801 North Second Avenue
Since Dodge City’s neon signs have all but vanished, I feel compelled to photograph them whenever I see them…even if the neon is long gone. I grabbed a few shots of the very cool sign at Wardrobe Cleaners a while back and didn’t give the building much thought. Then I was looking into another business and noticed an ad from 1922. I had no idea it had been around for so long!
The county website says this building was constructed in 1920 but that is impossible. In 1920, Dodge had only two laundries: Dodge City Steam Laundry on Chestnut Street and People’s Steam Laundry on Trail Street. The structure on this site in 1920 was the frame dwelling shown on this 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
Simon R. Sprecher and Frank Palmer started “The Wardrobe” at 605 Second Avenue in early 1921.
That would be the building on the left in the photo below.
In 1922, the post office was on Second Avenue where the Ensueno Boutique is currently located.
Talk about a dangerous line of work!
I’m not sure exactly when Palmer exited the business but by May of 1924, he was working as a car salesman.
Sprecher had the current Wardrobe Cleaners location built in 1928 and it included a fur storage vault in the basement. I think it’s awesome that the slogan “We Know How” survived and is still on the sign out front. You’ll also notice the same logo was still being used in the 1960s.
Clearly, the current sign is not the original.
The 1932 Sanborn shows storefronts along Second Avenue with the dry cleaner frontage on Vine Street.
Lawrence W Anderson (formerly of Skillington Tailoring Company) bought the business around 1937 and it became known as Anderson’s Wardrobe Cleaners. He also owned Anderson Cleaners at 306 West Chestnut Street. If I understand correctly, he was married to Leona Kliesen.
The photo below was taken during the parade for the world premiere of “Dodge City” on April 1, 1939. Unfortunately, the flag is blocking the view but you can still see a good portion of the sign.
This full-page ad celebrating the end of World War II is epic.
Leona’s siblings, Laurence E “Bud” Kliesen and Lucyle (Kliesen) Day, bought the business in the early 1950s and it was owned by various members of the Kliesen family for more than 30 years. Let’s see if I understand this all correctly! Bud died in 1960 and Kathryn (Kliesen) White bought his share. After Lucyle died in 1962, Katie and her husband, Norval, bought her share as well.
Katie famously cleaned law enforcement uniforms at no charge as well as the local nuns’ habits. Their son, Laurence “Buddy” White, worked at the shop for about 20 years.
Some of you may remember a model church being displayed in the window of the store.
This story is about W. P. Kliesen, the architect who designed the church, and I am including the full newspaper article referenced in the story below.
Katie sold the business to C. W. Edwards, who owned it for several years before selling to Henry Burge. Today, the business is Jamie’s Wardrobe Cleaners. It’s awesome to see a building still serving the same purpose with nearly the exact same name for almost 100 years.
Special thanks to Katie’s granddaughter and my classmate, Katie White-Majerus, and her family for filling in the blanks for this story. Any mistakes or misunderstandings of the relationships or timeline are 100 percent mine!
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