Early Dodge City notable George Hinkle built a house in 1880 that is now the first of several local houses renovated for an abandoned housing program.

A house built by one of Ford County's earliest sheriffs and colorful public figure will again become a home through the work of an organization that fixes and sells abandoned houses to low-income agricultural workers.

Interfaith Housing Services, based out of Hutchison, will be celebrating the opening of the first house in its reclamation program on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. through 7 p.m., along with the city and the Dodge City and Ford County Development Corporation.

The ribbon cutting ceremony and tour of the property at 801 First Avenue is open to the public.

George Hinkle, the man who defeated Wyatt Earp's colleague Bat Masterson to become county's third sheriff, signaling the end of the informal "Dodge City Gang," including Earp, Masterson, Doc Holliday and Luke Short, that dominated local politics, prostitution, liquor and power.  

The conflict between the supposed reformers of "the wickedest city in America" erupted in a bloodless conflict known as the Dodge City War, in which the mythic figures of the Old West left Dodge for good to pursue other ventures further west.

Prior to being elected sheriff, Hinkle purchased the property on Gospel Ridge in the spring of 1878 from the Dodge City Town Company for $44.50, about $1,050 after 135 years of inflation.

The Ford County Globe, then a weekly newspaper, reported that Hinkle was building the three-room house in 1880—a parlor, a bedroom and a kitchen. Hinkle lived in the house for only three years, when he sold it and all the furniture to Charles Heinz for $1,800.

In the intervening years notable Dodge City figures, including the successful Front Street businessman Jacob Collar, have lived in the house. In the last decades, it drifted into disrepair and developed a damaging roof leak.

Interfaith Housing Services, a charity that provides housing and financial support and education to agricultural workers, found new life for the city-owned historical property starting in 2012. With the help of about 1,000 hours of volunteer labor from Dodge City Community College, the Chamber Ambassadors, Boy Scout Troop 162 and others, and gift-in-kind and monetary support from several local businesses, the Hinkle house will soon become the home of the first residents of the charity's abandoned housing program.

"We definitely could not have done that nice of a job without all the support from the community," said Interfaith Housing coordinator Kaci Davignon at the Dodge City office.

Contractors and workers changed the floor plan of the home, removing one bedroom of three and creating an open, modern interior design. The kitchen was expanded with modern, brushed metal appliances, and the interior walls, formerly horsehair plaster, were torn out and replaced with sheetrock.

Volunteers from DC3 built the shed in the back yard and added a back porch.

The program seeks to purchase inexpensive abandoned properties, fix them and then sell them at-cost to members of Interfaith Housing's programs. Though the Hinkle house, as a historical property, will be unique in the program as it is a historical home and cannot be sold.

The new residents will move in January.

Interfaith Housing also received three other houses donated by First Christian Church, which is expanding their parking on Spruce Street. One of houses, formerly at 616 Spruce Street, has already been moved. Preparations to move the other two, larger houses will begin this week.

"We can't thank the community enough," Davignon said. "Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to touch as many lives as we have been. That's the backbone of what we do."

The housing program also provides education to Interfaith Housing members by teaching finances and home ownership skills, like minor repairs.

The abandoned housing program is operating with $150,000 of principle. Ideally, the fund will continue to be replenished as homes are sold, restarting the process with a new abandoned property. Homes that cannot be placed with an Interfaith Housing member will be sold on the open market for a profit, or used in other programs.

Interfaith Housing Services was incorporated in 1991 by John Scott, a former missionary to the Congo, and provides services to about 1,000 people per year, he said.

The organization will continue its abandoned housing project as long as there remains money and the help of volunteers, he added.

The organizations also built the Santa Fe Townhomes on Brier Street from $3 million in grants, and provide home loans to low-income agricultural workers by providing $2 for every $1 saved.