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Industrial & Business Areas
​​Representing a business district of a 1870's town, Cowtown's commercial buildings depict the types of businesses common to most towns in the "Old West". Here are a few samplings of the business and industrial areas:
 

Arkansas Va​lley Grain Elevator & Scale House

During harvest time in the late 1870's, Wichita's streets were jammed with horse-drawn wagons filled with grain, each waiting its turn to unload at one of eight grain elevators. The 50-foot tall grain elevator at Old Cowtown Museum typifies rural elevators of this era. The elevator was built in 1912, and it accurately reflects the architecture and method of grain transfer during Wichita's earlier days.

An accompanying scale house, complete with a working, drive on platform scale was built in 1987. Wagons were weighed on the wooden platform before and after unloading at the elevator to determine the amount of grain in a farmer's wagon.

The purpose of an elevator was to store grain that was to be sold. Farmers delivered the grain in wagons which were driven up the ramp into the elevator. The grain was unloaded and lifted to the top of the building where it was distributed into bins. Railroad cars at the side of the elevator were loaded by gravity from the bins above. Farmers who came to purchase grain drove their wagons inside to be loaded from the overhead bins by way of a canvas chute.

Originally the building was located in Bentley, Kansas. It was owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad, who donated it to the Museum in 1986. The grain elevator is a heavily studded, wood-frame structure with reinforced girths and stay rods. It was moved to Old Cowtown Museum in three sections and reassembled. It is a rare example of a restored and operating elevator of its type in the United States.

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Wichita & Southwestern Depot

To the community in 1871, the railroad represented a lifeline to the outside world and city founder James R. Mead rallied Sedgwick County residents to vote for bonds to bring the railroad to town.

This wood-framed depot was built in 1887 in Anness, Kansas. It was given to the Museum in 1954 by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company. The structure now bears the name "Wichita & Southwestern Railroad" to represent the city's independent company that convinced the AT&SF to build a branch line to Wichita.

Early Santa Fe depots are similar to each other in structure, a strategy that created uniformity along the entire railroad line. This depot is typical of that early frame architecture. By the turn of the 20th century, all Santa Fe designs were governed by the company's System Architect's office in Chicago. Those standardized buildings continued the use of details found in the Museum's depot such as the 12-light windows, brackets, wide overhanging eaves, and gable over the cashier's bay.

A stretch of rail line extends from the grain elevator to the stockyards and provides an authentic setting for the depot. To reconstruct the track, Santa Fe officials provided original 52-pound rails and a keg of old-style "grasshopper" spikes. The railroad company also contributed a handcar and a boxcar to stand near the station.

One can now take the railroad cars at Wichita one morning and be in St. Louis the next morning and in Chicago the evening following. We are now within the bounds of civilization.

Wichita City Eagle, May 17, 1882
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Drugstore

See medicines made from herbs, roots, bark, berries, various oils and dry powders.​​​​

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General Store

Built in 1884, the General Store is a narrow, frame commercial structure with high ceilings and a 19th-century, vernacular false-front. This building is well suited to the Museum's interpretation of a retail store because it originally operated as the A.K. Masters General Store in Garden Plain, Kansas. It was moved from that location to Old Cowtown Museum in 1965.

The General Store exhibit represents a business that provided basic goods and services to early Wichitans. In small frontier towns, general stores were the primary outlet for tinned food, dry goods, pots and pans, hardware, lamps and furniture. The coming of railroad services to Wichita in 1872 greatly facilitated business, and one might also have found wallpaper, stereoscopes, candy, beauty cream and other refinements newly arrived from the East. Eventually such ready distribution by the railroads caused the rise of retail businesses specialized in particular lines of goods.

Unlike today's retail businesses, merchandise in general stores was displayed behind the counters and the store keepers filled the customer's orders from those shelves.

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First Arkansas Valley Bank

By 1872, there were three banks in Wichita. Interest rates were high; sometimes 26-60% annually on loans to farmers who, as a result of drought, grasshoppers or other problems, needed to mortgage their land. During the most lucrative season for the cattle trade, local bank deposits totaled 5.5 million dollars.

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Empire Hall

The structure was built in 1904 and is believed to have been located at 816 E. Murdock. It served as a grocery store before being donated to Cowtown in 1960. At the Museum, it has served as a restaurant and dinner theater, and the Empire Hall Exhibit Gallery.​

It is now going to be used as the volunteer/interpreter building.

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City Eagle Print Shop

With its false front and full glass display windows, the Eagle building is one of the Museum's outstanding examples of vernacular wood-frame cattle town architecture. The structure, most likely built in the late 19th century, originally housed a grocery store near 9th and Main Streets. The store was later used as Andrew Cook's Jewelry Repair and Cook's Exchange Shop in the 1940's and 50's. It was moved to the Museum grounds in 1958.

The building represents the office and printing business of Colonel Marshall M. Murdock, founder and editor of the Wichita City Eagle. The Eagle was one of the first newspapers published in Wichita and has remained in continuous operation since that time. Murdock's title resulted from his service in the county militia during the Kansas-Missouri border skirmishes of 1864.

