Industrial & Business Areas

Old Cowtown Museum’s commercial buildings depict the types of businesses common to most towns in the "Old West" and specific to Wichita. Here are a few samplings of the business and industrial areas:


Arkansas Va​lley Grain Elevator & Scale House

As farming moved from subsistence to industrial production farmers needed an offsite place to store large quantities of grain until they could be sold. During harvest time in the late 1870's, Wichita's streets were jammed with horse-drawn wagons filled with grain waiting their turn to unload at one of eight grain elevators.

The wagons full of grain were weighed on the wooden platform at the scale house before and after unloading at the elevator to determine the amount of grain in a farmer's wagon. The wagons which were driven up the west 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.

Elevators were some of the first industrial applications of steam power, though with the fear of grain dust explosions, the plants were often in buildings removed from the elevator.

Prices for storage and captive high prices for freight by the railroads brought the Grange into existence and political activity by farmers.

The 50-foot tall grain elevator at Old Cowtown Museum typifies rural elevators of this era. Built in 1912, it accurately reflects the architecture and method of grain transfer during Wichita's earlier days.

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 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.

An accompanying scale house, complete with a working, drive on platform scale was built in 1987.


Wichita & Southwestern Depot

Wichita’s future depended upon the railroad to bring goods, services and settlers as well as shipping farm products, finished goods and travel by citizens. While waiting for the settlement of Osage Land, the Santa Fe Rail Road bypassed the town. Citizens pooled their resources and passed county bonds to create their own railroad to meet with the Santa Fe, 20 miles north. With this lifeline to the outside world the city prospered until it became the largest city in Kansas.

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

This wood-framed depot built in 1887 in Anness, was given to the Museum in 1954 by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company. The structure bears the name "Wichita & Southwestern Railroad" to represent the city's independent company that later joined with the AT&SF.

The architecture of Santa Fe depots are similarly uniform in structure, a strategy used along the entire railroad line. Those standardized buildings used of details found in the Museum's depot such as the 12-light windows, roof brackets, wide overhanging eaves, and gable over the station bay.

A stretch of rail line from the grain elevator to the stockyards 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.



The J.P. Allen Drug Store represents the pharmaceutical and medical practice of the 1870s. The downstairs drug store was operated by J.P. Allen. The front retail area contained the patent medicines, liquors, paint, window glass and related medical and items. It also contains the soda fountain that dispensed “health” drinks that were carbonated. The back area contains the prescription lab with the red glass screen that prevented customers from learning the druggist compounds and copying them.

The second floor contains the office of Dr. Fabrique and a dental office. Medical conditions and practices of the late nineteenth century were inconsistent, inexact, and unregulated. Nineteenth century physicians such as Dr. Allen and Dr. Fabrique faced many challenges in their practices as they struggled against home remedies and Patent Medicines. There was a close relationship between the medical and pharmaceutical practices of the late nineteenth century as indicated by the shared building by the Allen Brothers.

The Drug Store was built on site in 1996. It replaced the single story drugstore that was moved from that location and is now interpreted as the Music store.


General Store

The General Store 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, 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 and less reliance of stores with general inventory.

General stores also served the town with bank like services, extending credit and loaning money. One of the first stores was operated by W. C. Woodman who went on to found Arkansas Valley Bank. He became well known as a reputable banker and a political leader. He also purchased the Munger House as a family residence.

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. Most prices fluctuated and were not published which brewed suspicion as to who got better deals, those in the city or the farm.

Built in 1884, the store 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.


First Arkansas Valley Bank

Banking in Wichita began as a small time money lending service which was carried on by some land agents and local grocers. Those money lenders who were particularly successful sometimes went on to form banks. In 1872, with the arrival of rail road service to Wichita and the accompanying cattle trade industry, Wichita boasted three banks with deposits totaling 5.5 million dollars.

The economic climate in Wichita during the 1870s often revealed economic disparities between rural and urban residents. Wichita money lending institutions and businessmen tended to emphasize the short term profit potential of the cattle trade instead of a long term investment in agriculture. During this era, rural residents found themselves on the wrong side of an unregulated economy that created inflation and high interest rates. Interest rates were sometimes 26-60% annually on loans to farmers who, as a result of drought, grasshoppers or other problems, needed to mortgage their land.

