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Past & Present: A Little 17th Street History


Until 2016, many Wichitans knew Blake Hall at 3317 E. 17th Street as KMUW’s home. What they may not know is that the KMUW story at that spot only goes back to 1981. During the 1960s and 1970s, the intersection of 17th and Fairmount was part of a neighborhood business district, home to several establishments. 
The area was a hub for businesses that catered to an often funky campus scene. KMUW occupied a two-story building at the intersection. Just south was Whitesell’s Pied Piper Book Store, followed by the Minotaur Cafe. For a time, this area supported the Grinderman sandwich shop and the “head shop” of Wichita Toad and Tire. 

At Holyoke were the Cain’s #5 Cleaning and Laundry and the Peter Pan Ice Cream Parlor, a site that in 1972 became home to the infamous Kirby’s Beer Store. East of Holyoke was a spot that at one time had been home to a series of campus-affiliated restaurants. By the mid-‘60s, there was a new building on the site that became a series of clothing shops, including Gentry. This was the building that later came to house KMUW. 

It is ironic that the same year KMUW marks its 70th birthday also saw its former home at Blake Hall torn down. Today, KMUW serves the community from Old Town while what had once been a campus business community now transitions into an ever-growing series of parking lots.

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