you with recent history regarding Dodge City Implement Company (merged out of existence in 1974) and its replacement, Dodge City Implement, Inc. (1987 to 2007). They moved wayyyy out east to a location with a ton more space but a lot less character. Dealership consolidation across multiple industries was inevitable and will continue, as will the shift from family farming to corporate giants. It’s as depressing as framed-in windows and bricked-over doors.

Posting will be sporadic for the next few months since we’re working on an off-grid project in Arizona. Does this mean I’ll be one of those nutty people you see getting rescued on TV? Absolutely not, but you can count on me complaining about the struggle in this space. You can also count on me showing up for the Cowboy Band’s tribute to Chalk Beeson on April 24.

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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5 Things to Know About Camping With Dogs

I do not camp so the fact that I’m writing this is hilarious. My mom has said for decades that my idea of roughing it is staying at a five-year-old Holiday Inn. It’s true; I’m not a fan. I mean, I *like* nature but I don’t want it touching me. Imagine my surprise when the boyfriend announced we would be tent camping in Southern Arizona. In my 46 years on Planet Earth, I think this is the first time I have ever slept in a tent. On the ground. In the wild. With a dog.

#1 Shade The sun is ridiculously intense in Arizona all year long. Right now, I’m hot in the sun and cold in the shade. There is no in between. Our campsite near Cochise Stronghold had zero shade so we draped a tarp between our two vehicles to stay cool.

The cooler and water jugs kept moving around the vehicles throughout the day. Unless you have some kind of super tent or a camper with A/C, that’s not going to provide comfortable shade in the heat of the day. It will be like a literal oven and your dog will be miserable.

Depending on the sun and the ambient temperature, sometimes inside a vehicle with the windows down is the most comfortable spot. My test is always to climb in with my boy. If I’m uncomfortable, his hairy ass sure will be. Speaking of which, they will also get cold once you lose the sun. Sherman is a fuzzy bear and he knows not to get too close to the campfire but he was just sitting there shivering the other night.

I put him in the tent to curl up on our bedding and he was a happy boy. Not so much when I attempted to reclaim my sleeping bag. Also, now is not the time to debate whether your dog should sleep with you. The answer is YES.

Sherman prefers cabin camping to the tent. Less wind, more cushion.

#2 Leash Use it even when you think there’s no one around. Unless your dog is some kind of super genius who never disregards your commands, just use it…and not the retractable kind. You never know when another dog will come trotting around a corner on the trail.

And just because your dog is “friendly,” don’t assume they all are. If you’re camping with a dog, there will absolutely be others doing the same. Not trying to be a Karen here…it really is a safety issue, especially if your dog has a strong prey drive. They can easily get in over their heads. Raise your hand if you’ve ever chased a dog who took off after a rabbit, squirrel, or other creature. Now raise your hand if you’ve done it on a mountain in an unfamiliar location with shitty weather.

It’s fun to watch people working off-leash with dogs who have actual jobs and people’s lives literally depend on them not getting distracted. Chances are, those dogs don’t belong to you so use the damned leash.

#3 Water This one is painfully obvious but too important to skip. When we were in Mexico, we got in the habit of using five-gallon jugs and were pretty consistent in our usage so we know how long we can go between refills. There are tons of places to refill them with filtered water. Your favorite map app probably has water stations listed. Convenience stores can usually refill them or look for a standalone machine. Dogs are obviously built for unfiltered water but giardia and other bugs can still upset their digestive systems so take it easy on them.

Sherman actually got sick after drinking tap water at a hotel in Sierra Vista. I won’t get into how I know but just understand I know my dog and where he put his face. It was definitely the hotel water, 100%, final answer. Doggy diarrhea isn’t a fun travel component so if you’re able to find water in the wild, consider filtering it for your pupper as well. Remind your dog about water. They get distracted just like we do and often find their surroundings more interesting. Insist that they drink and watch for signs of dehydration.

#4 Wildlife I was looking for firewood near our campsite at Madera Canyon and found a dead calf at the edge of a wash. There are free range cattle up there so it wasn’t a huge surprise but I was glad I left my boy in the tent.

Sherman loves to pick up dead birds and once found a treasured dead rabbit. I never let him near that area because I knew what would happen. Pay attention to posted notices. In addition to the standard coyotes, you might have to deal with  bears, bobcats, and mountain lions. Javelinas *hate* dogs because they mistake them for coyotes, which are their natural competitors for…you know…survival and junk. They have terrible eyesight but can smell predators from an astonishing distance and will attack the hell out of your dog. Do not let your dog provoke a javelina or even attract its attention.

Once it warms up a bit, rattlesnakes will be a huge problem. Dogs love to stick their noses where they don’t belong and don’t assume you’ll hear a rattlesnake before it strikes.

Also bees! The bf and I were both stung about a week ago and I was concerned about Sherman but he hears their buzzing and heads in the opposite direction. We always have Benadryl just in case.

#5 Paws Watch out for thorns, stickers, and rocky terrain. If it looks like grass in Arizona, it’s probably stickers. Booties are an option if your dog is tolerant. Sherman is not. Last week I had to use tweezers to remove a tiny piece of thorn that broke off when I tried to grab it. Watch how they walk. Check the toe beans regularly and try to keep them on relatively smooth surfaces. Work up to seriously rocky terrain gradually.

