Residential Street

​​By the early 1870's, settlers were flooding into the growing community, creating a varied residential area. Local businessmen, such as Marshall M. Murdock, editor of The Wichita City Eagle, built comfortable homes, while newly arrived settlers used quick and easy construction techniques common during the housing boom.​


Murdock House

In 1874, Marshall M. Murdock, founder and editor of the Wichita City Eagle, built his fine home at Fourth and Oak Streets (St. Francis and Murdock). Wichita business leaders wanted to establish a Republican newspaper in Wichita recruited Murdock. Murdock was the premier publicist for the city and was known nationally almost as much for his unswerving loyalty and promotion of Wichita as for his extravagant writing style.

"Eaglehurst", as the house was known, hosted many men of state and national reputation due to Col. Murdock's business and political associations. Mrs. Victoria Murdock carried out the role of a proper Victorian wife who was a gracious homemaker. She was opinionated and supported her husband as a sounding board for his many ideas. She was also very active in many civic projects in town.

100 years later, the house was moved to the grounds of Old Cowtown Museum under sponsorship by the Midtown Association. Members of the group raised funds and donated many hours toward the exterior restoration of the house. The additions that had been added to the house in later years were removed, and the original core was retained in order to accurately represent the house in its initial time period.

The Murdock House features basic characteristics of Gothic Revival style of architecture that was popular in the mid to late 19th century. The steeply-pitched gabled roof, cresting at the ridgeline, hoodmolds over the windows, and curvilinear elements on bargeboards and porch brackets offered a model of finery in newly-founded Wichita.

This elegant dwelling was among the most stylish residences of the day in Wichita. In its time the structure symbolized Wichita's rapid advancement from frontier trading outpost to successful urban center.

The building is the most stylish upper middle class home on the museum grounds, but in the city of Wichita there were many larger and more ornate homes in the city. ​


Story-and-a-Half House

The Story-and-a-Half House is an exhibit represents family life in the 1870's. The house is representative of a lower-middle income family in early Wichita after the arrival of the railroad in 1872. It was a “starter house” for a small family that had aspirations of moving up. It was an everymans house” that had a succession of many residents, and therefore represents a generic family home, one of many that provided the backbone of the growing Wichita economy.

Visiting school groups may participate in domestic activities such as laundry and butter churning, as well as children's games in the small side yard.

The house is built on a rectangular I-Plan with two rooms arranged one behind the other and a shed kitchen directly behind them. The upper floor is called a half-story because its ceiling follows the slope of the roof line. For this reason, the residence is known at the Museum as the Story-and-a-Half House. The reference is apparent when compared with the full two-story Murdock House next door. This unassuming vernacular house was common throughout the 19th century. The simple style was typical for moderate-income people of the late Victorian era.

The Story-and-a-Half House in the residential area of Old Cowtown Museum is a wood frame structure of the late 1880's that was moved to the Museum in 1961. The house was donated by Leo McKenzie, whose family founded the Wichita Carriage Works in 1885. The original location of the structure was at the 900 block of Fairview. ​


First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church represents one of the social and religious organizations of the permanent residential community in Wichita during the 1870s. Churches played an important role in the development of the social, cultural, and political climate in 1870s Wichita. They took an active role in defining the standards they believed would lend to developing a family orientated climate. The Presbyterian church was active in the local Temperance movement, supported blue laws and other anti vice activities that flourished in the town.

In 1870, the Presbyterian congregation built the first permanent church structure in the town at the intersection of Wichita and Second Streets for $1500. There was much resistance from church leaders in the East that were not comfortable spending such a sum in a town with such a lawless reputation.

In late 1872, the church was sold for $550 and became Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church; it was then moved to 2nd and St. Francis Ave. Later, the building was used as a boarding house owned by Mrs. Millie Hodge who moved the structure to the 600 block of N. Main. A second story was added to the structure as a boarding house, and windows were added on the front of the first floor. After a fire in 1949 destroyed the second floor, the building was condemned.

However, this structure that once served as a religious center for the first settlers of Wichita was about to serve the City once again. Eighty years after its construction, the building sparked a project that was to become Old Cowtown Museum.

In the early 1940s the dilapidated structure caught the attention of Victor Murdock, Editor of the Wichita Eagle. Murdock and Managing Editor Dick Long determined that this building was important to Wichita's history. Murdock tried to purchase the building but died before he could accomplish his goal. In a tale of last-minute rescue in 1949, Dick Long bought it from a salvage company for $400, a price which included what was believed to be the adjacent parsonage.

Long and other civic-minded Wichitans founded Historic Wichita Cowtown, Inc. to raise money for restoration. They also planned to acquire other buildings in honor of Murdock's dream. In 1952 the Church and Parsonage (later discovered to actually be the Hodge House), the Munger House, and the Jail were moved to a site on the Arkansas River which has become the grounds of Old Cowtown Museum.

Wichita architect Harry Overend directed the restoration of the frame structure to insure historic authenticity. The hand-hewn trusses were retained and native walnut was harvested to replace the floors. ​


Hodge House

​The house was built by Wesley Hodge, an African-American blacksmith from 1878-1885. In 1880, Wesley was 40 years old and his wife Millie, a homemaker, was 38. They and their children Fannie, 15, and James, 13, who worked as a bootblack, lived in the house.

