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Wichita's Forgotten Neighborhood | Past & Present

Today, Planeview and Hilltop Manor in south Wichita are reminders of a time when World War II aircraft production required the creation of workers’ housing. Designed to be temporary, these communities have lasted well beyond their expected lifespans. Aging facilities and changing demographics remain challenges for residents, landowners, and local officials.

It is easy to forget that there were once three such communities. The third was Beechwood, located west of the Beechcraft factory between Douglas and Kellogg and across the street from the upscale homes of Forest Hills. Construction began in 1942 at the same time as Planeview although on a much smaller scale at just 500 units compared to Planeview’s 2,000. By 1943, 2,000 residents lived next to the plant. To meet the increased traffic, the city undertook the first major expansion of Kellogg to reduce pressure on Central and Douglas.

Beechwood’s wooden units remained after the war. In 1951, it still contained more than 1,000 residents —more than Derby, Haysville and Maize combined. But just a few years later, the buildings were dismantled or moved to new locations. A few have survived, now a short distance away just north of Central in the midst of a collection of houses and mobile homes. By the late 1950s, Beechwood was a broad grassy expanse that would come to house the Pizza Hut headquarters, now the Ruffin Building.

And so we can see that unlike Hilltop Manor and Planeview, Beechwood’s story was actually more in keeping with the intended goals of wartime housing being only temporary parts of the landscape.

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