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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • New incarnation of Fort Dodge Sutler's Store to open this fall

  • The Sutler's Store at Fort Dodge was certainly one of the earliest businesses in Ford County.
    The store, which sold non-military items to the soldiers, opened in the summer of 1866, six years before the town of Dodge City was established.
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  • Part two of a two-part series
    The Sutler's Store at Fort Dodge was certainly one of the earliest businesses in Ford County.
    The store, which sold non-military items to the soldiers, opened in the summer of 1866, six years before the town of Dodge City was established.
    Fort Dodge was isolated on the prairie, especially during the winter months, when traffic ceased on the Santa Fe Trail.
    The men looked to the sutler to supply diversions like playing cards; writing paper, pens and ink; and books — in addition for the food, toiletries, clothing, guns and ammunition, patent medicines and liquor, and livestock supplies lining the shelves.
    One of the early businessmen contracted to supply the store was Robert Wright, who would become one of the founders and significant property owners in the brand new frontier town that sprang up just west of the fort.
    Wright owned numerous businesses in the young town and donated land to create a city part by the river and another park near the train station.
    The first store was built by the men during the long winter of 1885. It was constructed of sod, the only building material available on the site in ample supply.
    The sod building was eventually replaced with a stone structure, once the men began traveling north to quarry stone for the fort's buildings.
    Wright used some of the stone in his Dodge City buildings when the fort closed in 1882.
    By the time the fort closed, the country's Civil War veterans were reaching retirement age and the citizens of Dodge City were aware of the need for a place to care for the aging veterans.
    With the fort sitting abandoned, Dodge City officials sought the help of the federal government to establish a soldiers' home at the fort.
    In 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation enabling the use of part of the fort as a soldiers' home.
    Operated by the Kansas Commission on Veterans' Affairs, the facility includes independent living houses, assisted care and nursing care to veterans.
    A building near the entrance to the fort is known as the sutler's store. The structure, which was at one time part post office and part residence, has served as coffee shop and gathering place over the years but has been closed for the last two years.
    Plans are now underway to re-open the Sutler's Store as a cafe and shop.
    "We're going to phase in the operations, rather than starting gung ho and not being ready," said Andrea Foley, clinical director and interim superintendent.
    A limited breakfast menu and limited lunch menu will be offered.
    "We expect our hours to be something like 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the beginning," Foley said.
    Page 2 of 3 - Menu items like biscuits and gravy and breakfast burritos will be prepared in the Halsey Hall kitchen and served in the Sutler's Store.
    Marlinda Henry, dietary manager at the fort, is anxious to open.
    "The residents love the idea and we're hoping the public will come enjoy our food, too," Henry said in a recent interview.
    The kitchen staff was quick to point out that Henry's famous cinnamon rolls will be available, as will her homemane bierocks every Friday.
    "Our plan is to offer something different at the store from what's on the menu in the dining room," Foley said. "Lunch will probably be a specialty burger and fries and there will be a lunch special every day."
    Foley has found solid support among both the cottage residents and the assisted care residents for the project.
    "Everybody is anxious to have this option," she said. "It will be a social opportunity as well — a place to sit and have coffee."
    But Foley is anxious to demonstrate the business potential of the venture.
    "We hope the public will embrace the effort," she said.
    While the food service will utilize the original post office space in the building, other plans are being developed for the original residence space.
    "Our activities director, Megan Katz, has plans to coordinate a group of residents who will make handmade items to be sold there and 100 percent of the revenue will go back into the residents' benefit fund," Foley said.
    All the items will be marked "Handmade by a veteran."
    There will also be room for local vendors and artists to display their wares.
    "We're thinking of the Cracker Barrel model," Foley said.
    The Sutler's Store will also meet another need: a place to distribute information to the many tourists who visit the fort.
    "We get lots of tourists stopping by," Foley said.
    The fort's museum, staffed by residents, has extended its hours to better serve the travel trade.
    The store will be another visitor service.
    Interior improvements are underway, accomplished as the fort's 24/7 maintenance crew has the time.
    New flooring is being installed on the shop side and other floors have been stripped and buffed.
    An area behind the old post office boxes will eventually house a pool table.
    "We're trying to create activities that families can enjoy when they visit," Foley said.
    The store will not have to provide non-military goods the way earlier sutler's stores did.
    "We have a free store for veterans where they can get toiletries and other essentials," Foley said.
    Foley hopes to have a soft opening for the new cafe in mid-October and they're planning a grand opening for Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
    Page 3 of 3 - EDITOR'S NOTE: As a way of celebrating Dodge City's 140th birthday this year, the Daily Globe is taking a look at a few events that shaped the town's history. These stories are assembled with the assistance of the staff at the Kansas Heritage Center. Photos from their collections and information from their files have been used extensively.
    Two books on the history of Fort Dodge are available at the center: "Fort Dodge: Sentry of the Western Plains," by Leo. E. Oliva, and "Sentinel to the Cimarron: The Frontier Experience of Fort Dodge, Kansas," by David K. Strate.

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