Rath & Bainbridge Drug Then and Now

501 First Avenue (now 200 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard)

There are a million resources for learning about the Rath family in Dodge City so I won’t attempt to reinvent the wheel here. A reader asked me to take a look at the Rath & Bainbridge Drug store and I obviously knew a little (having been raised in Dodge) but I had never really pieced the story together because my focus has always been on everything Beeson.

For example, I had never made the connection with the whole Rath and Bainbridge thing. I know, right?! So there was some weirdness with Charles Rath divorcing his wife, Carrie. She later married a Bainbridge so Rath and Bainbridge was initially a partnership between Robert M Rath (Charles and Carrie’s son) and Carrie.

The building in question is at First Avenue and (modern) Front Street but I’m going all the way back to the beginning because I can’t help myself. Rath and Bainbridge was not a new venture. Dr. Thomas L. McCarty opened the City Drug Store circa 1877.

Ford County Globe, January 1, 1878

This next announcement surprised me a bit. I didn’t realize Dr. McCarty had moved his store but it turns out his previous location was one door east of F. C. Zimmermann’s hardware store on Front Street.

Ford County Globe, March 11, 1879

This is a photo my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Beeson, had of the City Drug Store on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Front Street but I’m not sure about the date. Possibly around 1887? The elder Dr. McCarty operated the drug store while also practicing medicine in a separate part of the building for several years. If you compare the 1884 and 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, you can see how the business grew over the years.

Photographer unknown

Walter F Pine is pictured above, standing in the middle background. Pine worked at City Drug Store for quite a while and appeared to acquire at least part of the business around 1895, possibly with some help from a man named Amos. Then somehow Amos & Gwinner owned the store. This all took place in a relatively short period of time.

The Globe-Republican, July 25, 1901

Patent medicines were super sketchy. The terrifying concoction advertised below contained chloroform, morphine, and pine tar.

The Globe-Republican, November 7, 1901

I found this nugget quite by accident; It turns out Robert M Rath dabbled in the arts.

The Globe-Republican, March 6, 1902

Apparently, the “vice of nagging” could be cured by a laxative containing 18% alcohol.

The Globe-Republican, March 13, 1902
Dodge City Democrat, September 26, 1902
Dodge City Democrat, January 2, 1903
The Globe-Republican, September 24, 1903
The Globe-Republican, December 17, 1903
The Globe-Republican, March 17, 1904
The Globe-Republican, April 14, 1904

This one’s a real doozy.

The Globe-Republican, September 1, 1904
The Globe-Republican, January 5, 1905
The Journal-Democrat, July 21, 1905
The Journal-Democrat, August 31, 1906

Rath & Bainbridge also sold Victrolas. Click here for a list of dealers in Kansas. Here is a link to a photo of their sign advertising prices.

The Journal-Democrat, February 22, 1907
The Globe-Republican, May 2, 1907
The Globe-Republican, May 9, 1907
The Journal-Democrat, June 7, 1907

Rath & Bainbridge Drug moved to their new location at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Chestnut Street (now the Front Street parking lot) in early 1908.

The Journal-Democrat, December 20, 1907

A new plate glass window was installed facing Chestnut Street and they anticipated the new space would be ready for occupancy by April 1.

The Globe-Republican, February 13, 1908

The 1905 Sanborn Map shows the grocery store next to open lots on First Avenue. This map was created before the new Masonic Temple had been built. You may also note this map was created before Dodge City standardized street addresses. Later maps will show different addresses for this building. There has been a building on this site with the same orientation since at least 1884, when it held stick-built lodge rooms. By 1887, the IOOF had replaced the wood structure with a brick building. The basic footprint remained the same but by 1899, the building had been split with a storage room being assigned the 710 1/2 street address.

The Journal-Democrat, March 6, 1908

Wait a minute…liquor license applications went to the…Probate Court??? Tell me that’s an error.

The Journal-Democrat, April 10, 1908
The Globe-Republican, August 13, 1908
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, April 16, 1909
1909 Post Card, Photographer Unknown
The Globe-Republican, May 20, 1909

I literally cannot even with this one. When my grandma explained how Chalk Beeson Theater manager Wolf Goldstein was run out of town for being a Jew, my child brain couldn’t process the information. Like, what did Judaism have to do with successfully managing a theater? Who ran him out of town? Oh right…the f-ing Klan. Got it. This ad makes me angry.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, February 25, 1910
1910 Post Card, Photographer Unknown

The 1911 Sanborn Map is quite interesting. The 1910 post card above shows the Rath & Bainbridge building on the left and the Masonic Temple on the right but there’s a space in the middle which would later be occupied by the Bainbridge building. By the time the 1911 map was printed, the Bainbridge building had been constructed and occupied. You’ll also notice the addresses on First Avenue show both the old and new numbering systems.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, March 15, 1912

“He is about 28 years old, and bright, except for his craving for drugs.”

The Dodge City Daily Globe, April 8, 1913

“The treatment consists of plenty of sleep and food and no drugs.” This is beyond parody. Also, if you let me out I’m pretty sure I won’t need drugs anymore. Scout’s honor!

The Dodge City Globe, April 24, 1913
The Dodge City Globe, February 26, 1914
The Dodge City Globe, April 30, 1914

Roy Bainbridge was Robert Rath’s half-brother.