The First Arkansas Valley Bank was built at Old Cowtown Museum in 1961. It is one of eleven buildings moved to or built at Old Cowtown Museum in preparation for the celebration of the Kansas Centennial in 1961.


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.


Wichita City Eagle Print Shop

The Eagle represents the office and printing business of 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 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.

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.  He 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.

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, 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 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 reading room is where citizens could read newspapers from across the nation.  The back shop contains working presses, type cases, and associated equipment.​



As the town began, the blacksmith provided services of general repair shop, wheelwrighting, small farrier work and a strong emphasis on agricultural equipment repair.

As more finished goods were available by railroad and the number of factories grew, plow and wagon for example, many smiths gave up the trade or attempted to specialize in agriculture tools, wheelwrighting and farrier work. Wichita’s increasing agricultural industry during the 1870s continued the need of the general blacksmith as part of the Wichita’s economy.

The building was either built or moved to the museum from an unknown location in 1959. Many of the original tools were in honor of the G. A. Millar Blacksmith Shop once located at 923 E. Douglas. G. A. Millar operated his shop in Wichita from 1887-1917. Ben Millar, Millar’s son converted the original shop into an automotive repair shop after his father's death. In 1993, the lean to addition was added to the northbuilt in 1959 on Old Cowtown Museum grounds.


Saddle & Harness Shop

As horse, mule and oxen were the main mode of travel, the saddle and harness shop were essential to the life of a town. The saddle and harness business were important to the livelihood of the cowboy, farmer, and townspeople. The economy of the early settlers in Wichita was heavily dependent on the transportation of manufactured goods from the East. Wagon freighting to the Indian Territory and beyond was an important business in early Wichita. After the arrival of the railroad in 1872, transportation of goods and people was still dependent on animal power and team drawn vehicles. The shop would provide any kind of leather repair as well as creation of new leather goods.

This building was built on site in the 1960s from a house constructed around 1910 on the 800 block of South Broadway. Its first was used as the Lawrence Thompson Exhibit. It exhibited items such as a barbed wire collection and assorted musical instruments. Later on it became home to the Harry Shepler Saddle Shop. In 1982, it was reinterpreted as the Harness and Saddlery Shop.


Meat Market

The Meat Market represents the diversity of the availability of specialty foods and an institution directly related to the economic impact of hunting in the Wichita region. It also represents the local diet during the time period. The meat market distributed a wide variety of wild and domestic meats to the residents and shipped great quantities of wild and domestic meat to eastern markets. Unlike other early businesses in Wichita, the meat market did not combine the sale of meat with other food stuffs. With the expansion of the agrarian economy and the depletion of wild game and in its natural habitat, domestically raised meats dominated the meat market business.

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

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. The architecture is typical of vernacular, commercial frame buildings. 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.


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 rounding up stray dogs, issuing city permits and licenses and enforcing the firearm ordinance.

During the cattle trade era, the institution of the gun ordinance was designed to limit the violence that might occur with too much alcohol. The local shop owners kept arms on their premises for protection as well as assisting law enforcement should it become necessary. The triangle alarm in front of the building was the 1870s 911 alert system, to call all to the scene of trouble.

While celebrated in movies and popular books, Wyatt Earp served as a police man for year but was not the “marshal that saved the town.”

The building was built on the museum’s grounds in 1961 to house Native American artifacts. In 1979 the building was interpreted as the Land Office. In 2010, it was reinterpreted as the Marshal's Office.


Fritz Snitzler's Saloon

In 1872 Wichita had fourteen saloons. In this era a saloon could be everything from a family restaurant to drinking and gambling establishment. Many of the town residents disapproved drinking and gambling saloons. A growing temperance movement in the late 1870s supported by the 1st Presbyterian Church continued to put pressure on the city government to regulate such businesses.

The city government recognized the saloon contribution to the city economy and saw to it that the "evils" were properly licensed and taxed– thereby profiting from the cattle trade as well.

By 1876 Fritz Snitzler, who simplified the spelling of his name from Schnitzler to "Snitzler," had established a large complex that included a hotel with restaurant, a meat market and a saloon. He also fostered Fechheimers clothing and a cigar store. 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

The building 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.


O'Hara's Barbershop

As gathering places, barbershops offered an opportunity for men to enjoy camaraderie and lively debate about news and politics while enjoying a cigar or chew of tobacco. Baths were also available to travelers and cowboys as an added convenience.
Due to the all-male atmosphere associated with barber and bath houses, Victorian-era women did not frequent such businesses.

