501 Sunnyside Avenue
Sunnyside kids should be very familiar with this one, even if you don’t recognize the name. I’ve been terrified of this place since about 1981. You know how kids are. There were stories about people being murdered in the abandoned elevator north of the school. So we would be out there on the playground looking at this dreary place (pre-colorful graffiti) with tattered plastic sheeting blowing out of the upper windows and telling tall tales of murder and mayhem. As kids do.
When Raymond C Davidson built a new elevator at what was then Fourth Street and a county road, it was really in the middle of nowhere.
I have to assume Mr. Davidson was instrumental in bringing electricity to South Dodge.
Bernard Askew of Macksville was the manager of the Dodge facility. This poor guy had no idea what he was getting himself into.
Here’s a plat map from 1916 showing where the CRI&P split off from the Santa Fe Railroad and Sunnyside was still a county road. Fourth Street was later renamed Sycamore Street. You can see the main line and the siding for the grain elevator.
Crop conditions were terrible in 1917 but for wheat prices to increase by more than a dollar in less than two months back then was still ca-razy.
We were at war and this was really bad timing for such high failure rates.
Speaking of war, Mr. Askew was a sergeant with the 110th Military Police and deployed to Europe in May of 1918. It is unclear who took over his duties at the elevator while he was in service of Uncle Sam. Although he briefly owned property in Dodge after returning from the war, he was living in Macksville again by 1922.
In 1920, the county directory simply listed Davidson Elevator in South Dodge, while in 1924 it was merely “S D.”
Although the facility was built in 1915, it didn’t appear on a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map until 1932. Page 17 begins with the railroad tracks and omits Sycamore Street so it’s kind of difficult to place the location if you haven’t spent a lot of time there. The elevator still stands along the old Rock Island Line at Sunnyside and Sycamore.
The two youths referenced in this story were Virgil Counterman (15) and Ralph Wright (12). Both were convicted and Counterman was committed to the boys’ industrial school in Topeka. Wright was paroled to the Salvation Army in Hutchinson. Counterman told police he had stolen eight cars. He had previously been a resident of Dodge and had been sent to the same school in Topeka while he lived here. I’ll refrain from sharing my opinions about kids learning to be criminals from our backwards system.
The grain elevator’s position on the Rock Island Line became a serious weakness as the railroad took a nosedive into nonexistence.
Just for funzies, here’s a photo of the Rock Island Depot that sat between John Deere Plow Co. and the Guymon-Petro building before being moved to Avenue A for use as a residence.
Anyway, Davidson Grain Company closed up shop in Dodge City sometime between 1962 and 1967. R. C. Davidson died June 17, 1983 and his son, R. C. “Bus” Davidson, Jr. followed on February 26, 1989 at the age of 70.
The Google Maps satellite view clearly shows where the office and scale were located.
Here’s how the facility looks now:
Here are some bonus images of the former US Army locomotive (RPCX 6601) painted for the DCF&B by Harold Reardon:
I remember seeing people in and out of the elevator during the early 1980s but I couldn’t tell you if there was an actual business operating there. It isn’t well secured at all and it’s obvious people have been inside recently but you couldn’t pay me enough to go in there. I don’t want to be the murderer’s next victim.
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