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WaKeeney in Trego County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Stone Buildings

The earth provides shelter and beauty

 
 
Stone Buildings Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
1. Stone Buildings Marker
Inscription.  During settlement, few trees stood in the Smoky Valley making lumber an expensive building material. Because of the difficulty and expense of acquiring lumber and planting trees, settlers turned to other, more readily available materials like sod and limestone. Limestone became especially popular due to its durability and examples of its use are prevalent across the state. Today, several buildings across the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway still showcase these uses.

Sadly, other notable limestone buildings have not survived. WaKeeney's first major building in 1879 was the ornate Union Pacific depot, built of limestone by Warren and Keeney. Inaugurated during the town's famous July 4th celebration, it served passengers until the 1930s. At the time of its construction it was described as one of the best, most modern depots around, but it was razed to build a new depot in 1941. The Opera House, another important 1880's limestone building, impressed all who visited. Able to seat 400, it boasted lavish ceiling and wall murals, in addition to an electric brass chandelier. Events held at the venue entertained residents and visitors and housed
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several offices and firms, but was lost to fire in 1895.

More Trees Please
Due to the lack of trees, Kansas established two State Forestry Stations to plant and distribute young trees and seeds to settlers for timber claims. One of these stations was established in Ogallah in 1887. If settlers could successfully plant and care for 10 acres of trees, they were given 160 acres of land. While the effort was a well-intentioned way to grow timber for the High Plains, it experienced limited success. Few timber claims survived, but one grove of trees planted in 1900 is still visible on the east side of US-283, nearly 11 miles south of WaKeeney.

Captions
Upper Center: A group of men standing on the platform in front of the Union Pacific Railroad Company depot in WaKeeney, Kansas. The construction of the limestone building started in 1879 and was dedicated by Kansas Governor John P. St. John on July 4, 1879. The station provided rail service for a number of years until it was razed in 1941 to make room for a "streamline" depot.

Lower Center: Trego County Courthouse. This historic limestone courthouse from 1889 is still in use today. Designed by architect George R. Ropes from Topeka, the Queen Anne-style building featured a tin roof and 100-foot cupola. By 1952, the roof needed repairs and was replaced in a
The Stone Buildings Marker in front of the F15 fighter jet image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
2. The Stone Buildings Marker in front of the F15 fighter jet
more modern style, but the peaked roof was restored in 2012 with the original capstone again set atop the courthouse.

Upper Right: Wilcox School. South of WaKeeney, settlers used limestone from along the Smoky Hill River to construct a one-room schoolhouse in 1886. The structure acted as a community hub, even hosting township meetings for over 60 years. Today, the building stands as a memorial to the area’s settlement thanks to preservation efforts by the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.

Middle Right: WaKeeney Municipal Building. Built by the Work Project Administration in 1937, this native limestone building proudly stands in downtown WaKeeney. The center of city activities for many years, it hosted the library, skating rink, basketball games, and dances, in addition to offices and an auditorium. Today, it still houses several public offices for the City, including City Council meetings.

Lower Right: Emanuel Lutheran Church. South of Ogallah, Swedish settlers established this church in 1902. The native limestone was quarried from near Threshing Machine Canyon, the site of a Native American raid on a wagon train. Its congregation continues to hold regular services.

 
Erected by Kansas Byways and Post Rock Scenic Byway.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture
The Stone Buildings Marker is the middle marker of the three markers image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
3. The Stone Buildings Marker is the middle marker of the three markers
Horticulture & ForestryRailroads & StreetcarsRoads & Vehicles. A significant historical date for this entry is July 4, 1879.
 
Location. 39° 0.898′ N, 99° 53.113′ W. Marker is in WaKeeney, Kansas, in Trego County. Marker can be reached from South 1st Street, ¼ mile east of South Avenue. The marker is located in the eastern section of the Eisenhower Park by the F15 fighter jet display. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Wakeeney KS 67672, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Settling the Western Smoky Valley (here, next to this marker); Traveling through the Smoky Valley (here, next to this marker); Victory Fire Bell (approx. ¾ mile away); Trego County Veterans Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away).
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 29, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 100 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.

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Jun. 22, 2024