Depending on the weather, you may invest in paw remedies like the sled teams use. When it’s warm, check the surface with the back of your hand. You won’t be able to keep your pupper from tracking debris into your tent or camper but I try to towel Sherman off before he enters to minimize it as much as possible. Dogs are gross…it’s a good thing we love them.

Bonus tip: Know when your dog has had enough. When left to their own devices, they nap throughout the day. If you have them out hiking and doing stuff and that’s not their normal routine, they will lose both energy and patience. If you notice your pupper is suddenly ignoring orders, a time-out nap may be required. You’ll both be happier when your hiking buddy is well-rested.

Caveat: I have no idea what I’m doing so follow my advice at your own risk.

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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Dodge City Then and Now: Part VII

Thanks again to those of you who have supported this blog. Your donations help offset the costs of subscription databases and web hosting, in addition to massive amounts of coffee. I appreciate you!

Lora-Locke Hotel

100 Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street

Believe it or not (shut up), I’m old enough to remember when the Lora-Locke Hotel was a hotel. My most memorable experience at the Lora-Locke was when my mom (and one of her friends?) took me there for lunch and I was tricked into ordering a Reuben sandwich. Why tricked, you might ask. Because my mother knew I hated sauerkraut but she thought I was just doing one of those stubborn kid things because it sounded weird or whatever. I kept asking what was on it and she just kept saying she thought I would like it. I gave up and ordered the Reuben and knew the moment I bit into it that something was terribly wrong. I asked if it had sauerkraut on it and she burst out laughing. She had purposely ordered something she knew I would like just in case I really did hate it. And I did…so we traded.

That memory was made possible by Mike Burkhart, among others. Mike, especially, poured a lot of love and a helluva lot of money into the Lora-Locke, literally saving her from disaster.

A lot of this you may already know. The Lora-Locke Hotel opened for business in 1928. It was named after Lora Howell and Hattie (Locke) Theis, wives of George Howell and Otto Theis.

Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street entrance

Howell and Theis formed Citizens Hotel Company in May of 1927. The site they selected is at the corner of Central Avenue and Walnut Street, which was the northwest boundary of the Fort Dodge Military Reservation.

The Wichita Eagle, February 3, 1955

The 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows only dwellings on the entire block.

Howell and Theis intended to build a five-story hotel for about $300,000 and hired Wichita architect Ellis Charles to draw up the plans. It was to be built by Eastergard & Bullard.

The Wichita Eagle, August 18, 1927

Cost estimates clearly varied, perhaps along with degrees of accuracy.

The Daily National Hotel Reporter (Chicago, Illinois), August 25, 1927
The Wichita Eagle, September 4, 1927

The Lora-Locke was scheduled to open on or around March 1, 1928 and was to be managed by Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Brown. Ten shops on the ground floor were already rented by February 16, 1928. According to The Daily National Hotel Reporter, the actual construction costs amounted to $350,000.

Retail spaces along Central Avenue
The Hutchinson News, March 19, 1928

Some people mocked the name, saying it sounded like a “beauty parlor or millinery shop.” The Dodge City Chamber of Commerce moved into its rooms at the hotel in March of 1928.

The Hutchinson News, March 31, 1928 with a classic typo

I wonder if tear sheets were a thing in the newspaper advertising biz in 1928.

The Hutchinson News, March 31, 1928

From the very beginning, the Lora-Locke hosted guests attending all sorts of large events.

The Wichita Eagle, April 7, 1928

The Lora-Locke’s manager was fired not long after the hotel opened, causing several employees to walk off the job.

The Hutchinson News, April 17, 1928

Hal Minton was hired to replace Mr. Brown in June of 1928. I have no idea where he came from but he must have been thrilled to see his new hotel make the national news.

Rupert Hughes – The San Francisco Examiner, December 2, 1928

The Dodge City Journal, June 27, 1929
The Dodge City Journal, July 18, 1929

While most of us remember nothing but a tight housing market in Dodge, contrast this article with a later quote from Mike Burkhart in which he indicated there were too many hotel rooms in town.

The Wichita Eagle, October 12, 1929

I admit I am somewhat curious about what kind of hustle these ladies were running.

The Hutchinson News, October 17, 1929

The block along Walnut Street where the Lora-Locke sits next door to another Howell building (and another building Mike Burkhart tried to save) was nicknamed “The Million Dollar Block.”

Corner of Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street and First Avenue
The Dodge City Journal, January 9, 1930

Honestly, I’m not sure this recipe is worth trying but it ran in newspapers throughout the country.

The State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), December 4, 1931

Hal Minton resigned as Manager in November of 1932 to head West and was replaced by Mike Biggs.

Otto Theis died after falling off a horse at his ranch near Englewood in May of 1934.

The Catholic Advance, February 9, 1935

The movie Dodge City premiered at the Dodge Theater in Dodge City in April of 1939. Less than six months later, the Lora-Locke was sold.

The Hutchinson News, September 6, 1939

This is where I get a bit confused. I’ve read numerous articles and historical accounts which state the Lora-Locke was owned by the Theis family (after buying out George Howell’s widow in the 1940s) continuously until it closed the first time in 1978. At some point, there was a Howell-Theis Hotel Company in play and maybe that’s the entity which bought it back from American Hotels Co.? Maybe it was a DBA? Down below, you will see articles showing the Theis family (Theis Co.) again as owners of the hotel as of the early 1960s. The sequence of events is unclear to me so I would appreciate comments from anyone who knows the complete story.