The Dodge City Globe, February 25, 1915

Imagine having to stop by the drug store every day for box scores.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, April 20, 1915
The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 7, 1915

The 1918 Sanborn Map shows the neighborhood filled in with very few wood frame structures.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920
The Dodge City Journal, February 3, 1921

1921 Post Card, Photographer Unknown – 2022 Photograph by Author

The Dodge City Journal, October 12, 1922

Carrie Bainbridge had been in poor health for several years and died in November of 1923.

The Dodge City Journal, November 29, 1923

Very soon after Carrie’s death, Rath & Bainbridge Drug announced new owners had taken over the Rexall franchise.

The Dodge City Journal, January 3, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, January 10, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, May 8, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, May 8, 1924

And there you have it.

Etrick’s Ford County Directory, 1924

The 1926 Sanborn Map doesn’t reveal many changes to the neighborhood.

The Dodge City Journal, July 11, 1929

Mrs. T. J Phillips died in June of 1932 after surgery at St. Anthony’s Hospital and the pharmacy changed hands soon after.

The Catholic Advance, February 3, 1934
Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kans.) Directory, 1953
Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kansas) Directory, 1962

A & A Drug Store still occupied the space in 1967 but the building was vacant by 1970. John Wilson retired at some point and died at age 81 in January of 1982. It was later home to businesses such as the Corner Café and State Farm Insurance.

I haven’t been in the Rath & Bainbridge building formerly at 501 First Avenue or the adjoining Bainbridge building at 503 First Avenue in nearly 20 years. They have been remodeled into office spaces and I’ve never seen the residential areas upstairs. At the time, I had no idea where I was standing so I didn’t pay any attention at all to the particulars. I hadn’t gotten any good photos during my previous visits, so I took the opportunity while I was home for the concert at Chalk’s grave:

I have a reputation for speaking my mind and I certainly won’t hold back now. The reason I hadn’t taken any good pics of this building or the one next door is because they’re both hideous and good photos are literally impossible. If you look closely at the third photo in the slideshow, you can see a bit of exposed red brick. So apparently some galaxy-brain genius decided to put a lame brick veneer on this bad boy. Look at how deep the window casings appear as a result. Every ornate element has been obliterated. Whoever glazed the windows deserves a beating. Did they not own a level? It’s just so painful to look at! And then the vomit-colored Bainbridge Building next door! The red brick where the National Register plaque is located is from the old Masonic Temple and I…like…does no one know how to remove sloppy paint whoopsies?!? How embarrassing! I hate seeing buildings allowed to rot.

Anyway, I had fun looking through all of the old Rath & Bainbridge ads. If there’s a building or location you would like me to research, send me a message or leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. With any luck, our Arizona tiny home will be on-site soon and I’ll be able to annoy you with our DIY updates.

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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Kansas Power Co. Plant Then and Now

709 W Locust [Santa Fe] (Trail) Street

There is nothing I can tell you about this building that can’t be found in the Kansas Register of Historic Places documents, which are the most detailed I’ve ever seen for historic buildings. The nomination form gives an exhaustive history of the plant as well as the evolution of the power companies in Dodge City. The inventory includes interior photos as well as some historical shots. It’s definitely worth your time to scan through all of the materials.

This building was right next door to the Water Department building that was recently destroyed by a fire. I’ve always thought it had a neat style but I didn’t know anything about it. Since the research has already been done for me, I focused mostly on newspaper articles and advertisements. I’ve also included links to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps that are available online so you can zoom in and take a look at the changes to the plant buildings and the surrounding area over time.

Ordinance No. 100 granted franchise and the exclusive rights to light the new city to Dodge City Incandescent Electric Light Co.

The Dodge City Democrat, May 15, 1886
The Dodge City Times, June 3, 1886
The Dodge City Democrat, June 5, 1886

This next piece is amazing. Think about how quickly this all came together. The Wickedest Town in the West was pretty damned modern! Also, in case you didn’t know, the word “dynamo” wasn’t being used as a descriptor; it was a generator.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 24, 1886

The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the facility on Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street between First and Second Avenues.

The 1905 Sanborn Map shows the Midland Water, Light, and Ice Co. building on what was then called Locust Street.

The town was growing and it quickly became clear that expansion would be necessary.

The Globe-Republican, September 19, 1907

It seems like a lot was going on in that one plant but the company was also selling all sorts of electric contraptions that facilitated the sale of more electricity.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, May 7, 1909
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, August 27, 1909
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, October 8, 1909

There were disagreements between the Company and the City (and the citizens, apparently) about pricing, costs of infrastructure improvements, and the service expectations. A split was inevitable, leaving the City to handle the Waterworks.

The Wichita Eagle, January 21, 1910

The timing made me laugh. Of *course* no expense would be spared once the Waterworks could be spun off to the City. I’m not even mad at him. That was good maneuvering!

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, August 5, 1910

The 1911 Sanborn Map shows the new plant next door to the Waterworks facility on Santa Fe Trail Street.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 23, 1912

Dodge City residents were hooked and more expansion was required.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 13, 1913

The Dodge City Daily Globe, August 4, 1913

The 1918 Sanborn Map shows the expanded facility.

Some of the advertising was gag-worthy but whatever. Also notable was the latest name change.

The Dodge City Journal, October 7, 1920
The Dodge City Journal, September 22, 1921
The Dodge City Journal, October 5, 1922

I would have preferred the electric train, thank you very little.

The Dodge City Journal, September 27, 1923
The Dodge City Journal, January 24, 1924
The Dodge City Journal, April 3, 1924

Things started getting very corporate in 1925 and that trend continued for pretty much the rest of the 20th Century.

