Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Kansas Local History
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Wichita,Kansas is the county seat of Sedgwick County, lies on tablelands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. A fifth of the city is built west of the Arkansas River; a smaller fraction lies on the tongue of land between the junction of the rivers. The rest of Wichita sprawls east of the rivers, its north-south bulk bisected by a drainage canal. The city is closely knit by concrete bridges, six of which span the Arkansas, eight the Little Arkansas, and twenty-four the drainage canal.

The area west of the Arkansas River, commonly called West Wichita, is composed of residential districts. Houses for the most part are large structures of brick and stone with an occasional frame dwelling extravagantly decorated in the gingerbread style of the 1880's. The repeated pattern of lawns, houses, and neighborhood shopping districts is broken by the campus of Friends University, Mount Carmel Academy, and the Masonic Home.

The attractive residential section on the peninsula between the rivers is called Riverside. The trim bungalows that occupy this area are ranged beside avenues that terminate north at the banks of the rivers, and south at the lawns and wooded groves of Sim Park and Central Riverside Park. The latter contains one of the rare stands of virgin timber that remain in this section of Kansas.

Wichita east of the rivers consists of business, residential, and industrial blocks. The business district more metropolitan than those of other Kansas cities is centered around the junction of Main Street and Douglas Avenue. Two and three story shops heavily corniced in the style of the 1890's cluster at the base of tall office structures and department store buildings whose ten to seventeen story heights are the nearest approach to skyscrapers in Kansas. On Wichita Street, between English and Lewis Streets, is Tractor Row, an area two blocks long so named because it is wholly occupied by dealers in tractors and farm power equipment.

The avenues north and south of the business district are lined with elm and cottonwood trees which shade the lawns of comfortable residences. This neighborhood is bounded on the east by the tracks of the Santa Fe Railway. East of the tracks to the drainage canal is a low-income section of small cottages and box-style houses. Beyond the drainage canal the streets rise gradually to the slope that flanks the eastern section of the city. On the crest of the slope are the neat brick and frame houses of the residential area known as College Hill. Along the north-south extent of this section are six cemeteries, and Fairmount Park, College Hill Park, St. Mary's Academy (Roman Catholic), and the Wichita Municipal University.

At the east fringe of the College Hill district are various restricted residential areas, most unusual of which is Eastborough at the extremity of Douglas Avenue. Eastborough was developed as an expensive residential addition, but in July 1930 oil gushed forth from a pool that underlies the region. Today stately Georgian houses share the Eastborough horizon with the steel girders of oil derricks.

The buffer section that lies between the Santa Fe Railway and the drainage canal trails off at the north in a vast industrial area. Ranged along the tracks of the four railroads that thread this section are a stockyard, railroad shops, grain elevators, and oil stills and tanks. Wichita ranks fourth as a national milling center and sixth as an interior market for grain. Six local mills have a combined daily capacity of about 12,000 barrels of flour. Four oil refineries can produce about 11,000 barrels per day. Five meat packing plants make Wichita the center of that industry in the Southwest. Other industries include the manufacture of textiles, leather goods, building materials, food products, farm machinery, airplanes, tools, and dies, and drilling and oil field equipment.

Wichita was named for the Wichita Indians who, having been driven into Texas by the Osage's invasion of Kansas, returned to their native region in 1863 and built a village of grass lodges near the mouth of the Little Arkansas River. James R. Mead, aided by Jesse Chisholm, a halfbreed Cherokee, established a trading post near the Wichita village in 1864. In the following year, at the close of the Civil War, Mead sent Chisholm into the Southwest with a wagonload of goods to exchange for buffalo hides. While returning Chisholm encountered a severe storm but pressed on toward Wichita, his heavily laden wagon cutting deep tracks in the prairie soil. Thus was blazed the Chisholm Trail, the broad highway through the wilderness over which in subsequent years traveled scouts, traders, Indians, ranchers, and cowboys.

