Eckles Empire Then and Now

I know what you’re thinking. ANOTHER Eckles post?! Yes. There were so many Eckles ventures in Dodge City that I could do a whole series on them alone. If you’re new to the site, I touched on the Eckles Department Store building here and here.

If you’re from Dodge, you probably already know the “Eckles Brothers” were Charles and George Eckles from Eskridge, Kansas. Charles came to Dodge in December of 1911 and managed the York-Key Mercantile Company.

I don’t know the whole story but in September of 1911, there was a huge fire at the store. D. J. Phillips was the manager and he had been out ill for several days. When he received the telephone call about the fire, he ran all the way from his house on Avenue A to the store at 207 West Chestnut Street and then he passed out. He was subsequently confined to his bed for a few more days. The fire took a couple hours to extinguish and the loss was estimated to be from two-thirds to three-fourths of the stock.

The store was remodeled and by December, Mr. Phillips and his family had moved to Houston. The newspaper article said it would be a “more gentle climate.” His replacement was Charles Eckles.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, February 9, 1912

So they had just finished remodeling after a devastating fire and then it happened again! In March of 1912, there was an explosion that damaged nearly $80,000 worth of property among the affected structures. The opera house roof made liftoff and the York-Key and several other buildings were heavily damaged. The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the opera house at the northwest corner of First Avenue and (North) Front Street. The York-Key was only two walls over to the west.

That was enough for owner F. B. York of St. Louis. Brothers Charles and George bought the York-Key in April of 1912, with George’s position at the store being effective July 1. The Eckles Dry Goods Company was formed May 8, 1912. A son, Park, was born to George and his wife, Lora, 20 days later.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 26, 1912

The York-Key Company had retained ownership of the building when they sold the dry goods store. The Eckles brothers bought the building in March of 1916 with plans for an extensive modernization project. You guys…they wanted to put glass in the sidewalks! In Dodge City!

Dodge City Daily Globe, May 3, 1916
Dodge City Journal, November 6, 1919

Jack Eckles was born to Charles and Esther (Weyand) Eckles in May of 1921. After World War II, he would return home to work at the store. He also married the talented artist, Murry Stark.

Etrick’s 1924 Ford County Directory

Charles and George Eckles bought the Bargain Store building at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Walnut Street as well as all of the stock and fixtures for $125,000 in February of 1926. Eckles Brothers Dry Goods became Eckles Brothers Department Store.

The Southwest News, February 4, 1926

The plan was to remodel the building after the sale was completed and have dry goods, shoes, and men’s clothing on the first floor. A new mezzanine level would be home to bookkeeping, cashiers, and owners’ offices, plus a beauty parlor. All of the ladieswear and accompanying goods were planned for the second floor and finally, they were continuing with their bargain basement.

W. H. Harpole bought the old Eckles Dry Goods building at 207 West Chestnut Street for about $30,000 in April of 1926. In 1928, that building housed the Piggly Wiggly and by 1937, it was home to Innes Furniture Exchange. It was probably best known as 20th Century Bowling, however, before ultimately becoming a victim to the Urban Renewal madness you’ve seen me complain about repeatedly.

In 1929, the Eckles brothers built the Vinehurst Apartments with retail spaces on the first floor and apartments above.

The Dodge City Journal, January 9, 1930

I’m not sure about the architect but the building was constructed by Jules N Parham, who was a prolific builder in Dodge. Here’s where I get severely confused. The 1942 Ford County Directory, which was retyped by volunteers, listed the Vinehurst Apartments (managed by Mrs. Lola Slater) at 205 West Vine Street. If you look at the 1926 Sanborn Map, this doesn’t make any sense. Same thing with the 1932 Sanborn. Here’s a screenshot:

The dwelling labeled “207” above existed prior to 1929. Here’s a current photo of the north end of 722 N Second Avenue showing the entrance labeled “207.”

