Wichita: Then and Now

KSN Digital Extra

The Wichita of today is much different than the past. KSN, with help from the Wichita Public Library, the Kansas State Historical Society and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum decided to take a look back at Wichita: Then and Now.

The Forum / Century II

The Forum was Wichita’s convention center and auditorium from 1912 to 1965. This photo was taken looking northwest at the intersection of Water and English Streets. As Wichita grew, a new convention center was needed, and The Forum was torn down to make way for Century II. The Wichita Public Museum was on the second floor of The Forum for many years but later moved to 3751 East Douglas.

Park Elementary School

According to USD 259, Park is one of the oldest schools in Wichita. It was completed in 1885 at a cost of $10,500. The school’s name comes from its location on Ninth Street which was originally known as Park Street. The school district says the current building at 1025 North Main is probably the third school on the site.

Occidental Hotel

The Occidental Hotel opened in 1874 and was the first brick building in Wichita. The building still stands at Main and Second Streets. According to the Kansas Historical Society, it was called the Baltimore Hotel in 1903, 1914, 1935 and 1950. More recently, it has been used as office space while upper floors were being renovated into apartments. A fire on Aug. 21, 2019, caused around $1 million in damage and delayed the renovation.

S.H. Kress & Company

S.H. Kress & Co. was a five-and-dime retail chain with stores across the country. The Wichita location is 224 East Douglas. The Kress Building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Other businesses in the first photo include the Miller Theatre, Schnoor Chocolate Company, Miller Recreation/Billiards and Puls Music Company (220 East Douglas. The Kress Building is now known as Kress Energy Center and houses a number of businesses.

Douglas & Main

The first photograph of Main and Douglas Streets shows people, wagons, and storefronts. In the background, one of the storefronts has a sign that reads “New York Store.” The second photograph is looking south at Main and Douglas.

Dockum Drug Company

The first picture of Dockum Drug Company, Douglas and Broadway, was taken just a few years before the historic Dockum Drug Sit-In. In 1958, some African-American students went into the store, sat at the counter and asked for something to drink. The owner refused to serve them. The students returned each day for a month until the owner relented. The Kansas Historical Society says the students’ victory became a victory for equality in Kansas. After Dockum Drug changed its segregation policy, other stores slowly changed their policies.

Wichita City Library

The Wichita City Library was located at 220 South Main. This photo was taken soon after it opened in May of 1915. The library was built with a $75,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie. In the first photo, to the left of the library is the city jail tower. The library was eventually moved to a new building. The building was home to the Omnisphere and Science Center from 1976 to 2001. It closed after the opening of Exploration Place. The building was purchased and is currently used by Fidelity Bank.

Wichita City Hospital

According to the Historic Preservation Alliance, a New England philanthropist donated the land on the northwest corner of Seneca and Douglas to the ‘Rescue Home’ in 1898. The home was converted to the Wichita Hospital. In 1925, the Sisters of St. Joseph took over the hospital. They eventually built St. Joseph Hospital near Harry and Hillside. Wichita Hospital closed in 1961. The property now belongs to QuikTrip.

Riverside Park

The 2019 version of Riverside Park has three separate areas, Central, North and South. But it no longer has this majestic entrance. This picture, looking west from Waco Avenue, shows a stone arch entrance to Riverside Park. The arch was on the east end of the Murdock Avenue bridge, seen in the background. The newest version of Riverside Park has a number of popular features, including a bandstand, the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, a playground and a gazebo.

Franklin School

This school at 214 South Elizabeth is named after Benjamin Franklin. It looks very different today and goes by the name Franklin Elementary School.

Innes Wholesale Furniture Company

This building at 701 East First Street was a warehouse for Innes Wholesale Furniture Company. Now known as Innes Station, it has been renovated into apartments.

Mentholatum Building

According to the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County, the Mentholatum Building at Douglas and Cleveland served as the headquarters and factory for Mentholatum Company. Albert A. Hyde invented the world-famous salve in Wichita. The building still looks the same, but it is now home to The Spice Merchant.

Watkins Aircraft Company

This was home for the short-lived Watkins Aircraft Company, 2300 E. Douglas. The plant made the SL Skylark. It is now home to Douglas Photographic Imaging.

Derby Refining Company

The towers of the Derby Refining Company near 21st and Cleveland were part of the Wichita skyline for many years. They were demolished in the early 2000s.

Map It: Find these locations yourself

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