Following the removal of the Wichita tribe to Oklahoma Territory after 1865, Mead's trading post became the nucleus of a settlement. A herd of 2,400 Texas longhorns was driven up the Chisholm Trail in 1867, past the cottonwood pole hut and several dugouts at the site of Wichita, and on to the Union Pacific Railroad at Abilene. Throughout 1868 the Chisholm Trail was beaten hard by the hooves of Texas cattle. The settlers at Wichita began to provide accommodations for the herd-driving cowboys. E. S. Munger built the Munger House and a second settler built the "first and last chance saloon," where thirsty cowpunchers could get their first drink coming up the trail and their last before returning to Texas.

Thousands of steers passed over the Chisholm Trail in 1870. In that year Wichita was platted. In 1871 the Santa Fe Railway was built midway between Wichita and Abilene to Newton, which town superseded Abilene as the "cow capital," but when the railway was extended to Wichita in 1872 Newton was relegated to the "cow capital" limbo and Wichita boomed. Before the end of the year about 350,000 cattle were driven to the new "cow capital"; a Government land office was established; and Col. Marshall M. Murdock began publishing the Wichita Eagle. Shops, cafes, saloons, and dance halls were hastily built. Scouts, Indians, gamblers, cowboys, Mexican ranchers, and homesteaders milled in the streets, crowded into dance halls and barrooms, and frolicked to the music of a brass band that was especially imported by the proprietors of a gambling house. Costumes ranged from the checkered suits worn by "sports from back east in Kansas City" to the chaps and sombrero of the cowboy, the buckskin breeches and jackets of the scouts and plainsmen, and the brightly colored blankets worn toga-like by Indians. Signs posted at the outskirts of the town declared: "Anything goes in Wichita. Leave your revolvers at police headquarters and get a check. Carrying concealed weapons is strictly forbidden."

The Reverend Luther Hart Platt, widely known as the "fiddlin* preacher," made desperate efforts to improve the moral tone of the ebullient cow town. Occasionally he would stalk into a saloon, clear his throat and intone a popular ballad, accompanying himself on the fiddle. When the crowd gathered round he would play several hymns and then lay aside his fiddle to preach. At the conclusion of the sermon he would invite his listeners to attend the coming Sunday services in the dugout schoolhouse, and then depart, fiddle under arm.

Within this decade scores of settlers arrived at Wichita. Land speculation became rife and property values soared. The Chisholm Trail was crisscrossed with barbed-wire barriers and by 1880 virtually oversown with wheat. The cattle trail was consequently shifted farther west to Dodge City and Wichita entered a period of decline. Gamblers, saloon-keepers, and merchants vacated the city to cash in on the prosperity of the new "cow capital." Land values collapsed at Wichita in 1886, bankrupting many a townsman.

The settlers who had fenced off the prairie and thereby contributed to the fall of "cow capital" Wichita, more than atoned for their fault throughout the 1880's and 90's. Grain from their farms soon equalled the wealth formerly brought by cattle, and Wichita took a new lease on life as a trade and milling center. During the harvest rush wheat-laden wagons often stood on the streets for thirty-six hours before they could be weighed and emptied at the mills. It was not uncommon to see carts and wagons lined along Douglas Avenue in files ten blocks long.

Where cattle had built dance halls and gambling houses, wheat built churches and schools. All Hallows Academy (now Mount Carmel Academy) was founded in 1888; Fairmount College (now Wichita Municipal University) was established in 1892; and Garfield University (now Friends University) was established in 1898. An interest in art, music, and literature was contemporaneously kindled among the townspeople.

By 1900 the population exceeded 24,000. Wichita thereafter all but doubled its population each decade, reaching 86,000 in 1920. Shortly after the World War oil was discovered in the "doorstep pool," socalled because of its proximity to the city. Wealth derived from this source was used to build large business structures in the downtown section and palatial residences in restricted subdivisions. Local economy was further stimulated by postwar interest in airplane manufacturing, which industry had been previously established in the city. Wichita business men, eager to bolster Wichita's claim as "Air Capital of America," built factory after factory, until by the middle 1920's fifteen had been erected. These firms built 1,500 planes in 1928, or one-fourth of the total commercial output of the country. About 2,500 planes were produced the following year.

