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Hutchinson, fourth largest city in Kansas, lies slightly south and east of the center of the State on the north bank of the Arkansas River. The city spreads out in the level valley land in the form of the letter "T", its base extending eastward and its broad arms reaching north and south. Although typical of the cattle country in its friendliness, its lack of social distinctions, and in the clean way its broad streets meet the open prairie, Hutchinson is a city of mills and factories.

Laid out with a lavish hand by pioneers who had more land than anything else, Hutchinson has Jong straight streets, broad lawns, and many parks. Unlike most Kansas river towns, it did not begin at the river's edge, but grew from a tiny cluster of houses on Cow Creek which follows a parallel course approximately one-half mile north of the river. Creeping southward until it reached the river and at the same time pushing into the prairie land on the north and east, Hutchinson has practically swallowed up the narrow creek. Busy streets cross the creek bed in the residential sections and it is routed through huge tiles beneath the structures in the heart of the business section.

Main Street, crossing the subterranean channel of Cow Creek at Avenue A, cuts squarely across town from north to south. Through a district of shabby stores and garages near the river it passes into the main business section, emerging finally into the better residential districts as it nears the northern outskirts.

Business houses for the most part are brick structures two and three stories in height with here and there a four, five, or eight-story building occupying an important corner. Homes near the business section date back to the 1 890'$ and the early 1900'$, built by the first fortunes made in salt and cattle and in prairie real estate. Surrounding these are houses of California bungalow type, flanked by rows of prim new residences of varying architectural designs. The lower-income residential areas of Hutchinson are west and east of the business section, their neat but shabby streets hugging close to the river and the railroad tracks.

The irregular bulk of flour mills and the concrete cylinders of grain elevators dominate the industrial area, which lies approximately a mile east of the retail district. Nearby are salt plants, a refinery, railroad yards, and numerous smaller industrial concerns. Along the railroad tracks on the west side of Hutchinson is a second industrial district, and across the Arkansas River at the south city limits is still another group of mills and elevators, another refinery, and a nationally known salt plant.

The importance of the salt industry to the city of Hutchinson is evident to the casual observer, and "Salt City" is often substituted for Hutchinson in names of business firms. Built above salt deposits, reputedly among the richest in the world, Hutchinson's chief industry is the mining, processing, and shipment of salt. Deposits that underlie the greater part of the metropolitan area and the surrounding country are approximately 600 feet below the surface and range from 300 to 350 feet in thickness. The city's three salt-processing plants ship 3,000,000 barrels of salt annually to markets in all parts of the United States and geologists estimate that the supply is practically inexhaustible. Plants and mines employ approximately 600 men.

Although somewhat less spectacular, Hutchinson's wheat shipping and storage industry attains heights in "wheat years" untouched by the comparatively steady salt industry. As the seat of Reno County, the most important wheat-producing area of Kansas, Hutchinson is a key city for the shipment and milling of grain from the adjacent area and from the great fields of southwestern Kansas. With eight elevators and three flour mills, Hutchinson has storage facilities for more than 10,000,000 bushels of grain. Claiming to be the smallest city in the world with its own grain market dealing in futures, Hutchinson points to a ten-year average of grain receipts at its markets in the period from 1925 to 1935, exceeding 46,000,000 bushels a year. Thirty grain firms maintain offices in the city.

Surrounded on all sides by oil fields, Hutchinson's petroleum industry has developed gradually, but gives promise of exceeding both salt and wheat in importance. A producing well, flowing at the rate of 3,600 barrels of high gravity oil a day, is only nine miles east of the city and more than 1,500 additional wells are within a radius of 100 miles of the city limits. Adjacent to Hutchinson on the east is Kansas' most productive gas well, yielding 128,600,000 cubic feet a day. Hutchinson has two refineries, numerous distribution and supply companies, and long dark lines of tank cars mingle with those loaded with wheat in its railroad yards.

Named for its founder, C. C. Hutchinson, the city was platted in November 1871, its first streets lying on both sides of Cow Creek near the spot where the new Santa Fe Railway was to cross the Arkansas River. To encourage settlement by sober, industrious persons, Hutchinson included a clause in the deed to each lot specifying that if liquor were sold or given away thereon at any time prior to 1875, the property and all improvements would revert back to the original owner. After 1875 Hutchinson hoped that the moral sentiment of the settlers would be strong enough to control the liquor traffic.