The Hutchinson News, April 9, 1925
The Southwest News, January 21, 1926

The 1926 Sanborn Map shows further expansion of the plant.

The folks at the City didn’t like the deal they were getting on electricity from their new corporate overlords.

That certainly didn’t take long.

The Hutchinson News, May 30, 1927
The Ford Progress, March 29, 1929
The Dodge City Journal, December 11, 1930

1932 was when the Trail Street plant became a backup.

The Ford Progress, April 17, 1931

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, May 1947

The Trail plant continued to be a backup until 1996. I had forgotten about Centel and all of the wild mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s and ’90s. You’re so lucky to have Victory Electric now. I just remember shitty service and rates that fluctuated like crazy during those regulatory fights.

Here are some photos I took before I knew anything about the building’s history:

Next time, I’ll take a look at the Rath & Bainbridge Drug Store. This one was a reader request so if there’s a building or landmark you would like to know more about, feel free to send me a message and I’ll see what I can do!

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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Dodge City Then and Now: Part VII

Thanks again to those of you who have supported this blog. Your donations help offset the costs of subscription databases and web hosting, in addition to massive amounts of coffee. I appreciate you!

Lora-Locke Hotel

100 Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street

Believe it or not (shut up), I’m old enough to remember when the Lora-Locke Hotel was a hotel. My most memorable experience at the Lora-Locke was when my mom (and one of her friends?) took me there for lunch and I was tricked into ordering a Reuben sandwich. Why tricked, you might ask. Because my mother knew I hated sauerkraut but she thought I was just doing one of those stubborn kid things because it sounded weird or whatever. I kept asking what was on it and she just kept saying she thought I would like it. I gave up and ordered the Reuben and knew the moment I bit into it that something was terribly wrong. I asked if it had sauerkraut on it and she burst out laughing. She had purposely ordered something she knew I would like just in case I really did hate it. And I did…so we traded.

That memory was made possible by Mike Burkhart, among others. Mike, especially, poured a lot of love and a helluva lot of money into the Lora-Locke, literally saving her from disaster.

A lot of this you may already know. The Lora-Locke Hotel opened for business in 1928. It was named after Lora Howell and Hattie (Locke) Theis, wives of George Howell and Otto Theis.

Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street entrance

Howell and Theis formed Citizens Hotel Company in May of 1927. The site they selected is at the corner of Central Avenue and Walnut Street, which was the northwest boundary of the Fort Dodge Military Reservation.

The Wichita Eagle, February 3, 1955

The 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows only dwellings on the entire block.

Howell and Theis intended to build a five-story hotel for about $300,000 and hired Wichita architect Ellis Charles to draw up the plans. It was to be built by Eastergard & Bullard.

The Wichita Eagle, August 18, 1927

Cost estimates clearly varied, perhaps along with degrees of accuracy.

The Daily National Hotel Reporter (Chicago, Illinois), August 25, 1927
The Wichita Eagle, September 4, 1927

The Lora-Locke was scheduled to open on or around March 1, 1928 and was to be managed by Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Brown. Ten shops on the ground floor were already rented by February 16, 1928. According to The Daily National Hotel Reporter, the actual construction costs amounted to $350,000.

Retail spaces along Central Avenue
The Hutchinson News, March 19, 1928

Some people mocked the name, saying it sounded like a “beauty parlor or millinery shop.” The Dodge City Chamber of Commerce moved into its rooms at the hotel in March of 1928.

The Hutchinson News, March 31, 1928 with a classic typo

I wonder if tear sheets were a thing in the newspaper advertising biz in 1928.

The Hutchinson News, March 31, 1928

From the very beginning, the Lora-Locke hosted guests attending all sorts of large events.

The Wichita Eagle, April 7, 1928

The Lora-Locke’s manager was fired not long after the hotel opened, causing several employees to walk off the job.

The Hutchinson News, April 17, 1928

Hal Minton was hired to replace Mr. Brown in June of 1928. I have no idea where he came from but he must have been thrilled to see his new hotel make the national news.

Rupert Hughes – The San Francisco Examiner, December 2, 1928

The Dodge City Journal, June 27, 1929
The Dodge City Journal, July 18, 1929

While most of us remember nothing but a tight housing market in Dodge, contrast this article with a later quote from Mike Burkhart in which he indicated there were too many hotel rooms in town.

The Wichita Eagle, October 12, 1929

I admit I am somewhat curious about what kind of hustle these ladies were running.

The Hutchinson News, October 17, 1929

The block along Walnut Street where the Lora-Locke sits next door to another Howell building (and another building Mike Burkhart tried to save) was nicknamed “The Million Dollar Block.”

Corner of Walnut (Gunsmoke) Street and First Avenue
The Dodge City Journal, January 9, 1930

Honestly, I’m not sure this recipe is worth trying but it ran in newspapers throughout the country.

The State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), December 4, 1931

Hal Minton resigned as Manager in November of 1932 to head West and was replaced by Mike Biggs.

Otto Theis died after falling off a horse at his ranch near Englewood in May of 1934.

The Catholic Advance, February 9, 1935

The movie Dodge City premiered at the Dodge Theater in Dodge City in April of 1939. Less than six months later, the Lora-Locke was sold.