The depression of 1929 sent Wichita's airplane industry into a disastrous tailspin, but four companies withstood the crash. Their plants and equipment are today valued at $2,500,000; their total annual production is estimated at $1,500,000. The industry employs an average of 550 workmen.

Noted former residents of Wichita are the late John Noble; Bruce Moore, sculptor; Kathleen Kersting, operatic star; Earl R. Browder, Presidential candidate of the Communist party in 1936; and Charles B. Driscoll, author and columnist. Wichita is the home town of United States Senator George H. McGill.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, SW. corner of Broadway and Elm St., a modified Gothic limestone structure with an octagonal tower, was designed by Badgley and Nicklas of Cleveland, Ohio. Huge stained glass windows, designed by A. A. Leyendecker, rise from the wainscoting to the peak of the arched ceiling. The church was built in 1910. The SARA BLAIR CASE MEMORIAL EDUCATION BUILDING, adjoining the church, is a three-story limestone structure, built in 1936. It was designed by Glenn Thomas of Wichita.

The CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (Roman Catholic), SE. corner of Broadway and Central Ave., popularly known as St. Mary's Cathedral, occupies the northwest corner of the one-time homestead of James R. Meade, a founder of Wichita. The cathedral was dedicated in 1912. Of modified Romanesque and Italian Renaissance architecture the facade of the structure is adorned with four massive columns of Vermont gray granite. The design of the copper dome is based upon that of the domes over the twin churches of Piazza del Populo in Rome. E. L. Masquery of St. Paul, Minn., who designed several of the exposition buildings at the St. Louis World's Fair (1904) was the architect.

The SEDGWICK COUNTY COURTHOUSE, NW. corner of Central Ave. and Market St., is a six-story limestone structure, built in 1890. From the town clock in the tower swings a pendulum that weighs nearly a half-ton. The building was designed by W. H. Sternberg of Wichita.

The HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF THE SEDGWICK COUNTY PIONEER SOCIETY, in the main corridor on the second floor of the courthouse, contains pictures of the early day local scene; Indian weapons and utensils (principally Arapahoe and Cheyenne); and examples of pioneer women's sewing, weaving, and knitting.

The SOLDIER'S AND SAILOR'S MONUMENT, on the south lawn of the courthouse, was designed by E. M. Viquesney and erected in 1912 in memory of the Union force that served in the Civil War. It consists of a bronze figure of Liberty, flanked by four life-sized figures of Union soldiers and sailors.

The UNITED STATES POST OFFICE AND COURTHOUSE, NW. corner of Market and 3rd Sts., a four-story, white stone structure of neoclassic design, was planned by architects of the U. S. Treasury Department and completed in 1932. The interior is lavishly finished with marble, walnut, and gold leaf. The wall panels in the recess behind the bench in the district courtrooms are of marble quarried in Germany; the panels on the ceiling of the circuit courtroom are decorated with 23 carat gold leaf.

The WICHITA PUBLIC LIBRARY, 220 S. Main St., is a two-story stone structure with a green tile roof. It was designed by Anthony Allaire Crowell and built in 1915. On the Mezzanine floor are three mural paintings by Arthur Sinclair Covey Promise, Fruition, and Afterglow which depict the progress of civilization on the prairies. The library contains 127,000 volumes.

The MUNICIPAL FORUM, NW. corner of Water and English Sts., is a three-story structure of extra-sized brick, owned and maintained by the city of Wichita. Its auditorium seats 4,800. The structure is used for conventions, expositions, political rallies, and large-cast road shows. Adjoining the forum are an exhibition arcade and a two-story brick Exposition Building. The latter structure, at the SW. corner of Water and William Sts., contains the ARCADIA THEATRE where concerts and road shows are presented. The total floor space of the Forum, the exhibition arcade, and the Exposition Building is 211,340 square feet. The Forum was built in 1910 and the Exposition Building in 1918.