To the builder of the first house on the town site Hutchinson offered to give one of the choice lots in the settlement. This prize was won by A. F. Homer who moved a black walnut building from the nearby town of Newton. This was not the first prize Horner's portable house had won for its builder. When the town of Brookville was founded on the Kansas Pacific Railroad in the early 1870*5 its promoters, like Hutchinson's, offered a town lot to the persons who built the first house. Horner quickly built a house 20 by 60 feet which won the prize, but soon moved it to the new town of Florence on the Santa Fe Railway to win another lot.

Horner was settled in the draughty house in Florence when the Santa Fe pushed westward to Newton and promoters of that settlement offered a similar prize. In due time Horner won it with his mobile walnut house. Moving it for the last time to Hutchinson, Horner placed it on a lot at the corner of First and Main Streets where it remained until it was torn down to make room for a more modern structure. The building served as C. C. Hutchinson's real estate office, the town's first post office, and first hotel.

When Hutchinson was incorporated as a third class city in August 1872, Horner's much traveled building was only one of a number of low buildings along Main Street. The town boasted a newspaper, the Hutchinson News, an inn, and a cluster of stores and houses. The promoters plowed a wide furrow around the settlement to protect it from the fires that swept so swiftly across the level grass covered prairie, and, since stones for street markers were scarce, citizens marked off streets with buffalo bones. The Santa Fe Railway reached the Arkansas River crossing and Hutchinson in the summer of 1872, but pushed westward almost immediately.

Having visions of Hutchinson as a prairie metropolis and a seat of culture and learning, the settlers made plans for churches and schools soon after their arrival. The first regular church meetings were held in a building that on weekdays served as a butcher shop. During the second summer of Hutchinson's existence residents voted $15,000 in bonds to build a school building. Literary and musical societies were formed early, and in 1882 the Hutchinson opera house was built by public subscription on the northeast corner of First Avenue and Main Street. The News carried long paragraphs on the activities of Hutchinson's cultural societies and the town's social leaders sponsored home talent performances at the opera house for special occasions, when "traveling talent" was not available.

By 1885 Hutchinson had attained a certain importance as a shipping and trading center. The production of Turkey Red wheat, a variety particularly adaptable to prairie soil, was increasing yearly, and its increase was accompanied by the growing importance of Hutchinson as a milling center.

A few years later, following the discovery of natural gas, a wave of prosperity swept southwestern Kansas and in 1887 Sam Blanchard of Hutchinson drilled the first well in the vicinity on a farm south of the city. At approximately 300 feet the drill struck salt and although local residents were mildly amazed to learn that salt deposits existed beneath the city they hardly considered prospects of a future industry until New York promoters had a plant in operation almost in the heart of the city. By 1888 almost a dozen salt plants were in operation in and near Hutchinson and the city's salt industry was permanently established less than two years after the mineral was discovered.

Growing slowly and experiencing no booms, Hutchinson had a population of 9,000 in 1900 and by 1910 had grown to more than 16,000. In the 1920's oil wealth began to filter in from the south and west, and the plentiful supply of cheap natural gas fuel attracted many smaller industries.

Hutchinson is the home of Gov. Walter A. Huxman, 2yth(sic) Governor of the State, and one of the five Democrats elected to the office since Kansas was admitted to statehood in 1861.

Points Of Interest

The RENO COUNTY COURTHOUSE, NW. corner ist Ave. and Adams St., completed in 1930, is a fine example of modern architecture. The structure which cost approximately a half million dollars, is of Indiana Bedford stone, Virginia marble, and yellow brick. In the courtroom, the most highly decorated chamber in the building, is a mural painting by the New York artist Adrenanti, an allegory of mercy, justice, and execution.

The SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, in ist Ave. Park, ist Ave. and Walnut St., was erected to the memory of veterans of the Civil War by members of the Joe Hooker Post, G. A. R., of Hutchinson. The monument, dedicated in 1919, is surmounted by the figure of Abraham Lincoln with life size figures of soldiers and sailors of the Civil War upon each corner.

The SUN DIAL MONUMENT, in Sylvan Park, NE. corner Walnut St. and Ave. B, commemorates President Harding' s visit to Hutchinson in 1923 when he spoke at the park's dedication.