When they arrived in Wichita in 1876, they joined a growing population. In 1875, the census listed Wichita as having a population of 62. By 1880, it had grown to 246 people.

In about 1885, the family acquired the former Presbyterian/Catholic Church building. It was moved to 605 N. Main next to their home and converted into a rooming house. The rooming house continued to support Millie Hodge throughout her long life. She lived to be 97 years old and never remarried. She was active in the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church where her daughter Fannie played its first organ in 1878.

Before this home was relocated to Cowtown, people within the community assumed it was a parsonage because of its location next to a church. It wasn't until one of Cowtown's curators dug deeper into its history that it was discovered the home belonged to the Hodges, one of Wichita's first African-American families. In 2011, Cowtown renamed the "Parsonage" the "Hodge House" and redecorated the interior to accurately tell the story of this family. ​​


McKenzie House

The McKenzie House interprets a rental property occupied by a single middle-class schoolteacher. The woman prossibly was someone who had "gone West" and left her extended family in search of adventure and a good man. This was not an uncommon story in the 1870s. In 1878, the population of Wichita on the East side of the river was estimated at 4,200. Of those, the City Directory documented 99 single women with their residences and occupations listed. Many of these ladies were widows residing in their own homes. The rest rented or “boarded” their residences. For the occupations listed most were laundresses, followed by domestics such as cooks, chambermaids, and waitresses, but a number of single women owned their own successful businesses such as dressmakers and milliners.

The McKenzie House was owned by Leo McKenzie whose family owned the Wichita Carriage Works. It is believed to have been built in the 1880s. Research shows that it may have been located at 3rd and Water Streets. The McKenzie family owned several rental houses. The home - along with the Story-and-a-Half House - were donated by the McKenzies and moved to Cowtown in 1961. Since that time, the building has served as the caretaker's residence, the volunteer headquarters, the interpreter's lounge and the Girl Scout House. ​​​


One Room Schoolhouse

The first classes in Wichita were held by William Finn in an abandoned sod dugout. Finn charged a subscription rate of one dollar per pupil. That school was in session only for the 1869-1870 winter term. In 1871, Wichita passed a school bond issue allocating $5,000 for a wood-frame building. James R. Mead donated land for the new permanent school.

Throughout the 1870s, Wichita’s school system was inadequate to meet the demands of an expanding urban population. City leaders believed that taxation for better schools would have negative effect on the development of business in Wichita. Schools in the 1870s had underpaid teachers, limited supplies, and inadequate and poorly equipped space. While this one-room schoolhouse represents of the many one-room schools throughout rural America during the period it provides the opportunity to address education in the growing town.

The Old Cowtown Museum schoolhouse was built in Wichita circa 1910. It was moved an unknown number of times to serve as additional classroom space of various later schools. It reached its last setting at Meridian School in 1950. When it was no longer used for classes, local donors furnished the building with period desks, books, and maps to create a country school museum in time for the Kansas Centennial of 1961. Following the celebration, administrators recognized that the building would be more accessible to the public on the grounds of Old Cowtown Museum. The Wichita Board of Education donated the school building in 1962. ​


Wolf House and Herb Area

The Wolf represents housing that was affordable for those who arrived with very limited financial resources. New settlers came to the area with expectations of greater economic opportunity in the American West. Many immigrants ultimately achieved some measure of success, but most initially began their new lives in humble surroundings. It was not uncommon for new settlers to the area to occupy homes on the outskirts of town. Those who lived on the edge of the community had the advantage of close access to jobs in town, while still having the geographic advantage of adequate space and opportunity to supplement their income through the cultivation of large gardens, and by raising chickens, milk cows, and other livestock.

The house with the one-room-deep, two-room-wide plan is an example of the hall-and-parlor style. In typical fashion, the chimney is in the gable end of the "hall" room and a second door exits the house from the "parlor" room. This style of residence was often used by newly arrived settlers in the city.

The Wolf House is presumed to have been built by Henry Wolf around 1885 based on County Treasury Records. It was located in Kingman County, Galesburg Township. Henry Wolf was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1881. He moved to Michigan where he remained until moving to Kansas about 1885 with his brother William where they bought land to farm. Henry remained in the area and married Margaritha (Maggie) Gerdes in 1899. They had one child Sophie about 1901.

As the years passed, Henry acquired more land throughout the township. He would go to Murdock during the winter to sell shoes. By 1915, he had at least one farm laborer. His farm business grew to the extent that by the time of his death in 1925, he was considered one of the most successful farmers in Galesburg Township.

His land continued to be owned by his daughter and her husband, Harvey McCurdy, until at least 1946 when it was sold to Frank Hoover. The house was moved about a mile in the 1960s to a location on a half section between 3-4 mile roads west of Highway 17. Frank Hoover donated the house to Cowtown in 1978.

*The Herb is designed and maintained by the Master Gardeners from K-State Research and Extension in Wichita. ​​