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Past and Present: Kellogg, The Lost Thoroughfare

Amy Delamaide

More than just a road, Kellogg is a major landmark, separating the main downtown and upscale districts of central and northern Wichita from the aviation plants and blue-collar neighborhoods that lie “south of Kellogg.”

It wasn’t always this way. Into the early 1950s, Central was the primary road east out of Wichita. West of the Arkansas, Maple and Douglas were the main roads. Then, in 1949, the old Wichita and Western right of way became the main route of U.S. 54-- initially named Brockway Boulevard but changed to West Kellogg a few years later.

Traveling down Kellogg in the early 1950s, a motorist had to start at the Arkansas River since no bridge crossed it then. The area would have been a combination of modest residences and the facilities of the Cardwell Manufacturing Company. Heading east, you’d drive over a concrete viaduct that crossed the main railroad tracks, and see the towering sign of the Dillons store at Hydraulic.

Continuing on, our motorist would pass East High’s campus and then rise in elevation to enter College Hill. It was here, at Bluff, that Dan and Frank Carney set up the first Pizza Hut. At Oliver, Jimmie King, who got his start with the White Castle chain, set up a “King’s X” restaurant.

Past the Colonial Revival Veteran’s Hospital rose new, upscale suburbs, which housed the city’s elite aviation and business families along Woodlawn and in Eastborough. It was here that the congregation of the Church of the Magdalen later constructed its circular church that became known as the “Holy Hamburger.” As you left the city’s edge, beyond the 54 Drive-In, you’d go past forests of oil derricks.

Within a generation, this changed. The construction of a turnpike exit at Rock and Webb and a bridge over the Arkansas made Kellogg the new east-west artery. Towne East and Towne West malls increased the traffic flow, while the city’s car dealerships relocated along the route. Construction crews expanded Kellogg, with new motels, gas stations, and fast food restaurants emerging downtown to cater to the motoring public.

In time, this gave way to a highway that rose above downtown and cut through neighborhoods like College Hill. What had once been a local hub of activity became a dividing line that was ever more difficult to cross. Ironically, Kellogg’s success doomed homes, businesses, churches, and other landmarks along its path.

Jay M. Price is chair of the department of history at Wichita State University, where he also directs the public history program.