The WICHITA ART MUSEUM is at the south entrance of Sim Park, 619 Stackman Drive. It is a cast stone structure with severely modern lines, designed by Clarence S. Stein of New York City, and completed in 1935. Polychrome sculptures by Lee Lawrie, depicting Indian arts and crafts, adorn the entrance. The construction of the museum was financed by a grant of the Public Works Administration, and a $70,000 bequest from Mrs. Louise Caldwell Murdock.

In the permanent collection are a frieze by Walter Ufer, a black panther in lacquered bronze by Bruce Moore, and paintings by Dewey Albinson, E. L. Blumenschein, Max Bohm, Maurice Braun, Ed L. Davison, William Dickerson, B. J. L. Hordfeldt, E. Kopietz, John Noble, Birger Sandzen, Elizabeth Sprague, and Walter Ufer.

8. RIVERSIDE PARK ZOO, River Blvd. and Nims Ave., contains an aviary, an animal house, fish ponds, an alligator pond, and a bear den. The main building, half a block north of Woodman Bridge on Nims Avenue, houses monkeys, lions, and other jungle beasts.

9. THE HIKER, SW. corner of Nims and Murdock Ave., an heroic bronze figure of a soldier, was designed by Newman Allen. It was erected in 1926 by members of Lawton Camp No.18 of the United Spanish War Veterans, in honor of the Spanish American War veterans of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

10. The OLD MUNGER HOUSE (private) 920 Back Bay Blvd., built of wide upright boards painted white, is generally believed to be the first house in what is now Wichita. It was constructed in 1868. Buffalo hair was used to reenforce the plaster of the interior walls. Its original owner, D. S. Munger, was at times justice of the peace, postmaster, and innkeeper of the settlement. He made the first plat of Wichita. His house then situated one hundred yards east of its present site was at the very center of the village. Cowboys wounded on the trails or in drunken brawls customarily came to Munger for hospitalization of sorts in the present structure. The purveying of food and shelter was, however, Munger's principal pursuit, in which connection the Wichita Eagle of April 12, 1872, said: "The Munger House in the original town is a bower now and a paradise for homelike, quiet-stopping people. Mr. Munger is alive to the interest of his guests, and sets a good table and keeps clean beds. What more does a traveling public demand? No pause for reply."

11. WICHITA HIGH SCHOOL, NORTH, NW. corner of 131*1 St., and Rochester Ave., the newer of the two high schools in Wichita, was opened in the autumn of 1929. Constructed of buff brick with a red tile roof, it is architecturally noteworthy as an example of the "prairie" style. The walls are trimmed with cream-colored Silverdale (Kansas) stone, and decorated with sculptured figures in polychrome and terra cotta. Near the top of the 9O-foot tower that surmounts the school are four panels of colored terra cotta which depict Indian and buffalo scenes. The structure was designed by Glenn Thomas of Wichita; the ornamentation and decorative panels are the work of Bruce Moore, Wichita. Two Indians, a painting by Walter Ufer, hangs in the first floor corridor of the school.

12. MINISA BRIDGE, 13th St. and Little Arkansas River, was planned to harmonize with the Wichita High School, North. It is ornamented with Indian and buffalo heads designed by Bruce Moore. The structure was dedicated in 1932 and named Minisa (Ind. red waters) by high school students who chose the word from the title of a composition by Thurlow Lieurance, authority on Indian music.

On MEAD ISLAND (no bridge or convenient method of transportation), So. of Minisa Bridge, is a GRASS HOUSE of the type in which the Wichita Indians formerly dwelled. The structure was built in 1927 by descendants of the tribe, now living in Oklahoma. It consists of a pole and willow rod framework, thatched with grass. Coronado noted grass lodges at the village of Quivira in 1541.

13. SIM MEMORIAL PARK, entrance at the W. end of Beal Ave., consists of 183 acres beside the Arkansas River. The site was given to Wichita in 1917 by Mr. and Mrs. Colar B. Sim in memory of their son, Arthur. It contains a municipal golf course, archery grounds, and picnic groves equipped with roasting ovens and concrete tables. A drive parallels the river through the park and emerges at the south near the intersection of Pine Street and River Boulevard.

