54 new plaques give Old Town visitors a glimpse of history

plaque2WICHITA — Old Town is obviously one of Wichita’s most historic areas. Now, some of that history is readily available for people to learn as they visit the area.

Developer Dave Burk this month placed 54 plaques on buildings throughout Old Town. He finished a couple of days ago and has already seen visitors stopping to look.

“This was research that we put together when we compiled all the information to get this into a National Historic District,” Burk says.

That was back in 1990.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Burk says.

The plaques include information like what year a building was built and for what company, who the architect was and, in some cases, the cost of the project.

“Just whatever information I could drum up,” Burk says.

There are several fun ones.

For instance, where WDM Architects is now originally was the W.A. Dye Chili Factory Building.

“Dye was known as the chili king of the west,” Burk says. “A lot of World War I mess kits had the Dye chili in it.”

Glenn Thomas, a well-known architect who built a lot of Old Town buildings, built this one in 1923.

The Wichita Casket Co. Building, where coffins were made, was built in 1916 and burned in 1987.

“It really burned,” Burk says. “Exterior walls were partially left, and that’s where the Brickyard is.”

There is a lot to ponder with the plaques.

For instance, a bakery was built for a mere $5,000 in 1906 where Emerson Biggin’s is today.

But a garage and office where Club Fuzion is now was built for the Yellow Cab Co. for a whopping $45,000 in 1930.

Old Town used to be almost all offices and warehouses. It’s hard for Burk to tell precisely what each building was actually used for, though.

For example, he’s not sure if the 1933 National Biscuit Co. Building, where Whiskey Creek is now, was an office or where the company made biscuits.

Coleman had a lot of buildings in the area. The Coleman Lamp and Stove Building at 225 N. Mead is where part of Airbus is now.

“I thought that was kind of interesting,” Burk says.

He hopes other people do, too.

Burk calls the plaques “another entertainment component” for the area.

“It just gives something else to do in Old Town.”