Royse Building Then and Now

100 Military Avenue

This is a building I’ve never thought much about. Everyone knows it’s an old Montgomery Ward that was remodeled into commercial office space. I had no idea it’s actually two buildings, built five years apart, and veneered to look like a single structure.

The early history of this property is very confusing. The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows an empty lot at 101 Military and a large frame dwelling next door at 102, before the City standardized with odd and even addresses on opposite sides of the street. There are no notations about it being condemned.

The 1892 Sanborn also has an empty lot but now there’s a note that says “strip condemned from Railroad Avenue.” So weird! The empty lot still shows condemned on the 1899 Sanborn but then a house was built there! And it still said condemned for years! The frame dwelling at 101 seemed to be very large with a fancy rounded wall on the west. The same dwelling remained at 102.

So the 1905 Sanborn shows the whole lot condemned from Railroad/Central. The address was still 101 Military then and the same dwelling was next door at 102. The 1911 Sanborn shows a condemned strip along Railroad but it isn’t written over the house like the 1918 map. The block had been renumbered making the address 100 Military. It looks like a garage was added behind the house. The house next door is listed as 104…maybe because the lots were so big. There is no 102 on this map.

Why am I harping on this? The March 1914 obituary for Mrs. G. M. Hoover listed her address as 100 Military, which is impossible because it said the Hoovers had lived there for decades. It must have been the house next door? George then died in July of 1914 and all the articles listed 100 Military also. So bizarre. The household and personal effects were sold at public auction and the location was 100 Military. 104 was also advertised as a rooming house but I didn’t find a connection to the Hoover name. I don’t get it.

The 1918 Sanborn shows a condemned house at 100 Military and it looks like the one at 104 had been remodeled. But really, that lot had been marked as condemned for so long, who knows what kind of condition the house was really in at that time.

The county website says the current structure at 100 Military was built in 1925. I initially thought that could actually be correct! Except it says the *whole building* was constructed in 1925, which is obviously wrong. B.R. Royse (who held a patent for a lidless teapot) had the first piece built in the Spring of 1925.

Once they got started, things progressed very quickly.

The builder was J. N. Parham and his company also did the excavation. Concrete was all poured for the floors by September of 1925. The photo below appears to show the Royse Building under construction just to the left of the O’Neal Hotel.

Photographer Unknown

The Superior Garage was up and running by December of 1925 and managed by B. R.’s son, Chester. Small town side note: In September of 1918, C. F. Royse bought out T. H. Traynor’s interest in City Garage (formerly Hale & Son). So then it was Fay & Royse.

Carl Fay (former manager at City Garage) and C. E. Williams (of the McCoy Garage) teamed up with an Overland dealership and garage that advertised 24-hour service! This was probably because it was also a storage facility. Fay & Williams moved into the Royse building in late December or early January of 1926.

The Southwest News, February 25, 1926

The 1926 Sanborn shows one garage at 100 Military and the same old frame dwelling next door at 104. I can’t get over the shape! I totally understand maximizing your square footage but yikes with the geometry.

By 1929, the operation was the Carl Fay Motor Company.

The Dodge City Journal, August 8, 1929

Around 1930, the building appeared to have been occupied by Continental Oil Company. The 1932 Sanborn shows two garages covering both lots with the first floor of the new addition built in 1930.

By 1937, Schneider Super Service Company was located at 100 Military and Combs Automotive was in the adjoining building at 106. In 1939, the filling station was a Palmers Conoco. By 1947, Muncy-Snell Motor Company occupied the space at 100 Military, Combs Automotive was still at 106, and American Legion Post No. 47 was at 108. I read somewhere that Montgomery Ward leased 100 Military Avenue in 1947 but this is confusing, as there were other businesses still operating in that space through the early 1950s.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Program, 1947, Published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

By 1953, Hart Oil Company was located at 100 Military but Montgomery Ward had taken over the west end of the building by 1955. The city directories are kind of confusing because they listed the spot as Montgomery Ward Warehouse and that was likely partially true but it was also their tire and auto shop. The main Montgomery Ward store remained at First and Walnut during this time.

The photo below was taken before the second story was added to Combs Automotive.

Photo courtesy Kansas Heritage Center

It looks like the second floor was added sometime between 1955 and 1961.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Special Edition, July 1961

Imagine thinking this was a good idea. If anyone reading this actually used one of these or knows anyone who did, PLEASE (I’m begging you), leave me a comment. I need to know how it went.

Great Bend Daily Tribune, October 18, 1963

B. R. Royse had died in 1950 at the age of 91 and his estate sold the building to Hubert and Frank Piland in 1965. I found a brief newspaper reference to the “new” Montgomery Ward store in July of 1965 so they must have moved everything from Walnut/Gunsmoke by that time.