14. The WICHITA HORSE AND MULE MARKET, 521 E. 21st St., is a branch of the Wichita Union Stockyards Co., managed by the Wichita Horse and Mule Commission Co. The Wednesday auction sales are attended by buyers from foreign countries and many parts of the United States. A carload of trail mules are annually purchased at this market for use in Grand Canyon National Park.

15. The WICHITA UNION STOCKYARDS EXCHANGE BUILDING, NE. corner of 21st St. and Meade Ave., was built in 1909. It houses the Union Stockyards National Bank, the offices of the Union Stockyards Co., numerous commission firms and stockfeed companies, the U.S. Market News Service, and the remote control studio of radio station KFH. The yards (no acres) north of the Exchange Building have a capacity of 5,000 sheep, 15,000 hogs, and 21,000 cattle. The area is paved with brick, electrically lighted, and drained by a special system of sewers.

16. The DERBY OIL REFINERY (open by permission), uoo E. 21st St., is representative of the oil industry in Wichita. Crude oil is pumped to the refinery from the Eastborough Pool, which lies between Douglas and Central Avenues, a mile east of Oliver Street.

17. The MUNICIPAL UNIVERSITY OF WICHITA, 21st and Hillside Ave., an outgrowth of Fairmount College founded in 1892, is a coeducational institution created in 1926 by a referendum vote in Wichita. The curriculum is composed of courses in education, science, business administration, and the fine and liberal arts. The university has an average enrollment of 1,500 students. Its president (1938) Dr. William M. Jardine, was formerly U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (1925-29), and Minister to Egypt (1930-33). The College of Fine Arts is directed (1938) by Thurlow Lieurance, D. M., known for his research among Indians, and for his Indian musical compositions, "Minisa," and "By the Waters of Minnetonka."

The university has offered courses in police science since 1935. Through a cooperative arrangement between university officials and the Wichita Police Department, young men, invested with full police authority, are employed as cadets while studying a two-year course in criminal law and police science. They attend classes in the morning and perform a half tour of police duty each day.

The university occupies an 80-acre campus overlooking Wichita. There are six brick buildings and several frame structures, the latter remaining from Fairmount College. The main buildings are Fiske Hall and the Administration Building.

MORRISON LIBRARY, facing Fairmount Ave. at the south of the campus, is a yellow brick structure of neoclassic design trimmed with stone. It was designed by Robert R. Ross, dedicated in 1910, and named for Nathan F. Morrison, former president of Fairmount College. The library contains 60,000 volumes, many thousand pamphlets and periodicals. It is a depository of the Federal Government. 

The CARTER MEMORIAL ROOM contains 2,000 volumes of the complete works of classical English and American authors, many of which are first editions.

The NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, in the Science Hall north of Morrison Library, contains marine fossils, geological specimens, Indian artifacts, a large collection of bird and small mammal specimens, World War memorabilia, and Palestinian field, shop, and household utensils. The latter were procured through Selah Merrill, former U. S. Consul to Syria.

18. The OLD MISSION CEMETERY, main entrance 21st St. and Hillside Ave., has a CARILLON that attracts large audiences to summer evening concerts.

19. The CARRY A. NATION MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN, Douglas Ave. just E. of Santa Fe St. on Union Station Plaza, was dedicated in 1918 by members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It consists of a granite slab with a dedicatory plaque and a drinking fountain. The memorial is a block east of the OLD CAREY HOTEL (now Eaton Hotel), the barroom of which was raided in December 1900 by Mrs. Nation. As related in her autobiography, Mrs. Nation "walked into the Carey barroom and threw two rocks at the picture; then turned and smashed the mirror that covered almost the entire side of the large room. Some men drinking at the bar ran out ... I took the cane and broke up the sideboard, which had on it all kinds of intoxicating drinks. Then I ran out across the street to destroy another one (saloon)." The picture at which Mrs. Nation "threw two rocks" was John Noble's painting of Cleopatra at the Bath, a work described by Mrs. Nation as "the life-sized picture of a naked woman."

