Friday, June 20, 2014

Wichita, KS, A Town Built by Trains

Wichita was the last place I worked prior to retiring and starting my life on the road as a nomad.  So, I find myself returning here to visit friends.  And since my fathers family is from an area just south of Wichita, it gives me opportunity to visit family as well.  I haven't written a lot about Wichita since it really wasn't a destination for exploring, but Wichita has an interesting history.  And like many cities, it has undertaken an effort to revitalize the downtown area.  They have renamed this area Old Town.
Haven't been to the museum yet, but it is on my agenda for the next time I am in town.  It was one of the older buildings which was remodeled prior to being turned into a museum.  It fronts a plaza and is now surrounded by small shops, restaurants and nightclubs.  There is music going on most evenings, but it usually draws the younger crowd and tends to be more of the blues/rock variety.

This was the old Morton-Simmons Hardware Store and Warehouse.  Being the largest warehouse space in the area, it housed over 79,000 merchandise items at one time.  It located itself close by the railroad connections.  The cupola on top housed over 20,000 gallons of water for a state of the art sprinkler system throughout the warehouse.   The building is now the home of Wichita Hotel.

Although Wichita was founded in 1870, it almost foundered when Santa Fe Railroad declined to take their rails beyond Newton, KS, north of Wichita.  Wichita approached Santa Fe and asked what needed to be done for Santa Fe to extend their rails.  Santa Fe told them to create a company and provide bonds.  The Wichita and Southwestern Railroad Company was formed and bonds were voted in and rails were extended to Wichita in 1872.  Santa Fe shorty after bought out the Wichita and Southwestern Railroad.  
In 1880, the Frisco Railroad moved in providing service to St. Louis.  By 1887, Rock Island Railroad had moved in offering service from Chicago clear to the gulf coast.  Wichita was now hub of rail transportation for many years.

This building has been remodeled into condos.

Here is a view of the balcony and deck at the top of the building.

This was the Hockaday Building, built in 1908 for the production of Hockaday Paint.  It is now the River City Brewery.  It was the first restaurant to be opened when this area was revitalized.

A WIN friend, Mike, was in the area so we got together for lunch one day.  

The River City Brewery motto.  

Another of the local eateries in the area.  This place used to have great wings.  It was a regular spot for the after work get together on Friday evenings.

Another tidbit of trivia.  W.C. Coleman found the Coleman Lantern, which made him a rich man.  He built his factory in this area and was the company headquarters for most of the twenthieth century.  They are still located in Wichita, but have since moved to a newer, larger location.  Coleman Industries now produces everything from lanterns, tents, ice chests, and sleeping bags, to include all types of camping gear. 



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