A Winfield Hotel: Northeast Corner Main Street and Eighth Avenue, 1871-1880.

M. P. Dale completed a building in Winfield, Kansas, on the corner of Main Street and Eighth Avenue in October 1871. He commenced work on a livery stable in July 1871 that was connected with his hotel, which he called the “Winfield House.” Stages left daily for the north and south, and tri-weekly for the east.

A change took place in both the name of the building and proprietorship on July 8, 1872, when the “Lagonda House” formally opened with a public dinner given by its proprietors, Messrs. S. A. Weir & Co. By February 1873 T. G. Peyton became the proprietor, taking on Capt. E. Davis as co-proprietor for a short time, and resuming full proprietorship by July 1873. In October 1874 A. N. Deming became junior proprietor and managed the hotel. On October 15, 1874, T. G. Peyton advertised that the furniture and fixtures of the hotel  were for sale in lump, for cash or exchange for real estate or on long time with real estate security. Peyton and his family moved to Dallas, Texas, in November 1874. Deming became sole proprietor until December 1875, when he made arrangements to have an auction sale of the furniture and fixtures of the Lagonda House, prior to the sale of the hotel to Thomas A. Henderson in mid-January 1876. In early February 1876 the cry of fire was heard when a blaze from the top of the Lagonda House started during a gale. Ladders and water buckets were used to reach the roof, where it was found that the fire emanated from a chimney hidden by the observatory on top of the building. In April 1876 the Lagonda House was remodeled, replastered, and papered by Henderson, who expected a Wichita landlord to take it over. He was wrong! The hotel limped along until September 1876 when Sid S. Majors leased it, announcing that he proposed furnishing it from the floor of the cellar to the ceiling of the upper story with brand new furniture and fixtures. He also changed the name. The Lagonda House became the “Central Hotel.” Majors took on a partner in May 1877, James Vance. In November 1879 Sid Majors and C. L. Harter became the new proprietors.

On March 11, 1880, at 5:00 p.m., the Central Hotel was discovered to be on fire, started from a stove pipe passing through a tin ventilator in the upper floor. In a few minutes after the alarm sounded, several hundred men with buckets kept the roof saturated with water, which prevented the fire from breaking out until the “Little Giant” fire engine could be brought to bear upon it from the inside, when it was quickly extinguished. The Winfield Courier was critical about some of the action taken. “Several idiots seemed determined to smash in the windows on the north gable, and it required the most strenuous efforts of the members of the fire company to prevent it. Had they done so, and given the air a chance to fan the flames, the building could not have been saved. A good deal of unnecessary damage was done to the furniture by reckless parties, who tore down window curtains, smashed the sash, and did many other things entirely uncalled for. The fire has served to show the utter inefficiency of the means provided to extinguish it. The wells and pumps on which has been squandered a large amount of money were useless, some of the wells being dry and others, where the hose was attached, the force of the pump was too weak to raise the water as high as the building. It is very certain that had the fire occurred at midnight, instead of in daylight when hundreds were on the streets to help extinguish it by hand, a large portion of the business part of our city would now be but a mass of ruins. Let us take this as a warning, and at once cast about for some effective means of protecting ourselves against this devouring demon.”

On Thursday, April 29, 1880, about 11 p.m., a disastrous fire started in the old log store, one of the landmarks of Winfield. In April 1873 the second floor of the Old Log Store building, which contained the courtroom and county offices, was taken over by the offices and printing press of the Winfield Courier, with James Kelly, editor and proprietor of the paper. The first floor was occupied by various business entities, including McMillen & Shields, general dealers in merchandise. By 1875 many of the business firms on the first floor of the old log store had moved elsewhere. The log store was removed by E. C. Manning in May 1875 to make way for his new building on the old site: the northwest corner of Ninth Avenue and Main Street. Manning wasted no time and in June 1875 the stone work had commenced on his new business house.

By 1880 the first floor of the old log store had become the cabinet shop of F. Leuschen and the second floor had become the family residence. The building was located on Eighth Avenue, immediately in the rear of the Central Hotel. Next to it on the east were two buildings, one belonging to C. L. Harter and occupied by the moulder at the foundry, the other owned and occupied by Robert Hudson. Immediately west of the log building, across the alley, was an old livery barn belonging to Hackney & McDonald, which was the next to go. Leuschen maintained that there had been no fire in the lower portion of the old log store, where the fire broke out. Some thought that spontaneous combustion of the material used in varnishes, stains, etc., was the cause of the fire. The Leuschen family barely had time to escape with their lives. All their personal effects were consumed.

When the two hotels caught, everyone turned their attention toward saving the buildings on either side of the street. They were covered with men who handled buckets of water and barrels of salt, and by their exertions prevented the fire from spreading and destroying the larger part of the business portion of our city.

The old part of the Central Hotel was owned by Jas. Jenkins, of Wisconsin. The new part of the Central Hotel was owned by Majors & Harter. They had sold out to A. H. Doane, and were to have given possession on Saturday morning, May 1, 1880. Jenkins and Majors & Harter had to sustain the loss. Jenkins lost $2,000 and Majors & Harter $3,000 that was not covered by insurance.

The Lindell Hotel was owned by J. M. Spencer, and had been leased to Jas. Allen one month before the fire. Captain Stevens lost about $1,000 when his store burned down; he had no insurance on it. Fred Leuschen experienced a loss of $1,200, covered only by a $300 insurance policy. The C. L. Harter tenant dwelling, valued at $300, was lost. Harter did not have it insured. His tenant had no loss except damage. The Robert Hudson dwelling, lost in the fire, had no insurance on either the house or contents, but most of the furniture was removed. The Hackney & McDonald livery stable, occupied by Buckhart, experienced a loss of $800 as it was not insured.