Having followed various colorful pursuits in life including politics, prospecting for gold, and helping John Brown aid runaway slaves, Murdock sold a newspaper business in Burlingame, Kansas in 1872 and relocated to Wichita. He had been recruited by city leaders and the expected arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad to the new town convinced him it was a place of opportunity. He opened up his print shop in a small wood building at Third and Main Streets.

Marsh Murdock was an ardent promoter of the city of Wichita throughout his life. He used his newspaper as a means to proclaim the advantages of life on this western frontier. He attracted new settlers and speculators by portraying Wichita as an oasis of civility and led community boosters in his vision to turn a frontier town into an enterprising city.

On his death in 1908, his wife Victoria Mayberry Murdock, took over the ownership of the Eagle and became one of the few women publishers of a big daily newspaper. At the time, it enjoyed the largest circulation in the state of Kansas. Victoria Murdock died in 1914. It was then that family legend revealed that Col. Murdock had created his well-known descriptor of Wichita, "Peerless Princess of the Plains", in honor of his wife.

The interior exhibit represents a newspaper office and printing establishment of the early 1870's. The Editor's Office and reading room are replicated near the front door. The back shop contains working presses, type cases, and associated equipment.​

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Blacksmith

America experienced the industrial revolution as the railroad carried products from the eastern industries, turning the blacksmith into a repair man.​​​ The buiding was built in 1959 on Old Cowtown Museum grounds.

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Saddle & Harness Shop

Before and after the railroad, local transportation of people and goods was still by horse, oxen, or mule drawn wagons. New saddles, bridles and harnesses were always in demand.

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Meat Market

The 1890 Meat Market building was built by Fred Breising, Sr. in Whitewater, Kansas. Breising operated his Main Street butcher shop from 1890 to the 1920s. It now houses Old Cowtown Museum's Meat Market exhibit and replicates a store of the 1870s in which wild game and fish, as well as domestic meats, were sold.

The architecture is typical of vernacular, commercial frame buildings, complete with a false-front. At the time it was moved to the Museum in 1988, it was one of the last such authentic structures remaining near Wichita that was characteristic of the cattle trade era.

Hazel Breising, daughter-in-law of the original owner, donated the building. Remembering the market in its glory days, she recounted that the store was open seven days a week and that the local men would come in to "sit, and spit, and visit."

We notice three deer hanging out at one of the meat markets this week. Deer meat has been quite plentiful in the markets this winter.

Wichita City Eagle, February 5, 1874
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City Marshal's Office

The position of City Marshal was one of the first established after the City of Wichita was incorporated in 1870. He was responsible for not only "keeping the peace" but also for firearm ordinance enforcement, rounding up stray dogs and issuing various city permits and licenses.

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Fritz Snitzler's Saloon

​The building which houses the Saloon was built in 1885 and is representative of false-front, wood-frame structures of the mid-19th century. It originally functioned as the Rockford Township Hall and was moved to the Museum in 1966 to become the earliest place of business owned by German immigrant Fritz Schnitzler, who simplified the spelling of his name to "Snitzler" in the 1870s.

In 1872 Wichita had fourteen saloons. Although many of the town residents disapproved of such establishments, they recognized their contribution to the city economy and saw to it that the "evils" were properly licensed.

By 1876 Snitzler had established a larger complex that included a hotel with restaurant, a meat market and a saloon. He lodged his customers' livestock in a large stable out back. The Wichita Weekly Beacon referred to the area as "Snitzville" and often acclaimed the jovial host as a man who spared no expense to provide the best food, drink and cigars at any hour of the day or night.

FRITZ SNITZLER is the proprietor of a Restaurant at Wichita.... Everybody knows Fritz, and who ever visited Wichita know him. Mr. Snitzler will pull down over two hundred pounds avoirdupois, and is fully as liberal and jolly as he is heavy.... Fritz knows how to run a Restaurant, and never allows his guests to go away dissatisfied. When you go to Wichita take your dinner there.

Wichita City Directory, 1877
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O'Hara's Barbershop

The building that is now interpreted as an early barbershop originally was built to be the Wichita Township Hall in the 400 block of North Hydraulic. It was erected in 1881, and at that time the site was on the banks of Chisholm Creek. Over the years the small, front-gabled frame building served as a meeting place for township trustees and a polling place for residents. By 1955 the city had outgrown the township. Because it was government property, the Wichita Fire Chief condemned the neglected building so that the City could dispose of it. It was donated and moved to Cowtown Museum in April of 1955.

The exhibit portrays a business where men could obtain a shave, haircut, and the local gossip. The sign outside the museum's tonsorial establishment indicates that baths were also available to travelers and cowboys as an added convenience.

As gathering places, barbershops offered an opportunity for men to enjoy camaraderie and lively debates about​ news and politics while enjoying a cigar or chew of tobacco. Due to the all-male atmosphere associated with barber and bath houses, Victorian-era women did not frequent such business locales.​​

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Gardner Coal

We believe that this structure was used as an office for the Gardner Coal Company located at 1210-1245 N. Main Street. It was built around 1904-1905. The office was given to the Museum by the family, and it was moved to the Old Cowtown Museum in the 1960s.