The Hutchinson News, September 6, 1939

This is where I get a bit confused. I’ve read numerous articles and historical accounts which state the Lora-Locke was owned by the Theis family (after buying out George Howell’s widow in the 1940s) continuously until it closed the first time in 1978. At some point, there was a Howell-Theis Hotel Company in play and maybe that’s the entity which bought it back from American Hotels Co.? Maybe it was a DBA? Down below, you will see articles showing the Theis family (Theis Co.) again as owners of the hotel as of the early 1960s. The sequence of events is unclear to me so I would appreciate comments from anyone who knows the complete story.

During the Dust Bowl, each room had adhesive tape and when the wind started blowing hard, the desk clerk would call all the rooms and tell the guests, “Duster coming.” The guests would then plaster the windows and doors with the tape to keep out the dust. And then a wayward towel found its way home.

The Kansas City Times, June 4, 1949
Weekly Star Farmer (Kansas City), November 25, 1953
Polk’s Dodge City Directory 1953
Polk’s Dodge City Directory 1957
The Advance Register, April 1, 1960

So here’s where I found mention of the Theis family owning the hotel again.

The Wichita Sunday Eagle and The Wichita Beacon, July 9, 1961
Great Bend Daily Tribune, December 10, 1963
The Wichita Eagle, March 14, 1964
Garden City Telegram, August 8, 1972
Garden City Telegram, January 16, 1975

This article incorrectly stated the theater was in the lower level of the hotel.

The Wichita Eagle, October 19, 1977

And then…a shock.

The Parsons Sun, February 11, 1978

Wichita Beacon, March 21, 1978

Bob Stith, Myron Wheaton, and George Voss bought the building in July of 1983 and began working to reopen the Lora-Locke Hotel. Dodge City authorized the sale of $1.2 million in industrial revenue bonds to finance the purchase of the building and equipment and for renovations. Work was expected to be completed in December of 1983 but after a brief delay, she reopened on February 26, 1984 with a restaurant, club, 19 suites, and 35 guest rooms. Work was to continue on additional guest and resident spaces as funds allowed.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, September 20, 1984

But then a reprieve.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, October 17, 1984

Renovations were about 70% complete when Burkhart stepped in and paid off creditors. Some apartments were occupied and the hotel had some overnight guests but utilities hadn’t even been paid and the gas had been shut off. Burkhart also got the Lora-Locke added to the National Register of Historic Places. He also bought the old Montgomery Ward building next door and said the Million Dollar Block was closer to the Four Million Dollar Block back in 1986.

And then Miss Kitty came to town and stayed in the same room Errol Flynn had used during the premiere of Dodge City.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, February 28, 1985
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, August 27, 1985

I had to read this one a few times to understand what in the wide world of sports they were thinking.

Parsons Sun, December 31, 1985

Unfortunately, nostalgia is extremely expensive and love doesn’t pay the bills.

Parsons Sun, August 5, 1987

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, February 27, 1988
The Manhattan Mercury, April 21, 1988
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, September 22, 1987
Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1988

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, November 16, 1988

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, November 20, 1988

I vaguely recall the debates and delays taking place when I was in junior high and high school. My attention was on other things but the arguments were hard to miss.

The Wichita Eagle, January 28, 1991

I’m sure you’ve been waiting for my take on all of this. Eyebrows may have been raised in 1991 but the building was saved. I was in grade school when the Lora-Locke reopened so I don’t know how viable Stith, Wheaton, Voss, and ultimately, Burkhart really found the project. I’ve heard rumors that Burkhart, at least, just pumped enough money into the building so she would make an attractive option for Ford County. Maybe. Maybe he was a true believer and thought she could continue as a hotel. I don’t know and I don’t care. The Lora-Locke was saved. The county obviously had to make layout changes for functionality and systems changes in accordance with building codes but they managed to leave the Lora-Locke’s beauty intact. Some floors have been modified to the point where it’s difficult to tell you’re in a beautiful old building. All you have to do is wander around the place a bit, though, and you’ll see why she was worth saving.

A while back, I found this blog post from a guy who stayed at the Lora-Locke with his parents in the 1980s.

I remember hearing someone who worked at the hotel complaining about pheasant season. Hunters had filled all of the rooms in Dodge and several stayed at the Lora-Locke. They had apparently been born in barns and determined the hotel bathrooms were appropriate venues for cleaning birds. Imagine!

Anyway, the Lora-Locke is a real gem and the local community should be grateful to the people who took a chance on her. The next time you’re renewing your tags or researching a deed, take a look around. Sit on the mezzanine and just enjoy.

This is the last one in the series…at least for now. I’ll probably write about the Chalk Beeson Theater at some point but I really need to focus on my Otero Beeson research. Until then, you can check out Parts I through VI below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, and Post Office

Part V – Dodge City High School (1000 North Second Avenue)

Part VI – Dodge City Senior High School (1601 First Avenue)

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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Dodge City Then and Now: Part VI

First of all, thank you to everyone who has read and shared these posts. I am especially grateful to all of you who have donated to the cause! I’m writing this one from a seedy hotel in Tucson because what better time to return to the desert than during the Gem and Mineral Show.

This was a fun building to research. Just looking for the year of completion was quite a ride. 1923? 1924? 1926? Nope…none of those! Even some official sources (which I will not publicly shame) missed the mark. Because it lacks any sort of style, I’m pretending the addition along Second Avenue doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, the most recent Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps available online for Dodge are from 1926 so they were no help.

