An Evening in Wichita, Kansas

Wichita was our destination for hanging our hats for the night. We headed directly to Old Town, nestled in the heart of the city.  Among the brick-lined streets and historic lampposts are a collection of converted brick warehouses dating back to the mid 1800s. Built with brick and native limestone accents, these distinctive architectural features define the character of Old Town.

In 1872, the city welcomed its first railway, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. Emerging from the boom were the banking, real estate and meat packing/tanning industries. Today’s Old Town is the remnant of a much larger jobbers and warehouse district that followed the Santa Fe, Frisco and Rock Island railroad tracks.


With its soaring brick tower, the Keen Kutter (1906) was a defining feature of Wichita’s turn-of-the-century skyline. The Keen Kutter brand of tools was created in 1879 by E.C. Simmons of St. Louis, MO, a pioneer in the use of catalogs as a major sales tool. Today, the building has been restored to a 115-room hotel in the heart of Old Town, with the façade and distinctive brick tower true to their original form.

Dinner and a few drinks were consumed at the Hockaday Paint Company (1908) building. The company manufactured paints for the hot, dry climate of the Southwest.
We sat at the bar of River City Brewing which provided us with a Welcome to Wichita feeling.
This mound of food might not look like much to you but it was delicious. This Spicy Picnic Mac is their traditional mac blended with homemade beer cheese sauce and tossed with a 1/4 lb Kansas-made hotlink then topped with a Sweet BBQ drizzle all on penne pasta. Oh man!
Heading out of town, I spied this building and found it still opened, so we stopped. By the 1920s the Coleman Lamp Company was the largest industrial plant in the city. Coleman was founded in 1901 by W.C. Coleman and originally known as Hydro Carbon Company. Today, the little lantern company turns out 15 million products a year, still manufacturing in Wichita.
And how did it all begin? W.C. Coleman could see the light for the darkness. The young salesman was taking a stroll after a hard day’s work selling typewriters, and spotted a new type of lamplight in a drugstore window. This new light burned with a strong, steady white flame and was fueled by gasoline. The standard lamp of the era burned kerosene and produced a smoky, flickering, yellowish light. W.C. was stricken with very poor eyesight, and was very interested in this new, steady white light that enabled him to read even the smallest print in books and on medicine bottles. Coleman saw potential in the new light, and through his vision a new company was born that would put America’s farms and ranches in a new light, and would eventually make his name synonymous with outdoor fun. Yes, I there I was where all the fun began, delighting in all the incredible history.
At the turn of the century in America, electric service was not an option in rural parts of the country. When the sun went down, the work day ended. In 1909, W.C. Coleman started selling a portable table lamp that would became a staple in rural homes, and five years later introduced a product that would help transform the company from a local concern into a national necessity. The new 300 candlepower lantern provided working light in every direction for 100 yards and could light the far corners of a barn.
And how did the familiar Coleman stove come to be? As World War II swept across the globe, like many companies, The Coleman Company did its part to support the war effort. Allied munitions and air forces contained parts manufactured in Kansas by The Coleman Company. In June of 1942 the Army Quartermaster Corps issued an urgent request to the Coleman Company. Field troops were in dire need of a compact stove that could operate within a wide range of conditions in multiple theaters, weighed less than five pounds, could be no larger than a quart bottle of milk, and could burn any kind of fuel. And, the U.S. Army wanted 5,000 of the stoves delivered in sixty days. Work commenced immediately to design and manufacture a stove that met the Army's strict specifications. The end product far exceeded anything that the Army had requested.



When the war ended, Coleman's business boomed. Since the company had been manufacturing products for the armed services during the war, the inventories of normal recreational products were depleted, and there was an enormous backlog of demand for its regular products. And returning GIs had a familiar attachment to the Coleman name, given the tremendous success of the field stove. In peace time, American families had money, a new interstate highway system, and fancy new cars! Lower prices made cars affordable for many families, and with this new found mobility came the urge to travel and explore. Car camping was all the rage. Travelers loaded up the station wagons and took off. Roadways were improving, but hotels in those days weren’t on every corner. Instead of check-in times, Vacationers simply pulled off the road and made camp on the roadside. And the rest they say is history... and what a super cool history The Coleman Company has. Who knew?!

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1 comments:

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Wow and that Mac and cheese looks really yummy! Love the Coleman Museum too!

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