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The McClinton Market Comes Down

The McClinton Market is gone.

Back in 2011, things seemed more promising when the building at 1205 E 12th Street in Wichita was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I remember that nomination; I was on the State Historic Sites Board of Review then. It was one of the few surviving early African American owned business buildings in the city.

A modest frame structure, the building housed the store of Curtis McClinton. McClinton had come to Wichita in the 1940s and opened his business on 12th Street. Although a fixture in the city’s African American neighborhood around 9th and Cleveland, the store was more than just a local hangout. Soon after arriving in Wichita, Curtis McClinton became active in local civil rights efforts, including the NAACP. In 1956, he was elected to the Kansas State House of Representatives. In 1960, he was elected as Kansas’ first African American state senator.

The market’s story is a good reminder that a nomination to the National Register calls attention to significant structures and does open up certain areas of support-- but it does not guarantee a building’s preservation. When a building requires extensive maintenance, as this one did, the costs may be too much for owners. The building was in poor shape when it was nominated and subsequent attempts to stabilize the building could not come together. And so, early this year, this significant symbol of Wichita’s African American past came down.

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