Dodge City Senior High School

1601 First Avenue

The people who say you don’t know what you have until its gone didn’t attend high school on First Avenue in Dodge City. I’m pretty sure we all knew, even when we were self-absorbed teenagers. The 1966 addition on the back is meh, whatever…but the original building is an absolute treasure and I’m so happy Dodge has made the effort to keep it in use. The latest additions on the north end are about as well-matched as one could possibly expect.

I’ve mentioned before that Dodge City schools have always been overcrowded. In addition, technology advanced very quickly in the early 20th century. Our high schoolers were doing the sportsball contests before they had their own dedicated facilities. The high school building on Second Avenue was magnificent but its facilities were outdated in no time. Imagine holding a district basketball tourney at an elementary school because it was a better venue!

The Dodger, March 2, 1926

The Southwest News, September 9, 1926

Not to worry, though…the school board was on the case. I can imagine the faces of Dodge City residents when they learned they were expected to cough up $250,000 (nearly $4 million in 2022) for the new facilities. The district was already at their legal bonded debt limit of $269,000 and they wanted to basically double it.

The Dodger, January 11, 1927

We all complain about opinion pieces masquerading as journalism but it isn’t a new problem. Check out this beauty on the front page, above the fold, presented as news:

The Southwest News, January 20, 1927

The high school paper did a much better job of relaying the facts. Also, it looks like the school board learned from prior missteps and quickly resolved the location issue.

The Dodger, March 22, 1927

It’s no surprise there was fierce opposition to the plan. There always is.

The Dodger, April 5, 1927

Imagine how bad the conditions must have been for the bond issue to pass by more than two to one!

The Dodger, April 19, 1927

While the Class of 1928 missed out on the new building, they were excited for their younger peers and included this artist’s rendering in their yearbook. It would have been neat if the school had been built as depicted here with those spaces along Second Avenue…expensive, but neat.

The 1928 SOU’WESTER “The Weather Edition”, Volume 12

This time, the school board even correctly guestimated in which year the new high school would be completed!

The Hutchinson News, October 9, 1928

So this is super cool…a member of the first DCHS graduating class attended the dedication of the new school.

The Hutchinson News, December 12, 1928

These self-absorbed teenagers were also pretty grateful for the new facility provided to them.

The SOU’WESTER 1929

The SOU’WESTER 1929

As previously mentioned, Dodge tried to build a new high school forever when I was growing up but couldn’t get the bond issue to pass. I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal to simply add an additional high school but you see, Football won State once in the 1970s so you know we *had* to stay 6A to reclaim our glory, or whatever. I mean, I get it. What would the mascot for the Dodge City Northwest High School be anyway? They’d probably call them the Cowboys or something equally ridiculous. So I will acknowledge the logic in their argument. Dodge City is and will always be “Home of the Red Demons,” regardless of what my junior high art teacher’s husband had to say about it.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, July 7, 1988

Anyway, 83 years was probably too long at that location, especially since Associated Press can’t do the maths and The Wichita Eagle can’t do a basic fact check. 2001 minus 1928 is 73. You saw it here first!

The Wichita Eagle, June 1, 2001

If you haven’t been by the school in a while, here are a few photos I took recently to refresh your memory. I still love all the details…especially the D Men outside the gym.

Next time, I’ll dig into the Lora Locke Hotel. Until then, you can check out Parts I through V below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, and Post Office

Part V – Dodge City High School (1000 North Second Avenue)

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!

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Dodge City Then and Now: Part V

When will this series end? When I say it ends.

Last time, I promised a school post. As a former wearer of the “Proud to be in 443!” merch, I have strong opinions about Dodge City schools. I attended the same elementary school as my mom and my grandmother…Go Bobcats! I even had the same fifth grade teacher as my mom and boy was she surprised by my interest in, well, school.

I’m not getting into all of the historic school buildings because nobody has time for that. Dodge has done a terrific job with some of them. If you contrast the updates/additions at Central Elementary with the tragedy of Lincoln Elementary, it kind of makes your head swim. I don’t want to speculate about motivations but certain areas of town get the good stuff, if you know what I mean.

My intention was to simply admire the architecture but as I started digging into the details, I found the process was very similar to how things work (or don’t) today. We tend to romanticize the past and assume our dysfunction is a modern invention. I don’t know if it will make you feel better or worse but everything was as big of a soup sandwich then as it is now. Get comfortable; this will take a minute.

Dodge City High School

1000 (North) Second Avenue

I understand why this building had to come down but I’m not happy about it. The original high school structure was built in 1914. The 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows a pretty basic footprint with steam heat and electric lights. I mention this because in 1918, the East Side School (later renamed First Ward School) at Avenue G and East Vine Street still operated with stoves for heat and no lights according to Sanborn.

The 1911 Sanborn map shows dwellings in the 1000 block of Second Avenue.

The 1926 Sanborn map shows a 1916 addition at the back of the lot that didn’t appear on the map in 1918 as well as a large addition on the north end of the building in 1923. That 1923 addition is the reason for the drastically different appearances in the postcard photos above. It wasn’t just a matter of camera angles!

Prior to the 1886-87 school year, all grades were taught in the same school on Boot Hill. That all changed with the new school on the “east side” of town. The article below references Bridge Street as the dividing line, which was later renamed Second Avenue. So when you look at Dodge now, it’s pretty damned central but back then, not so much.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, September 7, 1886

This change meant that all high school students were instructed at the Second Ward School, which was located at Railroad (Central) Avenue and Division Street as shown on the 1887 Sanborn map. The first commencement of Dodge City High School was held June 10, 1887 at McCarty’s Opera House for a graduating class of three students.

