711 N Second Avenue
This ugly duckling was rumored to have gotten its start as a stone stable-turned-pigsty. It makes for a fun story but it also doesn’t seem to be rooted in reality.
The most credible story I’ve found about the building’s origin came from Frank A Hobble in 1932. He told the Globe that the stone building had been the sutler’s store at Fort Dodge, which was purchased by R. M. Wright and A. J. Anthony and moved to Dodge City. Newspaper accounts from 1884 seem to confirm Hobble’s version.
The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows a long, stone two-story tenement house with a single-story frame attachment on the back. The street address at that time was 905 Second Avenue. Pay special attention to the P. G. Reynolds Stage Stable to the left at Third and Vine. It will be relevant later.
By the time the 1892 Sanborn came out, the street number had been changed to 904 as the result of a building demolition to the south.
Unfortunately, the seven-year gap between available maps leaves the timeline somewhat open to interpretation. I know the building became a broom factory sometime before 1899 but as of this writing, I can’t prove which one.
In the spring of 1896, John E Harvey and L. E. Bissell opened a broom factory in Dodge City. I believe it was initially located under the Rock Island ticket office and I didn’t find any mention of it moving to Bridge Street/Second Avenue so it is unclear whether this building was occupied by this particular factory.
Frank S Porter bought the Dodge City Broom Factory in October of 1898 and he began plans to build a new place in July of 1899. Indeed, the 1899 Sanborn shows an old broom factory still at 904 Second Avenue with the current broom factory on the east side of Second between Spruce and Walnut. So there’s that.
The 1905 Sanborn still shows the (old) broom factory at 904 Second Avenue but the frame section looks like it was removed, as were the frame outbuildings. A new frame dwelling was added to the south end. It’s difficult to tell if they’re actually connected or just very close. It appears the building was once again used as a rooming house. Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Henry opened the Block House in May of 1907.
The block was renumbered sometime around 1909. The 1911 Sanborn shows both the old street number and the new one of 711 Second Avenue. The frame house was definitely connected according to this map. A wooden porch was added along the front and a there were also a couple of additions in the back. By this time, the Christian Church had been constructed at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Vine Street.
I wrote a bit about Combs Automotive, which was temporarily located at the Block House, in a previous post.
The Block House was used as an emergency hospital during the influenza epidemic. It finally closed in the Spring of 1920.
The 1920 directory advertised 14 clean, airy, modern rooms managed by Mrs. Bertha Brumbaugh. Mrs. Henry retained ownership of the building until she sold it to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks No. 1406 in February of 1924.
W. S. Leonard was hired by Mrs. Henry’s son to auction off the Block House furniture and fixtures ahead of the renovation.
The description in this article makes me wonder just how bad the building looked during the Block House years.
This postcard from 1925 contains the earliest image I’ve been able to find and it just wasn’t an attractive building.
The 1926 Sanborn shows the structure had been further enlarged. You can see the frame dwelling to the south had been removed and replaced by the IOOF and auto sales buildings which still occupy those lots.
Boxer (and Dodge City police officer) Angus Snyder trained in the basement of the Elks Home. Several fights were held in this building over the years.
Snyder actually held the second mortgage on the building and things were not going well for the Elks.
The building went up for sheriff’s sale in November of 1931 and Snyder bought it. The Elks, meanwhile, had eighteen months to redeem the property and announced plans to do so. Those plans were ultimately unsuccessful.
The 1932 Sanborn doesn’t show any changes to the lodge but the neighborhood had been completely transformed.
Snyder converted part of the building into apartments. There was one apartment on the second floor and two on the main floor plus a small basement apartment that was only briefly rented. The basement was mostly leased to businesses and government agencies. Snyder was even convinced to build a handball court in 1934.
The Kansas Emergency Relief Committee rented space in the building during the mid-1930s. KERC’s spot was later leased by the Ford County Board of Social Welfare as seen in the photo below from April 1, 1939. I’m not completely certain why all the BPOE signage (and the Elk!) remained.
You will note a cafe had been added at the north end of the building at some point. LaGrande Beauty Shop also occupied space in the building in 1939.
By 1942, Richardson’s Cafe was at the north end and Walker Mattress Company occupied the basement. Culligan Soft Water Service had moved in by 1947 and the cafe was home to J & D Cafe. I’m not sure when the gym was cleared out and used for storage.
Western Light and Telephone Company was in the building directly to the south and the office manager, Lott G Gean, had an apartment in the old Elks Home during the 1950s. Fields Typewriter Company had taken over the basement by 1953.
This photo was taken in 1954 and you can see the J&D Cafe sign in the window.
By 1955, that north end was home to Shamrock Shine Parlor, which was quickly replaced by Red’s Barber Shop in 1956.
By 1959, the basement was leased to Perry Office Machines.
Later in 1960, Perry moved across the street and the basement was left vacant. The building was completely vacant by 1962.
In this aerial photo, you can see the Christian Church on the corner had already been demolished and the site was being used as a parking lot.
I don’t want to besmirch the sources for this article, who didn’t have the magic of the internet to refresh their memories. It really does seem like Ripple was pulling the reporter’s leg.
You’ll recall I drew your attention to the 1887 Sanborn, which placed the (wood, not stone) Reynolds stable around the block from the future Elks Home. The maps also confirm the building had two stories long before Mrs. Henry bought it. Observations of tenement buildings aside, I have found no indication that the building was ever a *literal* pigsty.
These photos were taken during the demolition, which took place in the Spring of 1970.
Aside from some small outbuildings, the lot has been empty ever since.
I’m always harping on the evils of Urban Renewal and the historic buildings which were taken from us. In this case, even with the legacy from Fort Dodge, it seems like the right decision.
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