During the Dust Bowl, each room had adhesive tape and when the wind started blowing hard, the desk clerk would call all the rooms and tell the guests, “Duster coming.” The guests would then plaster the windows and doors with the tape to keep out the dust. And then a wayward towel found its way home.

The Kansas City Times, June 4, 1949
Weekly Star Farmer (Kansas City), November 25, 1953
Polk’s Dodge City Directory 1953
Polk’s Dodge City Directory 1957
The Advance Register, April 1, 1960

So here’s where I found mention of the Theis family owning the hotel again.

The Wichita Sunday Eagle and The Wichita Beacon, July 9, 1961
Great Bend Daily Tribune, December 10, 1963
The Wichita Eagle, March 14, 1964
Garden City Telegram, August 8, 1972
Garden City Telegram, January 16, 1975

This article incorrectly stated the theater was in the lower level of the hotel.

The Wichita Eagle, October 19, 1977

And then…a shock.

The Parsons Sun, February 11, 1978

Wichita Beacon, March 21, 1978

Bob Stith, Myron Wheaton, and George Voss bought the building in July of 1983 and began working to reopen the Lora-Locke Hotel. Dodge City authorized the sale of $1.2 million in industrial revenue bonds to finance the purchase of the building and equipment and for renovations. Work was expected to be completed in December of 1983 but after a brief delay, she reopened on February 26, 1984 with a restaurant, club, 19 suites, and 35 guest rooms. Work was to continue on additional guest and resident spaces as funds allowed.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, September 20, 1984

But then a reprieve.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, October 17, 1984

Renovations were about 70% complete when Burkhart stepped in and paid off creditors. Some apartments were occupied and the hotel had some overnight guests but utilities hadn’t even been paid and the gas had been shut off. Burkhart also got the Lora-Locke added to the National Register of Historic Places. He also bought the old Montgomery Ward building next door and said the Million Dollar Block was closer to the Four Million Dollar Block back in 1986.

And then Miss Kitty came to town and stayed in the same room Errol Flynn had used during the premiere of Dodge City.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, February 28, 1985
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, August 27, 1985

I had to read this one a few times to understand what in the wide world of sports they were thinking.

Parsons Sun, December 31, 1985

Unfortunately, nostalgia is extremely expensive and love doesn’t pay the bills.

Parsons Sun, August 5, 1987

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, February 27, 1988
The Manhattan Mercury, April 21, 1988
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, September 22, 1987
Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1988

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, November 16, 1988

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, November 20, 1988

I vaguely recall the debates and delays taking place when I was in junior high and high school. My attention was on other things but the arguments were hard to miss.

The Wichita Eagle, January 28, 1991

I’m sure you’ve been waiting for my take on all of this. Eyebrows may have been raised in 1991 but the building was saved. I was in grade school when the Lora-Locke reopened so I don’t know how viable Stith, Wheaton, Voss, and ultimately, Burkhart really found the project. I’ve heard rumors that Burkhart, at least, just pumped enough money into the building so she would make an attractive option for Ford County. Maybe. Maybe he was a true believer and thought she could continue as a hotel. I don’t know and I don’t care. The Lora-Locke was saved. The county obviously had to make layout changes for functionality and systems changes in accordance with building codes but they managed to leave the Lora-Locke’s beauty intact. Some floors have been modified to the point where it’s difficult to tell you’re in a beautiful old building. All you have to do is wander around the place a bit, though, and you’ll see why she was worth saving.

A while back, I found this blog post from a guy who stayed at the Lora-Locke with his parents in the 1980s.

I remember hearing someone who worked at the hotel complaining about pheasant season. Hunters had filled all of the rooms in Dodge and several stayed at the Lora-Locke. They had apparently been born in barns and determined the hotel bathrooms were appropriate venues for cleaning birds. Imagine!

Anyway, the Lora-Locke is a real gem and the local community should be grateful to the people who took a chance on her. The next time you’re renewing your tags or researching a deed, take a look around. Sit on the mezzanine and just enjoy.

This is the last one in the series…at least for now. I’ll probably write about the Chalk Beeson Theater at some point but I really need to focus on my Otero Beeson research. Until then, you can check out Parts I through VI below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, and Post Office

Part V – Dodge City High School (1000 North Second Avenue)

Part VI – Dodge City Senior High School (1601 First Avenue)

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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Dodge City Then and Now: Part VI

First of all, thank you to everyone who has read and shared these posts. I am especially grateful to all of you who have donated to the cause! I’m writing this one from a seedy hotel in Tucson because what better time to return to the desert than during the Gem and Mineral Show.

This was a fun building to research. Just looking for the year of completion was quite a ride. 1923? 1924? 1926? Nope…none of those! Even some official sources (which I will not publicly shame) missed the mark. Because it lacks any sort of style, I’m pretending the addition along Second Avenue doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, the most recent Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps available online for Dodge are from 1926 so they were no help.

Dodge City Senior High School

1601 First Avenue

The people who say you don’t know what you have until its gone didn’t attend high school on First Avenue in Dodge City. I’m pretty sure we all knew, even when we were self-absorbed teenagers. The 1966 addition on the back is meh, whatever…but the original building is an absolute treasure and I’m so happy Dodge has made the effort to keep it in use. The latest additions on the north end are about as well-matched as one could possibly expect.

