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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Dodge City residents were hooked and more expansion was required.
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.
I would have preferred the electric train, thank you very little.
Things started getting very corporate in 1925 and that trend continued for pretty much the rest of the 20th Century.
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.
1932 was when the Trail Street plant became a backup.
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!
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