Dodge City schools have pretty much always been overcrowded. So two years after sending high school students to the new building, Superintendent Webb announced they would be instructed at the corner of Second Avenue and Cedar Street.

Ford County Republican, August 29, 1888

*record skips* Where? The 1887 Sanborn map shows dwellings and a vacant building at that corner, as does the 1892 Sanborn. The “school room” must have been that vacant building? There were 25 students enrolled in high school for the 1888-89 school year.

The 1889-90 school year was a trip. The original Third Ward School opened in 1880 at the top of Boot Hill was condemned, leaving a bunch of students displaced. So the high schoolers were pushed out of the vacant building and into rooms above Mrs. Beadle’s store.

Ford County Republican, August 28, 1889

According to Robert Marr Wright, the original school cost $6,300 to build and the roof was already leaking a year after completion. After five years, it was braced by rods. High school students were back at the new Third Ward School for the 1890-91 school year.

By the 1898-99 school year, the high school room was packed with 67 students. The idea of forming a county high school had been discussed periodically over the years and my great-great grandfather introduced a bill in the Kansas Legislature in 1903.

The Globe-Republican, February 12, 1903

If any of you remember the ongoing debates in Dodge for decades about building what ended up being that godforsaken abomination they call a high school on Ross Boulevard, then you can imagine the drama leading up to this special election. Side note: I’m still amazed that the brain trust lowered the speed limit on North 14th Avenue to 35 because a new school on that street was a foregone conclusion.

The Bucklin Banner, May 8, 1903

The proposition was defeated and the entire county continued arguing about it until the school board accepted plans for a new building in 1912.

Voters approved the $44,000 bond issue in November of 1912 after finally being convinced the district was losing students to towns like Bucklin and Spearville, which both had dedicated high school buildings with adequate space. The vote tally was 730 for and 214 against. Residents immediately began arguing over the location, naturally. The architect couldn’t create final plans until they decided on a site and needed 60 days lead time to deliver. Meanwhile, the expectation was to have the new building ready for the next school year in September of 1913. Hilarious.

Remember my snark about the speed limit on 14th? The School Board got out over their skis in 1912 and paid $2,000 for a lot at Sixth Avenue and Division Street (Trinity Hospital site) before anything had been formalized. Initially, two sites were under consideration: A lot at Fifth Avenue and Oak Street and the Second Ward School site where Central Elementary is today. As the debate continued, some people wanted the school to be on Boot Hill. In December, the citizens’ committee (because there always is one) suggested a list of eight to ten properties and most of them were on “upper” Second Avenue. By this time, the lot owners had started raising the prices so the City started talking about condemning the properties. Then the board began arguing amongst themselves and people questioned the legality of the Sixth Avenue purchase. See? Nothing has changed!

At their January 22 meeting, the School Board voted to use the lot they purchased on Sixth Avenue and then there was an injunction a couple days later. By March, the Kansas Legislature was determining whether Dodge could vote (again) to build a $60,000 building rather than the $44,000 that initially passed because the architect told them they would have to scale back their plans for the lower amount. There were questions about the legality of the original bond election so all the records went to an auditor in Topeka. The election was declared illegal based on a technicality. By the end of May, the School Board was all about a site at Second Avenue and Vine Street. The special election was scheduled for July 1 and voters were asked to approve $58,000 ($8,000 for land and $50,000 for the school). The location was the W 1/2 of Block 55, in the original townsite of the City and Lot G in Shinn’s Addition. Sigh…FINALLY. Block 55 is the property at Second Avenue and Elm Street.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 17, 1913

Clowns! If you think this is a tedious read, imagine being me right now. Voters, clearly having their shit more together than their local representation, approved the new school…again. Site condemnation was completed on October 21 and it was appraised at $9,600…$1,600 more than voters approved for the land purchase. John and Effie Cord owned one of the lots at the site that included a six-room dwelling and they hired an attorney to protest the $2,300 they were offered. They must have worked it out because I never found any evidence this went to court. Bids were requested for people to buy all buildings on the lots and have them removed. On December 11, 1913, bids were requested to finally build the damn thing.

And THEN everyone learned all this fiddlefucking around was making everything more expensive.

These absolute dolts couldn’t find their asses with both hands.

The Dodge City Globe, February 14, 1914

The Board’s expectations are pretty rich considering how long they played grab-ass with this project.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, March 13, 1914

Because the plans had to be altered to avoid going over budget, the School Board immediately went back to the well asking for more money to build the gym and auditorium. They insisted “a two mill levy for three or four years would supply the necessary fund for completion of the splendid building.” – The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 17, 1914

The election was scheduled for April 7, 1914. The turnout was very light and the proposition passed. Voters must have been as tired of thinking about it as I am. The contractor insisted the building would be complete enough for use in January of 1915.

Students were given an extra week off for Christmas break so they could start the new year in their new school but they were forced to wait yet again. And again. Finally, the four high school grades plus seventh and eighth graders moved in to their new digs in March of 1915.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 26, 1915

It’s cool how that $44,000 building voters were promised turned into $85,000. They always get you in the drive-thru.

THE SOU’WESTER, Volume Two, Nineteen Fifteen

The new high school building served Dodge City well as a school and as the headquarters for our school district. Even as its configurations changed over time, it still felt very grand inside. Paneling and small framed-in windows could never completely diminish its impressive architecture.