I’ve mentioned before that Dodge City schools have always been overcrowded. In addition, technology advanced very quickly in the early 20th century. Our high schoolers were doing the sportsball contests before they had their own dedicated facilities. The high school building on Second Avenue was magnificent but its facilities were outdated in no time. Imagine holding a district basketball tourney at an elementary school because it was a better venue!

The Dodger, March 2, 1926

The Southwest News, September 9, 1926

Not to worry, though…the school board was on the case. I can imagine the faces of Dodge City residents when they learned they were expected to cough up $250,000 (nearly $4 million in 2022) for the new facilities. The district was already at their legal bonded debt limit of $269,000 and they wanted to basically double it.

The Dodger, January 11, 1927

We all complain about opinion pieces masquerading as journalism but it isn’t a new problem. Check out this beauty on the front page, above the fold, presented as news:

The Southwest News, January 20, 1927

The high school paper did a much better job of relaying the facts. Also, it looks like the school board learned from prior missteps and quickly resolved the location issue.

The Dodger, March 22, 1927

It’s no surprise there was fierce opposition to the plan. There always is.

The Dodger, April 5, 1927

Imagine how bad the conditions must have been for the bond issue to pass by more than two to one!

The Dodger, April 19, 1927

While the Class of 1928 missed out on the new building, they were excited for their younger peers and included this artist’s rendering in their yearbook. It would have been neat if the school had been built as depicted here with those spaces along Second Avenue…expensive, but neat.

The 1928 SOU’WESTER “The Weather Edition”, Volume 12

This time, the school board even correctly guestimated in which year the new high school would be completed!

The Hutchinson News, October 9, 1928

So this is super cool…a member of the first DCHS graduating class attended the dedication of the new school.

The Hutchinson News, December 12, 1928

These self-absorbed teenagers were also pretty grateful for the new facility provided to them.

The SOU’WESTER 1929

The SOU’WESTER 1929

As previously mentioned, Dodge tried to build a new high school forever when I was growing up but couldn’t get the bond issue to pass. I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal to simply add an additional high school but you see, Football won State once in the 1970s so you know we *had* to stay 6A to reclaim our glory, or whatever. I mean, I get it. What would the mascot for the Dodge City Northwest High School be anyway? They’d probably call them the Cowboys or something equally ridiculous. So I will acknowledge the logic in their argument. Dodge City is and will always be “Home of the Red Demons,” regardless of what my junior high art teacher’s husband had to say about it.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, July 7, 1988

Anyway, 83 years was probably too long at that location, especially since Associated Press can’t do the maths and The Wichita Eagle can’t do a basic fact check. 2001 minus 1928 is 73. You saw it here first!

The Wichita Eagle, June 1, 2001

If you haven’t been by the school in a while, here are a few photos I took recently to refresh your memory. I still love all the details…especially the D Men outside the gym.

Next time, I’ll dig into the Lora Locke Hotel. Until then, you can check out Parts I through V below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, and Post Office

Part V – Dodge City High School (1000 North Second Avenue)

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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Dodge City Then and Now: Part V

When will this series end? When I say it ends.

Last time, I promised a school post. As a former wearer of the “Proud to be in 443!” merch, I have strong opinions about Dodge City schools. I attended the same elementary school as my mom and my grandmother…Go Bobcats! I even had the same fifth grade teacher as my mom and boy was she surprised by my interest in, well, school.

I’m not getting into all of the historic school buildings because nobody has time for that. Dodge has done a terrific job with some of them. If you contrast the updates/additions at Central Elementary with the tragedy of Lincoln Elementary, it kind of makes your head swim. I don’t want to speculate about motivations but certain areas of town get the good stuff, if you know what I mean.

My intention was to simply admire the architecture but as I started digging into the details, I found the process was very similar to how things work (or don’t) today. We tend to romanticize the past and assume our dysfunction is a modern invention. I don’t know if it will make you feel better or worse but everything was as big of a soup sandwich then as it is now. Get comfortable; this will take a minute.

Dodge City High School

1000 (North) Second Avenue

I understand why this building had to come down but I’m not happy about it. The original high school structure was built in 1914. The 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows a pretty basic footprint with steam heat and electric lights. I mention this because in 1918, the East Side School (later renamed First Ward School) at Avenue G and East Vine Street still operated with stoves for heat and no lights according to Sanborn.

The 1911 Sanborn map shows dwellings in the 1000 block of Second Avenue.

The 1926 Sanborn map shows a 1916 addition at the back of the lot that didn’t appear on the map in 1918 as well as a large addition on the north end of the building in 1923. That 1923 addition is the reason for the drastically different appearances in the postcard photos above. It wasn’t just a matter of camera angles!

Prior to the 1886-87 school year, all grades were taught in the same school on Boot Hill. That all changed with the new school on the “east side” of town. The article below references Bridge Street as the dividing line, which was later renamed Second Avenue. So when you look at Dodge now, it’s pretty damned central but back then, not so much.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, September 7, 1886

This change meant that all high school students were instructed at the Second Ward School, which was located at Railroad (Central) Avenue and Division Street as shown on the 1887 Sanborn map. The first commencement of Dodge City High School was held June 10, 1887 at McCarty’s Opera House for a graduating class of three students.

Dodge City schools have pretty much always been overcrowded. So two years after sending high school students to the new building, Superintendent Webb announced they would be instructed at the corner of Second Avenue and Cedar Street.

Ford County Republican, August 29, 1888

*record skips* Where? The 1887 Sanborn map shows dwellings and a vacant building at that corner, as does the 1892 Sanborn. The “school room” must have been that vacant building? There were 25 students enrolled in high school for the 1888-89 school year.

The 1889-90 school year was a trip. The original Third Ward School opened in 1880 at the top of Boot Hill was condemned, leaving a bunch of students displaced. So the high schoolers were pushed out of the vacant building and into rooms above Mrs. Beadle’s store.

Ford County Republican, August 28, 1889

According to Robert Marr Wright, the original school cost $6,300 to build and the roof was already leaking a year after completion. After five years, it was braced by rods. High school students were back at the new Third Ward School for the 1890-91 school year.

By the 1898-99 school year, the high school room was packed with 67 students. The idea of forming a county high school had been discussed periodically over the years and my great-great grandfather introduced a bill in the Kansas Legislature in 1903.

The Globe-Republican, February 12, 1903

If any of you remember the ongoing debates in Dodge for decades about building what ended up being that godforsaken abomination they call a high school on Ross Boulevard, then you can imagine the drama leading up to this special election. Side note: I’m still amazed that the brain trust lowered the speed limit on North 14th Avenue to 35 because a new school on that street was a foregone conclusion.

The Bucklin Banner, May 8, 1903

The proposition was defeated and the entire county continued arguing about it until the school board accepted plans for a new building in 1912.

Voters approved the $44,000 bond issue in November of 1912 after finally being convinced the district was losing students to towns like Bucklin and Spearville, which both had dedicated high school buildings with adequate space. The vote tally was 730 for and 214 against. Residents immediately began arguing over the location, naturally. The architect couldn’t create final plans until they decided on a site and needed 60 days lead time to deliver. Meanwhile, the expectation was to have the new building ready for the next school year in September of 1913. Hilarious.

Remember my snark about the speed limit on 14th? The School Board got out over their skis in 1912 and paid $2,000 for a lot at Sixth Avenue and Division Street (Trinity Hospital site) before anything had been formalized. Initially, two sites were under consideration: A lot at Fifth Avenue and Oak Street and the Second Ward School site where Central Elementary is today. As the debate continued, some people wanted the school to be on Boot Hill. In December, the citizens’ committee (because there always is one) suggested a list of eight to ten properties and most of them were on “upper” Second Avenue. By this time, the lot owners had started raising the prices so the City started talking about condemning the properties. Then the board began arguing amongst themselves and people questioned the legality of the Sixth Avenue purchase. See? Nothing has changed!

At their January 22 meeting, the School Board voted to use the lot they purchased on Sixth Avenue and then there was an injunction a couple days later. By March, the Kansas Legislature was determining whether Dodge could vote (again) to build a $60,000 building rather than the $44,000 that initially passed because the architect told them they would have to scale back their plans for the lower amount. There were questions about the legality of the original bond election so all the records went to an auditor in Topeka. The election was declared illegal based on a technicality. By the end of May, the School Board was all about a site at Second Avenue and Vine Street. The special election was scheduled for July 1 and voters were asked to approve $58,000 ($8,000 for land and $50,000 for the school). The location was the W 1/2 of Block 55, in the original townsite of the City and Lot G in Shinn’s Addition. Sigh…FINALLY. Block 55 is the property at Second Avenue and Elm Street.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 17, 1913

Clowns! If you think this is a tedious read, imagine being me right now. Voters, clearly having their shit more together than their local representation, approved the new school…again. Site condemnation was completed on October 21 and it was appraised at $9,600…$1,600 more than voters approved for the land purchase. John and Effie Cord owned one of the lots at the site that included a six-room dwelling and they hired an attorney to protest the $2,300 they were offered. They must have worked it out because I never found any evidence this went to court. Bids were requested for people to buy all buildings on the lots and have them removed. On December 11, 1913, bids were requested to finally build the damn thing.

And THEN everyone learned all this fiddlefucking around was making everything more expensive.

These absolute dolts couldn’t find their asses with both hands.

The Dodge City Globe, February 14, 1914

The Board’s expectations are pretty rich considering how long they played grab-ass with this project.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, March 13, 1914

Because the plans had to be altered to avoid going over budget, the School Board immediately went back to the well asking for more money to build the gym and auditorium. They insisted “a two mill levy for three or four years would supply the necessary fund for completion of the splendid building.” – The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 17, 1914

The election was scheduled for April 7, 1914. The turnout was very light and the proposition passed. Voters must have been as tired of thinking about it as I am. The contractor insisted the building would be complete enough for use in January of 1915.

Students were given an extra week off for Christmas break so they could start the new year in their new school but they were forced to wait yet again. And again. Finally, the four high school grades plus seventh and eighth graders moved in to their new digs in March of 1915.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 26, 1915

It’s cool how that $44,000 building voters were promised turned into $85,000. They always get you in the drive-thru.

THE SOU’WESTER, Volume Two, Nineteen Fifteen

The new high school building served Dodge City well as a school and as the headquarters for our school district. Even as its configurations changed over time, it still felt very grand inside. Paneling and small framed-in windows could never completely diminish its impressive architecture.

Next time, I’ll dig into the next Dodge City (Senior) High School. Until then, you can check out Parts I through IV below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, Post Office

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

Dodge City Then and Now: Part IV

It’s really hard to post a side-by-side of an old postcard and a recent photo and just move on to the next one. I end up going down a rabbit hole on each one and want to know everything about everything and then my dog wants to know why he hasn’t eaten yet.

It’s also depressing to look at all the interesting architecture that has been lost so I’m making a point of including buildings we’ve treated well and can still enjoy.

Carnegie Library Building

701 N Second Avenue

No disrespect to the Lora Locke, which I also love, but this is the prettiest building in Dodge. My grandmother, Irene Beeson, took me there several times when I was anywhere from four to nine years old and I remember thinking it was so small. Like, it’s a super cool building but it definitely isn’t large. I remember walking through when it was being renovated prior to opening as the Carnegie Center for the Arts and it just really looked like a lot of work.

That was nothing compared to the work that went into making a public library in Dodge City a thing.

The ladies of Dodge City started working on this *at least* as early as 1905. I would bet the idea was bounced around for quite a while before it became an organized effort.

The Globe-Republican, January 12, 1905

It wasn’t as simple as getting Andrew Carnegie to foot the bill for the building. Municipalities were also required to have a maintenance fund amounting to at least ten percent of the construction cost. That meant winning taxpayer support for a permanent levy. Nothing in the history of the world has changed. People were outraged that the library would be free to use for those who didn’t own property. The letters to the editor were just as intense as the crap you see today and the issue went before voters in 1905.

The Globe-Republican, March 23, 1905

Voters approved the levy and Carnegie agreed to provide $7,500 for construction of the new library, meaning Dodge City had to raise at least $750 for the maintenance fund. Between all the private fundraisers and tax receipts, they were able to raise $850 and Carnegie approved a total gift of $8,500.

The Library Board selected the site of the old “Public School” at the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Spruce Street. Here’s the 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the school.

Architect CW Squires delivered plans and the Library Board requested bids in August of 1905. My great-great grandfather, Chalk Beeson, was a Kansas Representative at the time and he was never shy about talking up the big things happening in Dodge.

The Journal-Democrat, September 29, 1905

Unfortunately, supply chains happen and construction was delayed several times due to long lead times for materials. The building was scheduled for completion in August of 1906 and then this happened.

The Globe-Republican, August 30, 1906

Even with all of the headaches, construction of the building was completed in September of 1906.

The Globe-Republican, September 27, 1906

That may have been a tiny bit premature. The building was finally turned over to the Library Board in October before electric fixtures were even installed. There was also some interior finishing that needed to be done and the whole thing had to be furnished. They hadn’t even selected a librarian at that time. By the end of November, they were still waiting for the bookshelves to be delivered.

The public was “expected” to attend the grand opening in February of 1907 and they were still waiting for the actual books to be delivered. People had donated hundreds of books but that wasn’t going to cut it.

The Journal-Democrat, January 25, 1907

The first librarian was Iva Nelson and her salary of $30 per month included janitorial services. Library hours were 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Here is the 1911 Sanborn map showing the library building. Information about Carnegie Center for the Arts can be found here.

Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company

300 Second Avenue

You’ll note in the photo I took a couple weeks ago, the most recent retaining wall and ramp are still there. Yes, I’m old enough to remember when things were happening there and being a passenger in a truck driving up that ramp seemed like the scariest thing in the world. I’m not sure if I was even in kindergarten yet and it just seemed really narrow and steep. Looking at it now makes me laugh.

Construction began in 1907 on a facility that expanded and contracted operations many times over the decades.

The Journal-Democrat, March 8, 1907
The Globe-Republican, March 12, 1908
The Journal-Democrat, August 14, 1908

Here’s the 1911 Sanborn map showing the mill with its rail siding, forge, oil tank, engine, scales, dust collector, etc.

The 1918 Sanborn map is very colorful! Dodge City Flour Mills had expanded quite a bit and was pretty damn high tech.

It’s strange to me that they had a phone number listed in their 1908 advertisement but not in the county or city directories. Even into the 1960s, I never saw a phone number for them listed in a directory.

Etrick’s 1924 Ford County Directory

By 1926, the layout hadn’t changed much but the Sanborn map shows more detail.

It should be no surprise that fire was an ongoing concern due to the dust generated by handling grain and milling flour.

The Hutchinson News-Herald, April 4, 1949

The Wichita Eagle, April 5, 1949
The Northwestern Miller, April 5, 1949

So that last one pretty much said it. They had no plans to rebuild the mill. One thing I found interesting was a report that firefighters were delayed by a freight train. So I guess that means the fire station south of the bridge either wasn’t open yet or wasn’t enough due to the size of the blaze.

I don’t remember why we went there when I was a kid. The door at the top of the ramp was open and people were there doing things. I guess the undamaged buildings were used for warehousing? Not sure if the elevators were used after the fire. It was always just a big behemoth sitting there along the tracks…until it wasn’t.

First Presbyterian Church

803 Central Avenue

My great-great grandmother, Ida Beeson, taught Sunday School here and was instrumental in the building’s construction in 1924. I believe Chalk even taught a class or two at the previous site, which must have been interesting. After Chalk died, Ida bought a house at 705 Central Avenue, which is now part of the Landmark National Bank parking lot. Super convenient for Sundays!

Post Office 

700 Central Avenue

This is another example of a slow process. It’s obvious by looking at the design that this building is relatively new. Construction was completed in 1931 and I still roll my eyes every time I see the name of a Treasury Secretary etched onto a cornerstone. Like, come ON.

But the process began all the way back in 1926, which was a completely different world. At least financially.

The Southwest News, December 30, 1926

In addition to run-on sentences of epic proportions, that last paragraph is a sight to behold. Anyhoo, this gem from 1930 is extremely confusing.

The Dodge City Journal, December 18, 1930

Rather than try to determine how the sausage was made, here are a couple postcards showing the old Weather Bureau building, which was demolished to build the new Post Office.

If you look at the 1926 Sanborn map for the site, you’ll have a better understanding of what all was in play. The jail was next to the Weather Bureau and the new building wouldn’t fit without tearing down the jail as well.

Also, here’s the 1926 Sanborn map showing the Post Office building at 612 Second Avenue which was in use while this debate was taking place.

Prior to that location, the 1911 Sanborn map shows a “PO” at Second Avenue and Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street. I believe that would be the building below.

They finally got the show on the road in March of 1931.

The Morning Chronicle (Manhattan, Kansas), March 7, 1931

I would say this stylish beauty was worth the wait.

Speaking of wait…a minute…please don’t tell me this “modernization” project had anything to do with the soul-crushing paneling that was hung in the box alcove and behind the counter. Gross.

The Salina Journal, May 26, 1964

Next time, I’ll take a look at a couple Dodge City schools. Until then, you can check out Parts I through III below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

Dodge City Then and Now: Part III

As we prepare for our return to the desert, I am rushing to make sure I gather all the local information I need while I can still ask for it in person. There are photos I swear I took that are MIA, probably forever. Some of them belong in this post.

At the end of Part II, I promised the next one would be a heartbreaker. I still don’t 100% understand all the myriad ways things went sideways but I loved this house and was so psyched about spending my teen years in the same bedroom my grandmother once occupied.

Merritt Beeson House (The Big House)

My great-grandfather, Merritt Beeson, began construction of his home south of Dodge City in 1910 and it was quite an ambitious project. The blocks used to build the house came from a sand pit on the Beeson Farm. To say Merritt overengineered the house would be an understatement. It was a big beast and it was built to last.

Each of the three bedrooms had a lavatory and a walk-in closet. Those were features that mattered to me as a teenager and I’m still impressed by Merritt’s foresight. I’m also still impressed by the walk-in cedar closet inside the door going up to the attic.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, September 30, 1910

The house was finished in 1911 and Merritt lived there with his daughter, Betty, until he married my great-grandmother, Beth, in 1913. They hosted a state gun club shooting tournament at the house in 1914 and expected 100 shooters and their families to visit. Four sets of automatic traps were set up on the east side of the house for maximum visibility from the upstairs windows and rear balcony.

In 1917, Merritt volunteered to host area WWI troops needing a place to camp temporarily while they waited for supplies and vaccinations before proceeding to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Betty would have been 10 years old at that time and I can only imagine how exciting she would have found having actual soldiers staying with them. They called the site Camp Beeson.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 24, 1917

My grandmother, Irene, was born in 1921 and she was a big fan of the house as a child. There was a playroom right next door to her bedroom and she had all sorts of critters to keep her company.

Irene Beeson in the backyard, facing west

Merritt and Beth were very active in the community and received visitors constantly, even before turning the house into an official museum.

Irene with Kathleen Gleason (center) and Ida Beeson (right) and the dining room Dutch window in the background

As the Beeson Museum collection grew, Irene’s enthusiasm waned. She described to me the tedium of cleaning the exhibits, especially when the Dust Bowl was in full force.

The Beeson Museum collection inevitably outgrew the house so it moved to another location on South Second Avenue in 1950 along with Merritt, Beth, and Irene. Betty moved into The Big House with her husband, Red Miller, and their children, Mike and VeeAnn.

Merritt and VeeAnn next to the small shed, Summer of 1950

Betty went to work right away transforming the former museum back into a proper family home.

After Betty’s death in 1956, Red moved the kids to a house near the sand pit and The Big House went to the Good Samaritan Society to be used as a nursing home. A ramp was added to the back porch. A commercial kitchen was added in the basement as well as a dumb waiter. Solid oak doors at the nurses’ stations were cut in half. A hallway was cut between the two south bedrooms and the French doors in each bedroom were eliminated in favor of a single door in the center leading to what was originally an open balcony. It wasn’t long before they ran out of room and attached a long, skinny brick wing to the west side of the house. The front porch was bricked in using the same material as the new addition.

As laws and building codes evolved, the house became severely outdated and was only used for storage. Additional buildings were added to the west end of the site and the house deteriorated. Beginning in 1980, I walked past The Big House twice a day on my way to and from school for five years. I spent a ton of time with Irene during those years and I asked a million questions about that house. She shared tons of photos (many included here) and told me so many wonderful stories about living there. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like to live there.

The bricked-in front porch assaulted the senses.

The Big House served as a haunted house for several Halloweens and what a trip THAT was. I really hate haunted houses but it was hard to pass up an opportunity to go inside Merritt’s home and just be near recent family history.

My parents apparently shared my fascination because we actually began trying to save it in the late 1980s. The Dodge City Good Samaritan Center agreed to portion off the area of the house and its crazy appendage while we figured out what the hell to do next. Omg the pigeons! And the bedpans! And wheelchairs! And sugar dispensers! We spent so much time dragging discarded equipment out of the house and the addition. We had yard sales. We had a huge dumpster. It was so much freaking work.

The house had a fragillion windows and the majority had been boarded up and left to rot.

The boiler in the basement was an issue. Trying to figure out how to demo that addition without damaging the house was an issue. Asbestos was an issue. That freaking roof! A guy had died working on the original tile roof not long after it was built. It was super high and super steep and he slid right the hell off the damn thing.

But the walk-in cedar closet still smelled like cedar and the house was still super solid. The layout was incredibly functional. It had the right amount of space and the right amount of separation. It was cold inside even when it was hot outside. The Big House may have been a hot mess but it was still wonderful and we loved it.

Unfortunately, it had been allowed to sit for too long. Vandalism and weather created problems that were just too expensive to fix. In today’s climate, it might be possible to obtain grant funding for such a historic property but it was a different time and Dodge City is a small town for such an expensive project.

By 1992, the site was subdivided to include an L-shaped City Park named the Beeson Arboretum that ran along the east and south sides of the property. The money in the escrow account from the yard sales and such went toward developing the park. And The Big House just sat there taking more and more abuse.

Ultimately, demolition was the only solution but the old girl didn’t go down without a fight. My dad sat and watched this horrible end to such a wonderful and well-loved home. He said the crew had trouble with all that damn rebar mentioned in the 1910 newspaper article and I was proud that Merritt didn’t make it easy for them a century later.

Demolition photos courtesy of Norman Holladay

The only visible reminders of Merritt’s home are the garage and some of his beloved evergreen trees.

If you ever find yourself driving down Beeson Road with a few moments to spare, stop at the Beeson Arboretum (southwest corner of Beeson and Sunnyside) and enjoy the view.

While you’re here, check out Part I and Part II of my book research detour. I’ll get back to Otero’s Odyssey (not the title) post haste.

Dodge City Then and Now: Part II

My hometown leaned ALL the way in to Urban Renewal and basically ruined the most historic parts of the town. Trends are slow to arrive in Dodge City and by the time our “leaders” started demolishing history, most of the country had already realized this is a piss-poor approach. It’s like sidewalks in Dodge…the people who need to use them don’t and they just assume no one else does either. But thanks for trying to run over the dog and me…really.

This little gem doesn’t go into a lot of detail but sums the situation up quite well. Most questions about Dodge City that begin with “Why” are answered with “Urban Renewal.” Fortunately, lessons have been learned and there is now an appreciation for not only property rights but also history other than the Old West. One day, we’ll talk about Ford County property taxes ruining people’s lives but today is not that day.

Today’s photos are a mix of the good and the bad.

First Baptist Church

This building isn’t particularly old but I grew up looking at it every day of every summer for most of my childhood in jail at Kiddie Corner (with another K?). Anyway, I’m a fan. The postcard colorization on the left is pretty intense. I don’t think grass has ever been that green here.

Walnut Street Looking West from Central Avenue

I’ve entered all of the Dodge City street name changes in Excel because it’s impossible to remember them all. Walnut became Gunsmoke, Chestnut became Wyatt Earp, North and South Front Streets were demolished and now something called Front Street runs through parking lots, etc. and so on. So the postcard on the left is from the 1960s and I took the photo on the right a couple weeks ago. It looks basically the same but the gigantic Masonic Temple on the left wayyyy down the block is long gone. You can still see the old Chalk Beeson Theater (MUCH more on that later) at the end of the block on the left side of *Walnut*. The marquee is missing from the Dodge Theater on the right side of the street but the buildings are otherwise intact until you get to First Avenue.

Masonic Temple

Construction on this marvel began in 1907 and was completed in 1908. There were so many bricks lined up along the street that one of the newspapers ran a piece joking that visitors from out of town asked if they were building the Great Wall of China.

The Journal-Democrat, October 25, 1907

I think the initial cost estimate was around $26,000 but it ended up in the neighborhood of $36,000 and I can only imagine the grandeur of the third floor. They had a special carpet sewn in Kansas City that cost about $4.00 per yard and the room was enormous. The building had no trouble attracting commercial tenants and was in use for several decades.

Etrick’s Directory of Ford County 1920

Here’s the 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. It was a beast!

Why is it no longer there? Urban Renewal! It didn’t survive the 1960s and the land was later donated by former Dodge City Daily Globe publisher (and daughter of Jess Denious) Martha Elizabeth “Betty” Muncy for Eisenhower Park, which was established in 1976.

First Avenue Looking South

Standing in the middle of First Avenue is not an option so it’s difficult to recreate the perspective of the postcard on the left without a drone. That’s clearly the Masonic Temple across First Avenue from the Chalk Beeson Theater and the old flour mill in the postcard background. You can also make out what looks like the old Western Union building behind the theater. Here’s the 1918 Sanborn map for reference.

O’Neal Hotel

Central and what??? Exactly. The parking lot north of the depot looks like a road runs through it because a road used to run through it…all the way east to Avenue B, where it met up with that weird little Chestnut Street jog. Take a look at the 1926 Sanborn map.

The O’Neal Hotel opened in December of 1912 and I can’t think of a better location for the time.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, December 9, 1912

Over time, several buildings were added and can you imagine renting a house of any size for $8.50 per month?

The Dodge City Daily Globe, February 16, 1915

The O’Neal Hotel operated in that spot forever and a day until it, too, was a victim of Urban Renewal. Hotels circle the drain pretty quickly when things start getting seedy and this one was no exception. I’m calling this one a victory, though, because parking in this area would be a nightmare without the City lot.

Next time, I’ll share a real heartbreaker. Until then, you can take a look at Part I.

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