The building was built to be the Wichita Township Hall in the 400 block of North Hydraulic. It was erected in 1881. 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 Old Cowtown Museum in April of 1955.​​


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.​​​


Thomas Shaw Music Store

Music was everywhere in Wichita. It was in the churches, saloons and private homes. It was on the awnings of businesses that welcomed the cowboys and it in the temperance rallies that tried to tame them. Music is an essential part of the public and private life in a city. It added to the cultural dynamic of a city and was used for entertainment as well as promotion of businesses and the town. Music at home provided recreation, relaxation, culture and socialization in the home. It was an essential part of woman’s role in creating a happy home. New music was passed from musician to musician and was distributed largely by sheet music that could be found randomly in magazines or ordered from companies by mail.

The Thomas Shaw Music Store opened in 1884 that became the longest running music stores dedicated to the sale of instruments and sheet music.

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. It was originally a two-story building, but the second story was lost in a storm during the restoration process. The salvaged pieces from the second story were used to build the Land Office.

The building served as the museum's drugstore until 1996 when it was moved so a two-story drugstore could be built. The structure was transformed into the McGinn center for staff and volunteer use, until its present interpretation.​



With the economic importance of the cattle trade to the business community, the cowboy’s rowdy behavior tolerated. Activities such as prostitution, gambling, and open saloons were licensed or punished by regular fines, which added to the local cattle trade economy, rather than with jail sentences.

The Jail was constructed in the summer of 1871, and was used mostly in cases where drunkenness and rowdiness erupted in violence.  The small size indicates 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 1874, a six cell, two story county jail was constructed.

Sedgwick County's oldest calaboose was built in 1871 and was originally located at the southeast corner of Market and Second Streets in Wichita.

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.

It was 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.


Turnverein Hall

People from Germany were the largest foreign born population in Wichita, and when they came they brought their culture. In early 19th-century Germany, exercise unions known as Turnvereins, stressed physical activities for young men to prepare them for military service. As they came to the United States with the immigrants they took on more of a health and community function. The organizations also sponsored social events. They held lectures, socials and dances that were open to all citizens of the town, not just Germans. In the 1870s Germans in Wichita formed a Turner society and built a hall at First and Main Streets. With political pressure of the World Wars and the desire to fully acculturate, 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.​

The building was constructed in 1880 as a hardware store in the village of El Paso (Derby), Kansas. The structure was donated to the Museum by that city in 1966. The wood-frame structure with Italianate architectural influences, was interpreted as a gambling hall before its present interpretation in 1987.


Southern Hotel

Hotels were important to the founding, promotion and growth of Wichita They often served as the headquarters for business transactions and social events. They also provided the best food and atmosphere available during the 1870s. Hotels catered to a variety of guest needs with dormitory style rooms, private rooms available for short term guests, as well as rooms for long term guests or boarders. In Wichita, the hotel also functioned as the seat of city and county government, in lieu of public buildings.

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. It boasted 15 rooms at the time and was quite elegant. It fell into decline and burned in 1875 in a blazing fire that also destroyed six adjacent commercial buildings. As a result, the early wooden buildings were steadily replaced with more fire-resistant, permanent structures that represented growth, affluence and stability.

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

Before its move to Old Cowtown Museum in 1960 this building at 1117 W. Douglas Ave in the Delano neighborhood of Wichita contained many businesses on the lower level such as a grocery store, plumbing company, oil company, tire service, and cabinet maker. The second story was used as a boarding house. Keeney Stevens donated the structure to Old Cowtown Museum in 1960 and it was moved to the museum in the same year to become the Southern Hotel. A balcony and false front were added to the front of the structure and interior paneling was made using a planing mill from the original time period.


Fechheimer's Dry Goods & Clothing

Max M. Fechheimer, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, came to Wichita in 1869. Following in the family business 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, prospered over the years and is now a leading manufacturer of police, fire, postal, and band uniforms.

The building that houses the M.M. Fechheimer's Dry Goods & Clothing is an 1895 false-front structure that was originally located in Wichita in the 900 block of South Lawrence (now Broadway). It was a house and later a liquor store. It was brought to the grounds of the Museum in the early 1960s.