Boot Hill Museum, old city hall, cowboy statue and Santa Fe Trail ruts to be listed.
The Historic Sites Board of Review voted to forward a total of 14 nominations to the Office of the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The action was taken at the boards regular quarterly meeting held Feb. 9 at the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka.
According to a press release from state historical society, "The National Register of Historic Places is the country’s official list of historically significant properties. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources. Eligible properties must be significant for one or more of the four criteria for evaluation. Properties can be eligible if they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. They can be eligible if they are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past. Distinctive construction can qualify properties for the National Register if they embody the characteristic of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction. Lastly, properties may be eligible for the National Register if they have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in prehistory or history. The National Register recognizes properties of local, statewide, and national significance."
Among the nominated properties were four Ford County sites.
Boot Hill Museum, the centerpiece of Dodge City's tourism efforts for nearly 70 years, was nominated in the relatively new category of Roadside Attraction.
Although the site on which the museum sits was the original burial place for drifters and outlaws during the town's first few rough years, the buildings along the Front Street replica were constructed during the 1960s. Local tourism officials responded to the popularity of the television series "Gunsmoke" by creating a tourist attraction to take advantage of increasing interest in Dodge City's old west history.
The historic register nomination application summarized the attraction's historic importance: "Dodge City’s livelihood has long depended upon its ability to reinvent itself. It was born of the Santa Fe Trail, developed with the coming of the Santa Fe Railroad, and looked to the New Santa Fe Trail – Highway 50 – for renewal. While Dodge City was remaking itself, the entertainment industry was capitalizing on its place in American popular culture – as the stereotypical Wild West town. While the protagonists of dime novels, movies, and television series like Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon were telling bad guys to “get the heck out of Dodge,” tourists flocked to the legendary town. By the mid-20th century, the city’s efforts to live down its rowdy past were overwhelmed by the potential for capitalizing on it. Locals had been advocating for a Boot Hill museum as early as the 1920s, but it wasn’t until after the 1939 world premiere of the movie Dodge City, which firmly placed the town within the popular culture lexicon, that the city commission issued bonds to begin construction. The site developed in stages and was largely complete by 1964. Boot Hill Museum is nominated as part of the Roadside Kansas multiple property nomination for its significance in the areas of entertainment and education as a mid-20th century museum that interprets Dodge City’s history as a cowtown and for its association with the local tourism industry."
Melissa McCoy, project development coordinator for the city of Dodge City, said the board's approval of Boot Hill's listing on the national register will benefit the museum is several ways.
"This will give them access to Heritage Trust Fund grants and state tax credits," she said. "They will be able to use some of those funds to complete maintenance that's been deferred."
In addition to the museum, the Dodge City Municipal Building at 501 W. Spruce Street, better known as the old city hall building, was also nominated.
Built in 1929, the building housed municipal offices, the police station and the fire station. The building served as offices to the Chamber of Commerce and CASA children's advocates before being abandoned.
Nominated along with the old city hall were three commemorative markers on the grounds: the cowboy statue and two Corinthian column lamp posts.
In a separate application, a portion of the Santa Fe Trail ruts in Ford County was also nominated and approved.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.