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 The high school building on Second Avenue was magnificent but its facilities were outdated in no time.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!

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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!

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