The KANSAS STATE INDUSTRIAL REFORMATORY (open on application), S. end of Reformatory Ave., is a penal institution for delinquents between 15 and 25 years of age. It comprises 1,300 acres within the city of Hutchinson and controls 21 farms with a combined acreage of 4,000 acres adjacent to the city. The average wheat yield of the institution is 18,000 bushels, and the sale of surplus swine contributes $8,000 annually toward its upkeep. The automobile tag factory, where Kansas State automobile license tags are manufactured, has an output of 4,000 tags a day. The institution houses approximately 1,000 inmates.

The BARTON SALT PLANT (open on application; guides), Cleveland and Campbell Sts. processes salt by evaporation. Water is forced into the salt wells and the salt brought to the surface in the form of salt brine. In time the moisture evaporates and impurities in the salt are removed.

The CAREY SALT PLANT (open on application; guides), Poplar St. and Avenue B, also processes salt by evaporation.

The CAREY LABORATORY (open on application; guides), on the grounds of the Carey plant is among the largest and most complete laboratories of its kind in the United States. Here salt from the mines is tested and new methods for purifying devised.

The CAREY ROCK SALT MINE (open mornings only; guides), E. end Carey Blvd. at city limits, although owned by the Carey Company operates separately from the plant.

Mine visitors descend 645 feet to the mine bottom by way of an electric elevator in one minute and twenty seconds. Here they are permitted to explore the 200 rooms of the mine and see the maze of subterranean railroad tracks by which salt is transported to the elevators. Rooms are 50 feet in width, 300 feet in length and have ceilings of rock salt from 7 to 10 feet high.

The "skip," or elevator, with a four ton capacity raises the salt to the mill on the surface in slightly more than a minute although its speed may be increased to enable it to carry 1,000 tons of salt from the mine floor in an eight hour working day. Cars that convey salt from the mine rooms to the "skip" carry between 20 and 25 tons of salt each trip and are filled by motor driven loaders which complete the task in 15 minutes.

The mine is electrically lighted and electric power is used throughout, the company claiming that in this mine electricity is more extensively used than in any other salt mine in the world.

The shaft of the mine was begun in May 1922 and completed in June 1923. Former Governor Jonathan M. Davis touched the button which brought the first official "skip" of salt to the surface on June 23, 1923. The mine employs approximately 60 men, and the mill, unlike other plants in Hutchinson, processes salt by crushing and sifting.

CAREY MUNICIPAL PARK, Main St. between Park Ave. and the Arkansas River, a gift of Emerson Carey to the city of Hutchinson, is entered by a drive that affords a view of the Arkansas River, the park lagoons, sunken gardens, swimming pool, baseball field, golf course, playgrounds, and picnic grounds, and circles back to the entrance past the police rifle range.

The EMERSON CAREY MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN, at the park entrance, is an electrically lighted fountain backed by a decorative stone arch. The spray design of the fountain changes constantly for an hour and a half without repeating the same pattern. Dedicated October 24, 1935, the fountain was built by subscriptions from Hutchinson business men and dedicated to the memory of the late Emerson Carey, former owner of the Carey salt interests and prominent Hutchinson philanthropist.

The MORTON SALT STABILIZED HIGHWAY, connecting Main St. with the Morton plant, was built by accident. At intervals loads of salt were dumped into soft places along the old dirt road that once connected the plant with the city pavement until the thoroughfare was completely surfaced with salt. Through experimentation and constant upkeep by plant workers the road has become a satisfactory thoroughfare for heavy trucks and wagons.

The MORTON SALT PLANT (open on application; guides), at the N. end of Morton Salt Stabilized Highway, is one of the seven Morton salt plants in the United States. It refines salt by purifying and evaporating brine from deep wells. The staff of the plant's laboratory does research work for the entire western division of the company's holdings, an area which includes Kansas, Texas, California, and Utah.

 

Websites about Hutchinson, Kansas:

  1. City of Hutchinson, Kansas 
  2. Hutchinson Chamber of Commerce 
  3. Hutchinson, Kansas on Wikipedia 
  4. HutchFest 
  5. Hutchinson News  (Newspaper)
  6. Hutchinson Convention/Visitors Bureau 
  7. Kansas State Fair 
  8. Kansas Cosmosphere