It started out as the "Dog House, Inc" and ended up as a forerunner to Dodge City’s Chamber of Commerce.

Hercules Juneau, who for a time owned the only lumberyard in Dodge City, helped organize Phoenix Club which chartered on June 28, 1887. This phoenix rose out of the ashes of its short-lived predecessor, Dog House, Inc. Juneau also helped found the Industrial Club which eventually merged with the Phoenix Club. These clubs were quasi-commercial and provided a place where men could play cards, discuss business and socialize. In today’s terminology, they were locations where people would "network."

The Phoenix-Industrial Club was exclusive. A man couldn’t come uninvited to a meeting — he had to be solicited by a member. Members were considered the "elite" of Dodge City.

The members were Dodge City’s movers and shakers in the late 19th century and early 20th century. According to P.H. Sughrue, in an interview with the Dodge City Daily Globe during the late 1950’s, "When there was anything to be done, like getting a land office, the soldiers’ home, or the forestry station, it fell to one of the members of the old Phoenix Club to approach the proper powers."

About one-half of the members were farmers, who were encouraged to join with a reduced membership fee of $1 per year. Other members had to pay that same amount per month.

At first, the Club met upstairs in Hiram T. Burr Building at 209 West Spruce, but the tenants and neighbors forced them to the basement after complaining of the noise generated from laughter and the pounding of fists on card table tops. According to Burr, the basement had "plenty of heat and light, and [was] cool in the summer." This made it an excellent venue for the Club’s get-togethers.

In addition to card playing and meetings, the Club held dances and other gatherings which were highlights on the social calendar for both the men and their wives. Eventually the Commercial Club took the niche now filled by the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce, supplanting the role of the Phoenix-Industrial Club. In 1911, the Commercial Club boasted over 180 business and individual members. At that time, Dodge City notables Chalkley Beeson, H.B. Bell, Drs. Thomas and Claude McCarty, and Dentist O.H. Simpson belonged to the Commercial Club.

The Phoenix Club lasted into the middle 1930s and, in 1960, nine people still met regularly in the basement of the newer Burr Building to play cards.

 

Kathie Bell is the curator of collections and education for Boot Hill Museum.