Next time, I’ll dig into the next Dodge City (Senior) High School. Until then, you can check out Parts I through IV below:

Part I – First National Bank Building

Part II – First Baptist Church, Walnut Street, Masonic Temple, First Avenue, and O’Neal Hotel

Part III – Merritt Beeson House

Part IV – Carnegie Library Building, Dodge City Milling and Elevator Company, First Presbyterian Church, Post Office

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!

Dodge City Then and Now: Part I

I love looking at before and after photos of home restorations (not renovations) and am mesmerized by then-and-now photos of famous landmarks. This has probably already been done in Dodge City, Kansas (The Cowboy Capital of the World) but I’m here right now and have a dog to exercise so kindly allow me to reinvent the wheel. I’m also blaming any crappy photography skills on the dog who somehow jerks on the leash at the exact moment I hit the button. Otherwise, they would be *perfectly* shot.

A lot of people are surprised to learn that Dodge City has paved streets. A lot of people are also idiots. So I decided that while I’m here I should document some of the old buildings before it’s too late. We lost the Water Department building with the cool-ass windows just a few months before I arrived back in town and that was truly a loss. I also missed the demolition of the old high school but actually wouldn’t say I missed it. It feels like a punch in the gut every time I walk by that empty sloping lot. Lincoln Elementary was another one. I taught French to fourth graders there while I was in high school and that spot on the hill just isn’t the same without it.

I understand money and what things cost. I owned a 100-year-old farmhouse and had to pay for stuff. I made a lot of concessions because reality is a bitch. That doesn’t make me cringe any less when I see windows made smaller with crappy wood framing or bricked over altogether.

Here’s an easy one that hasn’t broken my heart yet.

First National Bank Building

The bank first opened for business on January 5, 1901 at the corner of First Avenue and Front Street as the State Bank of Commerce of Dodge City with capital of $10,000.

On June 1, 1904, the name was changed to National Bank of Commerce with capital of $25,000. The bank changed names again on January 8, 1921 to First National Bank in Dodge City with capital of $100,000.

In 1924, First National Bank advertised 4% interest on savings accounts…can you even imagine?

Etrick’s Ford County Directory

The bank occupied a few different locations before formally opening the new building at the corner of Second Avenue and Spruce Street on August 19, 1930.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, August 18, 1930

Banking conditions were often questionable at best in this era so this ad from September 24, 1930 would have been reassuring.

The Dodge City Journal, October 2, 1930

The bank had federal deposit insurance beginning in 1934 and changed the name again in June of 1977 to First National Bank and Trust Company.

This is Second Avenue today looking north. The Eckles sign is gone but the building is still there. More on that at later date.

I almost forgot about the mural. Stan Herd apparently patterned this after a Remington and I believe it was completed in July of 1979. I’m not really a fan of Western art but this is what you get in the Queen of the Cowtowns.

First National Bank and Trust Company has been listed inactive as of June 30, 1994, which is when it was acquired by Bank IV Kansas. The 1990s were bananas when it came to bank mergers. Banking laws changed during that time and increased the limit of assets that could be controlled by a single entity so Fourth Financial Corporation, which owned Bank IV Kansas, went on a spending spree. So we barely blinked and then along came Nationsbank, which was then merged (or whatever) with Bank of America in about 1999.

Bank of America closed the main branch in 2014 and there she sits. There are still businesses leasing office space in the building. Don’t try creeping in there because it is definitely (thankfully) occupied.

Here’s a memory-holed piece from the local paper I found on the Wayback Machine.

If you’re still with me, I was initially surprised to learn the building is so *new* and decided to check the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps to see what had been on that corner previously.

There is only one 1884 map online and it stops at Walnut (now Gunsmoke) Street.

The 1887 map shows a drugstore on the corner of Second and Spruce. The Ford County Business Directory from the same year is a mess to read and doesn’t really list locations so I’m not sure which drugstore it was.

The 1899 map shows a Christian church.

The 1911 map shows a garage on the main level and a hall on the second floor. This was the Santa Fe Trail Garage, which was sold by Ed J. Oliphant to James P. McCollom (from Carthage, IL) in December of 1911. Mr. Oliphant started the garage in a brand-new building in December of 1910.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, December 9, 1910
The Dodge City Kansas Journal, December 16, 1910

The 1918 map shows a 100-car garage with a repair room on the second floor.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, January 19, 1918

The McCollom brothers opened Dodge City Auto School at the garage in January of 1923. C. H. McCollom was the main instructor.

The 1926 map shows auto sales & service with an office on the first and second floors. It appears the McCollom brothers also tried out a new name.

The Dodger, December 21, 1926

The last ad I could find for McCollom Motor Company or Santa Fe Trail Garage was in April of 1927 and it didn’t include an address so I’m not sure if the business moved, morphed, or closed. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the auto school became part of a Vo-Tech program.

This is becoming quite a journey. It turns out in early 1930 J. P. McCollom and (Hiram T?) Burr built a new structure on the site of the first building to be constructed in Dodge City. H. L. Sitler’s sod house was located at what is now Second Avenue and Trail Street, directly south of the railroad tracks on the west side of Second. I think it’s the Lopp Motors building but I just literally cannot even at this point.