This structure is not open to the public.​​​

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McGinn's Feed & Seed

This structure was originally located on 712 North Market. It was built in 1892 and owned by S.E. Walter who was a grocer. It was moved to the Museum in 1953.

According to museum records, it was originally a two-story building, but the second story was lost in a storm during the restoration process at Cowtown. The pieces that could be salvaged from the second story were used to build the Land Office.

This building served as the museum's drugstore until 1996. At this point the structure was moved across the street and a two-story drugstore was built. The structure was transformed into the McGinn center for staff and volunteer use.​

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Jail

Sedgwick County's oldest calaboose was built in 1871 and was originally located at the southeast corner of Market and Second Streets in Wichita. It was later moved to 12th and Main, and ultimately moved to Old Cowtown Museum in 1952, when the Museum purchased the jail from the Wichita School Board for one dollar.

The 16-by-18-foot building features horizontal plank construction, a method common in utilitarian structures of the mid-to-late 19th century. The walls are 6 inches thick, made of stacked cottonwood boards and held together with square-cut iron spikes. Exterior siding was later added to the building, but evidence of the stack technique is visible on the interior walls. The jail was built by the 1870s construction firm of Ludlum & Lindsay at a cost of $600 to the City of Wichita.

The structure consists only of holding cells; there is no office for law enforcement officials. The small size of this jail indicated that it was intended to house short-term prisoners, mostly drunken or rowdy cowboys. Residents protested the choice of the site, claiming the singing and ​cursing of the transient boarders was offensive to women.

In violation of the ordinance, we still see men bathing in broad daylight in the Little River, some of them banging their clothes on the fences of persons' lots that jut on the bank. We have the frank avowal of one man who says that if the city authorities can't stop it, he has a double-barreled shot-gun that will...

Wichita City Eagle, July 5, 1872
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Turnverein Hall

Turnverein Hall is a wood-frame structure with Italianate architectural influences. It is representative of the 19th-century commercial buildings of the cattle trade era. The building was constructed in 1880 as a hardware store in the village of El Paso, Kansas. El Paso was later renamed Derby; the structure was donated to the Museum by the city.

The false-front building was moved to Old Cowtown Museum in 1966 to become the Cowtown Community Hall. In 1987 the concept was further developed by recreating Turnverein Hall based on a tradition brought by local immigrants.

In early 19th-century Germany, exercise unions known as Turnvereins, stressed physical activities for young men to prepare them for military service. The organizations also sponsored social events for the community. In the 1870s Germans in Wichita formed a Turner society and built a hall at First and Main Streets. Turnvereins declined in popularity in the early years of the 20th century.

The original mottos of the society are displayed on the interior walls of the hall. Translations from the German indicated the values of the original society:

Friends are more important than fire, water, and bread. Alert, happy and free, such are the courageous sons of the gymnastics movement.​

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Southern Hotel

The original Southern Hotel in Wichita was located on the east side of North Main Street in the 100 block. Built in 1871, it was one of the earliest hotels in Wichita. The Southern burned in 1875 in a blazing fire that also destroyed six adjacent commercial buildings.

The structure that represents Old Cowtown Museum's Southern Hotel is a false-front, frame structure with a history of commerical use as a retail store and rooming house. The late 19th-century, two-story building was moved from West Douglas Avenue to the Museum grounds in 1962 and renovated to represent the original hotel.

The building has been configured with a lobby and dining room on the ground floor, and the upstairs is currently closed. The Museum's hotel building is much smaller than the original Southern Hotel, which boasted a total of fifteen guest rooms.

Nineteenth century false-front buildings are a signature type of architecture primarily identified with the "Old West". This familiar style was popularized throughout film and television and continues to endure as a symbol of the cattle town era in America. Such structures are rare now, as these fragile early buildings were steadily replaced throughout the 20th century with more fire-resistant, permanent structures that represented growth and affluence.

Upon your arrival at Wichita stop at the Southern Hotel. Best beds, and set the best table in the city. $2 per day. Single meals 50 cents, lodging 50 cents.

Wichita City Eagle, May 3, 1872
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Fechheimer's Dry Goods & Clothing

The building that houses the M.M. Fechheimer's Dry Goods & Clothing exhibit in the business district of Old Cowtown Museum is an 1895 false-front structure that was originally located in the 900 block of South Lawrence (now Broadway) in Wichita. Early museum records indicate that this structure was used as a house and later a liquor store; however, searches of City Directories and Sandborn maps were unable to find a firm match for this house on the 900 block. It was brought to the grounds of the Museum in the early 1960s.

Max M. Fechheimer, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, came to Wichita in 1869. His grandfather had fourteen children and as a result, several Fechheimer businesses sprang up in America. Following in those family footsteps, Max opened a clothing store on Douglas Avenue in the late 1870s on a lot that he purchased from Wichita founder William Greiffenstein. He became a prominent local entrepreneur and left his imprint in the form of​ the Fechheimer Block, a commercial building in which he rented office space.

The Fechheimer family, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, opened their first clothing and dry goods store in 1842. The company prospered over the years and is now a leading manufacturer of police, fire, postal, and band uniforms.​