Photo by Troy Robinson

By 1967, Combs Automotive had moved to 520 West Trail Street and Montgomery Ward (managed by Troy Compton) occupied both buildings. According to the Kansas Historical Society, the building was given an overall design change around 1970. In the aerial photo below, you can see two distinct roofs but a unified exterior appearance.

Photo by Art Morenus

Montgomery Ward didn’t make it past the 1970s. I found a reference to the buildings being remodeled and rebranded as 100 Military Plaza around 1980 and I didn’t think that could possibly be correct. But then I saw this masterpiece: Ranch. Oak.

Garden City Telegram, April 14, 1980

The photo below shows how I remember Military Plaza in my mind’s eye.

Photo by Troy Robinson

The parking structure was apparently added around 1987. Since the combined buildings became 100 Military Plaza, it has housed attorneys, accountants, brokers, nonprofits, government agencies, et cetera and so on.

The block was surveyed by A-Z Land Surveying in September of 2001 and the whole document package is available here. The shape of the building is so bizarre. I can only imagine what a nightmare it was for the people tasked with installing the current blonde brick veneer.

When you enter the building now, it’s impossible to detect its 1920s origins.

Photo by Norman Holladay

If you look at the satellite view from Google Maps, it’s pretty obvious from just looking at the roof that the structures weren’t built at the same time. And that the west end did not make a rectangle!

The Street View goes back to 2007 so you can take a trip around the block and see the Central and Spruce views as well.

All of this because I saw an old newspaper ad and was curious about what the heck building that could have been. I seriously just assumed my entire life that Montgomery Ward *built* Military Plaza when they outgrew the original store. Coming soon is a story about the evolution of early Dodge City auto dealers that includes some of the same names.

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Rath Theater Then and Now

205 West Chestnut Street / Wyatt Earp Boulevard

I’ve seen a ton of ads for the Rath Theater while looking for other things but I never paid attention to its location. The other day, I glanced at the address and realized the history of this plain building was really something.

Most Dodge City locals are familiar with Jacob Collar’s furniture and undertaker supply business. He was succeeded by Charles Dickerson who was later bought out by McVeigh and Kirkpatrick.

The 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the back of a frame structure at what was then 328 West Chestnut Street. In those days, the store fronts were mainly located on the Front Street side and this lot had a furniture store with rooms for rent. The firms of F. A. Dunn and Co. merged with McVeigh and Kirkpatrick in October of 1884 and the new store was called Dunn and Kirkpatrick.

The Dodge City Democrat, November 29, 1884

They also had a store in Garden City. The partnership was dissolved in July of 1885 with Dunn assuming responsibility for the Garden City store and Kirkpatrick taking the one in Dodge. It is unclear how this transpired but suddenly there was a firm called Kirkpatrick and Dunn, this time with G. A. Dunn as partner.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, November 10, 1885

A catastrophic fire accelerated their construction plans in December of 1885. The map below isn’t to scale but at least it gives an idea of the layout. The fire started in a saloon right next door to the furniture store.

The Dodge City Democrat, December 12, 1885

The furniture store moved to Henry Sturm’s new brick building and excavation at the old site began almost immediately. Kirkpatrick and Dunn teamed up with their neighbors to the west to expedite rebuilding of the block.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 20, 1886

Just as the new building was nearing completion, the firm of Kirkpatrick and Dunn was dissolved. George Dunn retired but retained ownership of the structure. Ed Kirkpatrick continued the business as a sole proprietor as of late 1886.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, November 2, 1886

The 1887 Sanborn Map shows the furniture store taking up the entire building with frontage on both Chestnut and Front Streets. The block had been renumbered and the new address was 325 West Chestnut Street.

There were some issues early on with brick work having to be shored up on the new buildings in this block. The bricklayer was later killed by an architect in Denver after being accused of using inferior materials. Coincidence? We’ll never know.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, March 6, 1888

In May of 1895, Ed Kirkpatrick hired an undertaker by the name of Charles Hulpieu, who had recently moved from Garden City. When Ed Kirkpatrick moved his family to Arkansas City in early 1900, Charles Hulpieu and his brother-in-law, E. S. Adam, bought the store.

The Globe-Republican, January 11, 1900

Carrie Bainbridge, who as most of you know was Robert Rath’s mother, had bought the building around this time.

E. S. Adam bought out Hulpieu’s interest in the business in August of 1901. He operated as a sole proprietor until August of 1902 when the business became E. S. Adam & Company. His partner in this new company was former mayor, Adolphus Gluck. That partnership was dissolved with Gluck’s retirement in August of 1903 and Adam was a sole proprietor once again.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving dinners in the Hulpieu-Adam family must have been a gas!

The Globe-Republican, January 28, 1904

Hulpieu had gone to work for the Russell Furniture Company and his brother-in-law was having none of it. But about a week later, the Russell Furniture Company bought out Adam’s store and installed Hulpieu as Manager. E. S. Adam then made arrangements to get outta Dodge…as one does.

