Dodge City Then and Now: Part I

I love looking at before and after photos of home restorations (not renovations) and am mesmerized by then-and-now photos of famous landmarks. This has probably already been done in Dodge City, Kansas (The Cowboy Capital of the World) but I’m here right now and have a dog to exercise so kindly allow me to reinvent the wheel. I’m also blaming any crappy photography skills on the dog who somehow jerks on the leash at the exact moment I hit the button. Otherwise, they would be *perfectly* shot.

A lot of people are surprised to learn that Dodge City has paved streets. A lot of people are also idiots. So I decided that while I’m here I should document some of the old buildings before it’s too late. We lost the Water Department building with the cool-ass windows just a few months before I arrived back in town and that was truly a loss. I also missed the demolition of the old high school but actually wouldn’t say I missed it. It feels like a punch in the gut every time I walk by that empty sloping lot. Lincoln Elementary was another one. I taught French to fourth graders there while I was in high school and that spot on the hill just isn’t the same without it.

I understand money and what things cost. I owned a 100-year-old farmhouse and had to pay for stuff. I made a lot of concessions because reality is a bitch. That doesn’t make me cringe any less when I see windows made smaller with crappy wood framing or bricked over altogether.

Here’s an easy one that hasn’t broken my heart yet.

First National Bank Building

The bank first opened for business on January 5, 1901 at the corner of First Avenue and Front Street as the State Bank of Commerce of Dodge City with capital of $10,000.

On June 1, 1904, the name was changed to National Bank of Commerce with capital of $25,000. The bank changed names again on January 8, 1921 to First National Bank in Dodge City with capital of $100,000.

In 1924, First National Bank advertised 4% interest on savings accounts…can you even imagine?

Etrick’s Ford County Directory

The bank occupied a few different locations before formally opening the new building at the corner of Second Avenue and Spruce Street on August 19, 1930.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, August 18, 1930

Banking conditions were often questionable at best in this era so this ad from September 24, 1930 would have been reassuring.

The Dodge City Journal, October 2, 1930

The bank had federal deposit insurance beginning in 1934 and changed the name again in June of 1977 to First National Bank and Trust Company.

This is Second Avenue today looking north. The Eckles sign is gone but the building is still there. More on that at later date.

I almost forgot about the mural. Stan Herd apparently patterned this after a Remington and I believe it was completed in July of 1979. I’m not really a fan of Western art but this is what you get in the Queen of the Cowtowns.

First National Bank and Trust Company has been listed inactive as of June 30, 1994, which is when it was acquired by Bank IV Kansas. The 1990s were bananas when it came to bank mergers. Banking laws changed during that time and increased the limit of assets that could be controlled by a single entity so Fourth Financial Corporation, which owned Bank IV Kansas, went on a spending spree. So we barely blinked and then along came Nationsbank, which was then merged (or whatever) with Bank of America in about 1999.

Bank of America closed the main branch in 2014 and there she sits. There are still businesses leasing office space in the building. Don’t try creeping in there because it is definitely (thankfully) occupied.

Here’s a memory-holed piece from the local paper I found on the Wayback Machine.

If you’re still with me, I was initially surprised to learn the building is so *new* and decided to check the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps to see what had been on that corner previously.

There is only one 1884 map online and it stops at Walnut (now Gunsmoke) Street.

The 1887 map shows a drugstore on the corner of Second and Spruce. The Ford County Business Directory from the same year is a mess to read and doesn’t really list locations so I’m not sure which drugstore it was.

The 1899 map shows a Christian church.

The 1911 map shows a garage on the main level and a hall on the second floor. This was the Santa Fe Trail Garage, which was sold by Ed J. Oliphant to James P. McCollom (from Carthage, IL) in December of 1911. Mr. Oliphant started the garage in a brand-new building in December of 1910.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, December 9, 1910
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, December 16, 1910

The 1918 map shows a 100-car garage with a repair room on the second floor.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, January 19, 1918

The McCollom brothers opened Dodge City Auto School at the garage in January of 1923. C. H. McCollom was the main instructor.

The 1926 map shows auto sales & service with an office on the first and second floors. It appears the McCollom brothers also tried out a new name.

The Dodger, December 21, 1926

The last ad I could find for McCollom Motor Company or Santa Fe Trail Garage was in April of 1927 and it didn’t include an address so I’m not sure if the business moved, morphed, or closed. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the auto school became part of a Vo-Tech program.

This is becoming quite a journey. It turns out in early 1930 J. P. McCollom and (Hiram T?) Burr built a new structure on the site of the first building to be constructed in Dodge City. H. L. Sitler’s sod house was located at what is now Second Avenue and Trail Street, directly south of the railroad tracks on the west side of Second. I think it’s the Lopp Motors building but I just literally cannot even at this point.

And then we come full circle…guess who joined the radio business and was general manager for the brand-new KGNO? That’s right, J. P. McCollom and KGNO leased office space on the mezzanine level of the First National Bank Building in September of 1930. McCollom still owned the lot to the west of the bank and planned to use it for KGNO employee parking. The studio was moved to town because the place they built the tower was too remote and they wanted people to be able to actually visit the studio.

la fin

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