Photo by Jan Shaw

The block was clearly renumbered but I have no idea when. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that’s the location. The retail spaces have been home to Busley Brothers Grocery #2, National Home & Auto Store, Peoples National Gas Company, Campbell Pharmacy, Krey & McCook Agency, and many more.

Word on the street at the beginning of 1930 was the Eckles brothers were building a hotel. It was to be a five-story, $250,000 “skyscraper” next to First National Bank. I have no idea what happened to those plans but they obviously never materialized.

The Dodge City Journal, February 13, 1930

I won’t delve any further into the family tree because this post would never end but just know that virtually every child and grandchild worked at the store and it honestly seemed like a requirement to be part of the family.

Eckles Department Store Company, Inc. was formed on January 25, 1946. I’m assuming this change marked the beginning of the second generation’s management of the store. In 1947, the department store carried musical instruments, sheet music, records, cameras, and hardware in addition to the standard items you might expect.

Farm Directory, Ford-Gray Counties, Kansas, 1948
The Hutchinson News-Herald, June 25, 1950
The Wichita Eagle, December 12, 1953
Garden City Telegram, December 7, 1955

For many years, all of the Eckles products were sold under one roof. At some point, the music department was relocated to a one-story building directly behind the department store with frontage on Walnut/Gunsmoke Street. The luggage and appliance departments were also moved to a separate space on West Chestnut Street.

Photo by Hoover Cott
Special Traveler’s Edition, Dodge City Daily Globe, 1960
Dodge City Daily Globe, July 1961

The Nevins Hardware Company at 305 West Chestnut Street/Wyatt Earp Boulevard was sold to the proprietors of the Eckles Department Store in February of 1963. In the photo below, you can see the Nevins Hardware store on the right, just past Fowler Furniture. On the left are the signs for Eckles Appliances and Luggage.

Photo by Hoover Cott

You may recall that Charles Eckles married Esther Weyand and the sign for Weyand Seeds is also visible in the photo above.

There was a fire at Fowler Furniture in 1964 and the photos below show the Eckles Hardware signs at both the Wyatt Earp Boulevard and Front Street entrances.

In 1967, the hardware store was managed by Roy Schonhoff. For a long time, cousins Jack and Park owned the stores. When Park retired, he sold his interest in the store to Jack. Not long after, it was time for the third generation to manage the operations.

I don’t remember 1 Door South but my mom said they had cute clothes. It was apparently for the younger generation because they were selling concert tickets there in the mid-1970s. I assume it closed around the time I started kindergarten but that’s literally just a guess.

Special Travelers’ Edition, Dodge City Daily Globe, 1970

I also don’t remember the luggage and appliance store. In the photo below, you can just barely make out the old Eckles logo three buildings down from the Golden Kue, next to Southwest Photo.

Photo by Troy Robinson

I briefly mentioned that Jack’s wife, Murry was a talented artist and that’s really a gross understatement. In addition to creating art, she taught and wrote books to help others with their artistic endeavors for many years. Murry Eckles, Inc. was formed on April 27, 1978.

The Daily News of Johnson County, Kansas, March 21, 1984

Murry had an arts and crafts shop where she held classes in the basement of the department store building called Happiness is…

I won’t rehash the closing of Eckles Department Store but I will reiterate that it sucked, and not just because I missed riding the elevator with my grandmother. In August of 1985, the new Eckles Main Street Centre had 19 shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Eckles Department Store Company, Inc. was dissolved in January of 1998.

Here are some photos I took of the Eckles Department Store building a while back:

This is the old Eckles Music building:

This is the site of the Vinehurst Apartments:

Here is the spot where 1 Door South was located:

This is where the Eckles Appliances and Luggage store was located, under the Iron Insurance Partners sign:

And of course, the Eckles Hardware building was demolished during the Urban Renewal craze.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact the Eckles family had on Dodge City. The family was deeply invested in the community for generations and should be recognized for their contributions. I’m sure I’ve missed some important details so feel free to add them in the comments.

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!

Donation

Your support keeps the caffeine flowing! Make a one-time donation. Your contribution is appreciated!

$5.00

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: