Urban Renewal Destroys Front Street
"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
By April 11, 1970, The Wichita
Eagle headlined, "Wreckers Busy In Dodge City's Real Front St." The
"Demolition of old Front Street
buildings in Dodge City's urban renewal project has created nationwide
interest among curio collectors.
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."
"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
"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..."
[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.)