The Globe-Republican, May 12, 1904

The business was called Home Furnishing Company and it was around for ages. The 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows a furniture store on the main floor with club rooms upstairs. The club rooms seemed to have been used by Woodmen of the World, the Eagle Club, the Moose, etc.

Home Furnishing Company moved to a new location across Chestnut in early 1909 and Pastime Billiard Hall moved to the old spot that March with J. F. O’Neal as proprietor. O’Neal also operated a barber shop on the main floor.

The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the building’s new address of 205 West Chestnut Street. The building was destroyed in the Opera House fire on March 10, 1912.

In October of 1912, debris was still being cleared from the site in preparation for rebuilding. O’Neal thought he would be able to reopen his establishments but the Rath family had other ideas. Carrie Bainbridge terminated O’Neal’s lease based on the argument that the building was destroyed by a fire and this invalidated the lease. O’Neal sued and the courts initially sided with Bainbridge. O’Neal appealed and the case dragged on for quite a while.

In the meantime, the structure was rebuilt and Robert Rath planned to open the Rath Theater on December 7, 1912. Jack G. Abbott was hired as Manager.

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned and the 400-seat theater opened on December 30, 1912 to a packed house.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, December 28, 1912

You are not going to believe this but “From the Manger to the Cross” can be viewed online here.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 10, 1913

Jack Abbott left for California and began working at a company that manufactured motion picture film. He was replaced as Manager by F. A. Etrick.

Meanwhile, J. F. O’Neal’s suit against Carrie Bainbridge went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court. He didn’t get his lease back but he was awarded compensation.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 9, 1915

Dances were held on the second floor above the theater.

Dodge City Daily Globe, September 21, 1915

The upstairs rooms were also used for various courses in shorthand and commercial spelling. Some courses were taught by traveling instructors but J. E. Shinn also gave instruction.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 9, 1916

In October of 1916, F. A. Etrick announced he would become Rath’s competitor at the end of his lease. J. E. Shinn became the new manager and the theater was remodeled.

Dodge City Daily Globe, October 2, 1916

Ray Peacock of Stafford leased the theater in early 1917 and it reopened March 1. He was having trouble finding housing in Dodge. Go figure! The theater was remodeled again with new seats and new projection equipment.

1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the theater with frontage on both Chestnut and Front Streets. By 1920, the theater was operated by Frank E Drake. J. E. Dunbar operated a piano tuning business upstairs in the Moose Hall.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

It was reported that Drake sold the theater to H. G. and Oscar Souder at the beginning of July 1921 but something may have prevented the sale from being finalized. W. H. Harpole purchased the theater later that month and it was redecorated again.

The Dodge City Journal, July 28, 1921

Harpole is the one who reopened the establishment as the Cozy Theatre, which many of you may remember. He was also a partner in the Crown Theatre and had a long-term lease at the Chalk Beeson Theater.

The Dodge City Journal, September 22, 1921

The Cozy was redecorated yet again in May of 1925. Its regular programming was shown at the Chalk Beeson during that time. This photo shows the Front Street entrance in 1925.

Photographer Unknown

In this photo from March of 1930, you can see the Front Street entrance looks more like two exits and it’s very utilitarian.

Photographer Unknown

In June of 1930, the Cozy was gutted by a fire that started in the basement.

The Spearville News, July 3, 1930

Clearly, the Cozy was remodeled and reopened. By 1931, it was a Fox theater and it had its ups and downs opening and closing and reformatting. Although the Cozy found itself running second-rate shows in the 1930s, it was part of the premiere of “Dodge City” in April of 1939 due to the insane demand for tickets.

By 1947, the Cozy was still plugging along and the upper floor was used as a residence.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1947, published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

But by 1953, the entire building was vacant.

Photo by Troy Robinson

Around that time, Glenn Cooper bought the building and it was renamed the Loy Theatre. The upper floor was once again used as a residence. That renaissance was short lived, however, and by 1955 the building was home to Paul Warner Appliances with the Knickerbocker Club upstairs.

Disabled American Veterans and Automatic Door Controls Company used the upper floor for a brief time around 1960 but the appliance store remained on the main level until the bitter end.

You know what happened next. Progress.

Garden City Telegram, September 11, 1969

The photo below shows the Wyatt Earp Boulevard entrance shortly before demolition.

Photo courtesy Marin Lix

Here is the Front Street entrance. You can see the building interiors were already being cleared.

Photo courtesy Marin Lix

Click here for the Google Street View of the block as it appears now.

As much as I hate to see historical buildings destroyed, they were allowed to deteriorate to the point where it was basically the only option. Funding was much more difficult to obtain in those days. Building owners have many more resources now to help with historic preservation before it’s too late.

UPDATE: A reader sent me a screenshot from a British Pathé newsreel that shows the exterior of the Cozy during the world premiere of “Dodge City.” Instead of taking my chances with their licensing requirements, I’m linking here to the short newsreel. Enjoy!

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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