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Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

Urban Renewal Destroys Front Street
Dodge City, Kansas

[Photo: The 1885 brick Front Street buildings, destroyed
in 1970. Robert Wright's store is seen at end of block. All rights reserved, FCHS.]

"The plan calls for three blocks of parking and the vacating of Wyatt Earp Street (sic Blvd.) for parking. One two-block long area near the Front Street Replica...is expected to be sold exclusively for the development of a convention center-type motel." The Wichita Eagle, April 11, 1970

Town president, Robert M. Wright and first merchant, George M. Hoover, among others, developed Front Street into a commercial area of constant business activity, and built classic Victorian-era brick buildings to replace the wood-front structures destroyed in two fires during the 1880s. The destruction of the brick Front Street buildings in 1970--i.e., "urban renewal"-- is a reminder of promises made and not kept.

     In 1967, the first announcements were made concerning urban renewal for Dodge City. Although over 1,300 signatures were obtained in Dodge City to stop the destruction, it rolled on.

     By April 11, 1970, The Wichita Eagle headlined, "Wreckers Busy In Dodge City's Real Front St." The Eagle continues;

"Demolition of old Front Street buildings in Dodge City's urban renewal project has created nationwide interest among curio collectors.

     "Dodge City Urban Renewal director Bob Barnes said they have come 'from Chicago to California' in search of bits and pieces of history they believe the demolition may uncover....

     "We've had rumors crop up that there are bodies down here, tunnels going up into town and other things, Barnes said.

     "He said all the rumors have been wrong, except one. Some Dodge City residents claimed the swinging doors of the second Long Branch saloon (built after the first one was destroyed in a fire) would be found inside a wall of one building. When the outer panels of the wall were removed, the Long Branch doors were found still hanging inside. They were given to the Boot Hill Museum..."

     A 1969 letter to the editor in the Dodge City Daily Globe stated it best. The writer, a tourist from Maryland, asks; "Isn't there some way the town can have its urban renewal somewhere else and preserve its own truly unique relic? Couldn't the old buildings be restored and used to house businesses in the manner of Denver or San Francisco? Once demolished, these buildings can never be replaced nor the atmosphere of old Dodge City ever recaptured."

[Note: the convention center hotel was never built--the spaces were used by fast-food outlets. The Long Branch doors seem to have disappeared.]

(© 2002, Ford County Historical Society, Inc. George Laughead Jr, author.)

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