20. The McKNIGHT MEMORIAL, SW. corner of Grove St. and Douglas Ave., was designed by Alexander Proctor and erected in 1931 in honor of J. Hudson McKnight who donated the 70-acre tract on which the nearby Wichita High School, East, is built. The memorial consists of a life-sized bronze figure of a trapper leaning on his rifle beside the seated figure of an Indian with bow and arrow in hand.

21. The HENRY J. ALLEN HOUSE (private), SW. corner of Roosevelt Ave. and Second St., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a two-story structure of buff brick, built in the form of an irregular ell. Rising from a slope, which is protected on the Second Street side by a retaining wall, the house appears to be underslung in comparison with its setting, an effect accentuated by the low-pitched tile roof. When built in 1920 this residence was considered a radical departure in residential architecture.

Henry J. Allen, publisher of the Wichita Beacon (1907-28), and now editor of the Topeka State Journal (1938), was elected to the Governorship of Kansas in 1918 while serving with the American Red Cross in France. He was reelected in 1920. Nine years later he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of United States Senator Charles Curtis, who had been elected to the Vice Presidency.

22. The UNITED STATES VETERANS' FACILITY, NE. corner of Bleckley Drive and Kellogg St., was opened in November 1935 as a general observation hospital for war veterans. The fourteen buildings and their equipment are valued at $1,250,000. The main building is a four-story Georgian Colonial structure with dormer windows, stone quoins, and a white cupola. Bleckley Drive, which leads to the main entrance, is named for Lieut. Erwin Bleckley, a native of Wichita who was shot down in his plane while attempting to deliver rations to the "Lost Battalion" in the World War.

23. The FIREMEN'S AND POLICEMEN'S MEMORIAL, on McLean Blvd. between Douglas Ave. and Second St., consists of a stone and concrete wall with plaques that bear the names of Wichita firemen and policemen killed in the line of duty. It was designed by Ed Forsblom and built in 1934.

24. LAWRENCE STADIUM, NE. corner of Maple and Sycamore Sts., was built in 1934 and named for Robert Lawrence, Wichita pioneer. The construction cost ($125,000) was shared by Wichita and the Federal Government. The stadium has seats for 6,000 and standing room for 2,000. State and national semi-professional baseball tournaments are held here annually.

25. FRIENDS UNIVERSITY (QUAKER), University and Hiram Aves., founded in 1898 by the Society of Friends, is a coeducational institution open to students of all denominations. The university has an average enrollment of 400. The curriculum consists of courses in Music and the Liberal Arts.

UNIVERSITY HALL, a five-story structure of red brick and native stone, surmounted by a clock tower, is the main building on the l7-acre campus. On its fourth floor is a MUSEUM, which houses mound builder and Indian artifacts, Chinese lacquer work and royal pewter, mineral and fossil specimen, and Aztec and Inca pottery.

26. The WICHITA MUNICIPAL AIRPORT, 3.3 m. southeast of Wichita on State 15, a mile square tract with concrete landing strips 4,800 feet long, is at the junction of two of the most important lighted airways in the country.

The AIRPORT ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, a two-story structure of buff brick, contains a passenger station, airport and airline offices, and a radio station of the U. S. Weather Bureau which is operated in conjunction with the Department of Commerce. An airplane motif figures in the interior and exterior decorations of the structure. A passenger plane in flight is depicted in a frieze above the main entrance. The building was constructed in 1935 at a cost of $150,000.

27. The STEARMAN AIRCRAFT FACTORY, opposite the Municipal Airport, is housed in a one-story structure of buff brick. The factory produces training planes for the U. S. Army and Navy.

Websites About Wichita, Kansas:

  1. Kansas Facts: Sedgwick County Facts
  2. City of Wichita  | Facebook 
  3. Wichita, Kansas on Wikipedia 
  4. Wichita Chamber of Commerce  | Facebook
  5. Wichita Eagle (newspaper)  | Facebook 
  6. Wichita State University  | Facebook 
  7. Friends University | Facebook 


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