It was controversial in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and it still is to this very day.
"Urban Renewal" was a huge trend during that time period. And Dodge City was caught up in that trend.
In the 1870's, Dodge City businessmen erected wood buildings on both sides of the railroad tracks and called the thoroughfare Front Street or the Plaza. In the 1880's, a series of fires destroyed these original buildings. The buildings' owners abandoned the south side of Front Street and concentrated on replacing the structures on the north side with substantial classic Victorian-era brick buildings.
This allowed Front Street to serve as the business hub of Dodge City. At this time, Dodge City was at the end of its reputation as a raucous wild cowboy town. The architectural dignity and beauty of the new buildings stood tall as Dodge City entered a calmer more dignified period of growth and prosperity along with commercial and agriculture development.
In 1889, the "Dodge City Globe-Republican" declared, "The town the ‘New Dodge City’… was no longer the city of ‘high carnival’ where ‘rapturous lewdness and bodiness [sic] held sway…Times have changed…Clothed in her right mind, Dodge City…took he departure from sin and lewdness and the city is now a paragon of virtue, sobriety and industry."
When town citizens built a "welcoming arch" at the intersection of Second Avenue and Walnut Street (now Gunsmoke) in 1919, Front Street offered a salutation to soldiers and sailors returning home from World War I. The Front Street structures endured the droughts, dust storms and depression of the 1930.
By the 1960's, Dodge City's rapid growth resulted in a congested and heavily traveled downtown area. Kansas Dept. of Transportation was not happy the east-west traffic flow through downtown Dodge City. To keep the State happy, local officials needed to widen Chestnut Street (Wyatt Earp Blvd.) as it went through downtown. This would eliminate one-way travel and the "jogs" encountered by motorists as they traveled east or west through downtown.
One of the jogs was to the south onto Front Street. The Street and its 1880's buildings were tightly sandwiched between Chestnut and the Santa Fe railroad tracks. Something had to give. The railroad was not about to move the tracks and Chestnut had to widen. Therefore the 1880's buildings had to give.
Furthermore, most of these buildings were not in the best of shape. With Urban Renewal, there was plenty of money to tear down and practically none to repair old structures.
In 1967, city officials introduced their plans for Urban Renewal. At that time, citizens, concerned with preserving the historic buildings, collected over 1,300 signatures in an effort to halt demolition. However, their efforts proved to be in vain.
In 1970, crews began razing Front Street buildings for highway improvements, off-street parking and downtown beautification. The Bank of Dodge City, the Long Branch which was then a barbershop, and other structures came down in heaps of rubble.
On April 11, 1970, the "Wichita Eagle Beacon" blasted the headline, "Wreckers Busy in Dodge City’s Real Front Street." Letters from locals and visitors discussing the pros and cons of Urban Renewal filled Kansas newspapers.
Meanwhile, people rescued construction elements and artifacts, some of which are at Boot Hill Museum.
Today, people still rue the passing of the old brick buildings, while others remember the poor shape they were in at the time of their destruction.