And then we come full circle…guess who joined the radio business and was general manager for the brand-new KGNO? That’s right, J. P. McCollom and KGNO leased office space on the mezzanine level of the First National Bank Building in September of 1930. McCollom still owned the lot to the west of the bank and planned to use it for KGNO employee parking. The studio was moved to town because the place they built the tower was too remote and they wanted people to be able to actually visit the studio.

la fin

Spouse Resides At: Unknown, But I Have Heard He Died

This was supposed to be a very straightforward project: A book about a ragtime-era trombonist who played with the best musicians of his time. An artist who lived in his famous father’s shadow and whose story has been forgotten. You know how things snowball when you have an old house and think you’re *just* going to change the showerhead? Here I am underneath the house, replacing the entire foundation.

My musician was engaged to a famous florist. The wedding was set and his mother had prepared a room for them at the family home. His mother and brother devised a scheme to pull him away from the fast lifestyle of a professional musician, which worried them both. The brothers would build a theater (dedicated to their father) and the musician would manage it. Instead, the musician learned the florist was cheating on him and called the whole thing off. He secured a letter of introduction from a local orchestra director and left for Los Angeles to play music, leaving his older brother responsible for the theater.

The florist raced to the train station in her night clothes, arriving just as his train was preparing to leave. She pleaded her case but his decision had been made. He left for California and continued his career until about 1940. His only involvement with the family theater was playing in the orchestra from time to time.

So about this florist…

I was hoping to document when and where they met as well as whether or not the other man was merely a fling or something more permanent. She was interviewed many times over the course of nearly five decades in the floral industry and appeared regularly in O. O. McIntyre’s columns. Details about her childhood and early career were published by numerous outlets and for the most part, I can’t verify any of them. What I can verify is a whole bunch of scandalous drama that sure didn’t make it into her New York Times obituary.

Her mother was charged in district court with conducting a house of prostitution. Three years later, the mother’s rooming house was raided by police who suspected she was selling liquor. That’s apparently not all she was selling. Statutory charges were brought against two men aged 50 and 27 in relation to the florist’s 14-year-old sister, who told police the 50-year-old married man had been making monthly visits to her for the past fourteen months. She said he “gave her money and bought her clothing.” The mother told police she thought the man had “a fatherly interest” in the girl. The mother also said her 14-year-old daughter was engaged to the 27-year-old divorced man, who lived in their home. Despite the girl telling police she had met this man only two months prior to his arrest, the judge was told the two “had been engaged for some time.” The same day, the mother signed off on a marriage license between her 14-year-old daughter and this 27-year-old clothing salesman, effectively ending the statutory case.

I looked into the 50-year-old with “fatherly interest” in teenage girls and hoo boy, what a story! He came from a *very* wealthy family and preferred the company of much younger females until the day he died. When he was in his seventies, he shot the husband of a 21-year-old woman he tried to coerce into stripping and dancing for him. This occurred at his home while his wife was in the hospital. He paid the man $8,000 to cover hospital bills but the criminal case was dropped after almost a year of delays. After his wife died, he married a 20-year-old waitress. He was 76 and the young woman divorced him less than five months later, claiming he started drinking at three o’clock in the morning and bragged about affairs with other women.

The florist lied about her marital status on a passport application and was caught by State Department employees who gave her “fatherly advice regarding making an admission of swearing falsely.” In those days, there was a space for female applicants to list the name, address, place of birth, and immigration status of either their father or husband because obviously women needed men to take responsibility for them. So she had declared she was single but was found to be a divorcee. On her corrected application, she listed her spouse’s stage name and wrote “unknown, but I have heard he died” on the address line. Notarized affidavits from people testifying to her identity and her husband’s US citizenship followed. She explained that “she has never seen a divorce decree for the fact that in some Southern State her husband divorced her, but that she never received an official notice from the court.” He remarried and she apparently then heard from friends that he died. Spoiler Alert: He didn’t die until 1954.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on divorce decrees from Husbands One and Two but she was subsequently twice widowed so she must have figured it out somehow. Speaking of figuring things out, the florist’s younger sister couldn’t decide on a husband or which name to use. I thought I would track down relatives to see if anyone has documents, photos, or correspondence tying the florist to the musician. Neither woman had children and both had four husbands. It was a tradition in their family to give children two middle names. The sister used a few variations of her first name on official documents and on her fourth marriage license, skipped her first name altogether in favor of her two middle names along with her maiden name. The state death index, however, shows her given name. Why so shady?

The florist stated in interviews the name of her hometown along with the year she graduated high school and a story about her mother buying her a car to distract her from her obsession with going to Los Angeles to become an actress. I can’t find one record substantiating any of it. She said she used money she unexpectedly inherited from an uncle in England to start her floral business. I’m not finding that either but I do have information about her articles of incorporation and all changes made to the corporate entity until it was dissolved after her death.

The mother’s probate documents and those from her much older second husband are wild. I can’t imagine what his seven children were thinking when they learned he officially made her an heiress and declared his intent to marry her only two months after their own mother died. 

For all the primary source documents I have been able to locate, there are still gaping holes in these women’s histories. I’ve spent hundreds of hours searching, reading, calling, and emailing but I am no closer to discovering a single shred of evidence proving the florist and the musician ever met. It makes me wonder if they ever did meet. Maybe he told his family a story to get them off his back and then it ran its course. Maybe it did happen and he destroyed all evidence in a fit of drunken rage. I really have no idea. What I do know is by the time I’m finally ready to write this thing, I will have enough material to fill five books.

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