|City/Town: • Wichita|
|Location Class: • Hospital|
|Built: • 1926 | Abandoned: • 2014|
|Status: • Demolished • Burned Down|
|Photojournalist: • Timothy Earl|
Sedgwick County Poor Farm Infirmary 1926-1930
In 1926 Sedgwick County Commissioners thought an infirmary on the Poor Farm grounds would be a wise investment for the county. A contract was let around August of that year to construct a one-story brick building. Plans for the project were drawn up by architect Ed Forsblom and would come out to around $22,000. With about 160 acres owned by the Poor Farm there was more than enough room to accommodate the building which was long overdue. Patients had been transported and cared for at the local hospitals which cost the county $2.75 a day for the first three weeks of care and $10 a week thereafter. This, in turn, would help the county save money for small illnesses. The existing and qualified Supervisors at the farm would superintend the infirmary although surgeries and larger problems would not be treatable at the infirmary.
By the time 1930 rolled around a decision to downgrade the county’s poor farm had been made. The existing acreage on Oliver Avenue was just far too great for the administration to handle or need and the decision to move operations further into the city on Douglas Avenue had concluded. The farm on Oliver stayed in limbo for several years because of the possible discovery of oil. The infirmary building was then converted into the Sedgwick County Tuberculosis Sanitorium.
Sedgwick County Tuberculosis Sanitorium 1931-1945
Around 1933 calls for the state to take over the county sanitorium were being made by community members. Recommendations by city leaders said the facility should be run as a state hospital instead. County Commissioner Herman Hill noted “This county pays about 1/8th of the state’s income through taxes. It never has been given a state institution. The inadequacy of the tuberculosis hospital at Norton forces this county to care for most of its own patients.” Tuberculosis was on the rise in Kansas and county legislatures had been begged by the SBoH to establish four more tuberculosis hospitals in addition to Norton.
The current facility only had the ability to hospitalize about fifty patients at a time. Commissioner Hill said with an expenditure of about $200 and nothing else the facility could be equipped for a hundred patients. The tuberculosis sanitorium costs the county approximately $26,978 per year. Kind of backwards when you think about how they also pay the state taxes for tuberculosis support at the Norton State TB Sanitorium that doesn’t have enough free space to accommodate Sedgwick County patients.
In 1937 plans were presented to provide brand new cottages at the new and old Poor Farm sites. They would be paid for using government resettlement aid but the bill was tabled and never picked back up. After years of trying to receive funding from the state and not getting it they would have to find another alternative. By May 23, 1945 it was reported that all tuberculosis patients had completed their move from the South Oliver property to the “new” county hospital tuberculosis ward on West Douglas where the rest of the poor farm was moved. Twenty patients were moved, the move was necessary after the land was sold to Carl F. Johnson for $61,110 in March.
Sunflower School Inc Christian Day and Boarding School 1946-1950
In 1946 local Wichita Evangelist Art Wilson gained ownership of the four buildings left on the property to make the Sunflower School. It was a Christian day and boarding school that served grades 1-12. The first superintendent of the new educational facilities was Thomas J. Blass, who was more than qualified for the position. Applications for enrollment opened up that summer receiving requests for admission all over the country and county. In order to gain entry pupils would undergo an interview process to see if they met the requirements and standards of the school.
Sunflower School Inc. and its students hosted and attended many events over the next few years. One of those events was a fellowship with 900 delegates from the Kansas Fundamental Baptist Missionary in attendance. It seemed truly like a great addition to the community with a promising future. But for unknown reasons at this time the Sunflower School and its four buildings went into auction on January 21, 1949. It seems it didn’t sell for a few months and during that time the property experienced vandalism at the hand of teenage boys.
In April 1949 five boys ranging from 11-13 years old were arrested on charges of trespassing and vandalism. In addition to damaging the four buildings used by Sunflower Schools Inc. They also damaged eight others on the property. Every window had been smashed, paint thrown about the rooms, plumbing/walls/stage absolutely ruined. The damage surpassed $5,000 putting a dent in finding a new buyer. It’s unsure what the boys were sentenced to when they appeared in court in front of Probate Judge Clyde M. Hudson but hopefully, it was one justified. It seems as though most of the buildings of the vacant buildings on the property were demolished throughout the fifties. It is not necessarily clear if the vandalism had a play in deciding to bring the wrecking ball to them.
