Red brick streets, large brick buildings, and lots of things to do can be found in Wichita’s Old Town, but the now entertainment district historically served a much different purpose. It began as a thriving warehouse district.
The city of Wichita was founded in 1870, and many of the buildings in Old Town date back to approximately this time. Because of its historic roots, it’s no surprise that the shops, restaurants and apartments currently located in the heart of Old Town were not the originally intended uses for these buildings. Here’s a look at what five of Old Town's buildings were like then and now.
Eaton Hotel - 525 E Douglas
Then: Originally built in 1886-1887 by John B. Carey. The Eaton Hotel was originally the Carey House, and it had the fanciest and most prominent bar in Wichita. The bar was famously destroyed by prohibitionist Carrie Nation as part of her temperance campaign. The building would later become the Eaton Hotel.
Now: Renovated apartments occupy the five story building’s upper stories and the two ballrooms are available for rent for parties and events according to oldtownwichita.com.
River City Brewing Company - 150 N. Mosley
Then: Hockaday Paint Company was housed in the building at 150 N. Mosley, which was directly north of its manufacturing plant. The company grew, opening branches in Denver and Kansas City before moving all operations to Chicago. Eventually, Lehman-Higginson Grocery Company, James C. Smyth Hide Company, and the J.R. Johnston Hide Company came and went, too.
Now: The two-story building at 150 N. Mosley houses one of just a few of Wichita’s operational brewpubs, River City Brewing Company. The restaurant was founded in 1993. River City Brewing Company offers six styles of microbrews, 16 beers on tap, and a wide variety of delicious foods. The second story has been converted into a loft with a renovated bar and a double-sided patio that allows guests to unwind and enjoy great views of Old Town.
Hotel At Oldtown - 830 E. First Street
Then: This building originally housed a tool shop for a company called Keen Kutter. This brand of tools was created in 1879 by a St. Louis man by the name of E.C. Simmons. His tools were sold throughout America.
Now: The structure has been restored and now holds a 115-room hotel. It’s called the Hotel at Old Town. Maybe you’ve heard of it? The building’s exterior is true to its original form, and even has the words “Keen Kutter” inscribed in the stone in the south wall.
Innes Station - 701 E. First Street
Then: Built in 1920, this, too, was a warehouse. The four-story, concrete building housed an extensive line of furniture that would be sold at Downtown Wichita’s Innes Department Store.
Now: The Innes Station loft apartments now occupy this space. The building was renovated in 1998, and the apartments were carefully designed to retain the pre-international and contemporary style of the period in which the structure was built.
Spaghetti Works Building - 619 E. William
Then: Built in 1894, this four-story, red brick warehouse has been referred to as the strongest structure in Wichita. It began as the Wholesale Grocery Warehouse.
Now: Though it sat vacant for years, in December of 2015 Brad Seville and Nick Esterline of Landmark Commercial Real Estate agreed to purchase the property this year, claiming that it has great potential for redevelopment. No specific details have been released.
Want to Learn more?
You can learn more about Wichita's Old Town here.