Wichita Eagles Lodge 1957-1978
In November 1957 the members of the Wichita Eagles Lodge made a trade of their property at 200 S. Emporia to Ray Dwyer in return for the former Sunflower School Inc. property. The new space would provide ample space for lodging activities. The new space hopes to be able to accommodate 5,000 members.
For the next twenty years, the Eagles resided on the land holding many events and becoming one of the largest lodges in the state. They vacated the property when they aimed to have a more modern space, leaving in the late 1970s around 1978.
Many Different Clubs 1980-2000
Over the next two decades, the property would transfer through numerous different hands and collect many different names for itself. In 1980 Bill Reaves operated the French Quarter here for a brief year. The restaurant specialized in gourmet food accompanied by jazz. From 1982-1985 it was known as Candie’s Club. Then moved on to become Rock Island from 1987-1997 a popular club amongst many young people in the Wichita area. For a brief time in 2000, it was known as Woody’s House.
In 2003 the establishment became known as Club Mexico, just another one of the many clubs that called this place home. The place took a turn for the worst just a few months later when police shut the business down and tied it to the disappearance of two brothers Oscar and Nicolas Ramirez that had been missing since July 31. After a thorough investigation, the owner of Club Mexico Arturo Garcia was charged with three murders. It had been found that Garcia shot and killed the brothers as well as a third man, Clint Jones inside Club Mexico. He then dismembered the bodies and dumped them about thirty minutes outside of Wichita where they were later found on August 29th.
In May 2004 the case went to trial where former employee Christy Cousins testified she was brought downstairs to the basement of Club Mexico by Arturo where she discovered the decapitated remains of two men on the floor. Arturo Garcia was convicted by a jury of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and one count of intentional second-degree murder. According to the Kansas Judicial Branch case file, the motive for the killing of Clint Jones was over money.
Clint Jones and Arturo Garcia had a business relationship starting with Jones installing a $6,000 sound system in Club Mexico. In addition, using a key to the vehicle lockbox at a Wichita auto dealership, Jones stole at least five vehicles which he then delivered to Garcia, and was to be paid $2,000 for each stolen vehicle.
A rave was held the weekend of Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, 2003, at Club Mexico after hours. Carlos Lacayo-Arce, who frequented the club and occasionally sold cocaine and marijuana at the club, arrived at approximately 3 a.m. At approximately 6 a.m., Garcia asked Lacayo-Arce to go to the basement of the club with him to discuss the possibility of building a methamphetamine laboratory there. Once in the basement, Garcia asked Lacayo-Arce to kill Clint Jones with a .9 millimeter rifle with a sawed-off handle. Garcia did not say why he wanted Jones killed. Later Lacayo-Arce heard Jones was killed because of money owed by Garcia to Jones. After showing Lacayo-Arce how to use the gun, Garcia went back upstairs and returned a few minutes later with two others that frequented the club who would be there to make sure things went right. Garcia returned the upstairs and brought Clint Jones to the basement of the club. Garcia introduced Jones to the three men, who were sitting on the couch. Lacayo-Arce started a conversation with Jones about the dog Jones was carrying, eagerly Garcia grabbed the rifle from behind the couch cushion and shot Jones six or seven times until Jones fell on the floor.
His explanation for the other two killings was that of self-defense. Garcia said that he served the brothers Oscar and Nicolas Ramirez drinks until one of the brothers ripped a surveillance camera off the ceiling of the club and the other brother punched Garcia in the jaw. To protect himself Garcia pulled out his pistol. The brothers kept coming at him. When one brother asked if Garcia was going to shoot him, Garcia shot both brothers. Garcia’s explanation for the altercation was that it had to do with something that happened between the three of them a long time ago.
But the horrible tragedies that occurred in the basement didn’t seem to put a dent in the string of nightlife ventures that would use the space. Over the next few years, it would become the Jungle Club 2004, Club Dreamz 2005, JC House of Rock 2005-2008, Club Delusionz 2013, Club Dimples 2014.
The longtime party place then officially closed down in 2014 and remained vacant for years. Attempts to sell the property were made with some listings being published online with no luck. Unfortunately, time after time again when a building becomes vacant those seeking refuge or thrill tend to venture inside leading to vandalism and occasionally fires. That’s what happened to the former tuberculosis infirmary on February 17th, 2022. The building will be demolished and more of our history gone.
Gallery Below of Sedgwick County Tuberculosis Sanitorium
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