Boot Hill is nominee for listing on historic register

2/15/2013

By JOHN GREEN

By JOHN GREEN

Special to The Telegram

DODGE CITY — State officials last week nominated a group of buildings and other artifacts that make up the Boot Hill Museum property in Dodge City for listing with the National Register of Historic Places.

The site was among 14 forwarded to Washington, D.C., by the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka for consideration to add to the register, which is the country’s official list of historically significant properties.

Also on the list of proposed sites is the former Dodge City Municipal Building, located next to the museum, and a Ford County segment of the Santa Fe Trail known as Fowler’s Rut.

Officials nominated Boot Hill Museum as a “Roadside Kansas multiple property nomination” for its significance in the areas of entertainment and education. The mid-20th century museum interprets Dodge City’s history as a cowtown and is associated with the local tourism industry.

Locals first began advocating for development of a Boot Hill museum as early as the 1920s, but it wasn’t until after the 1939 world premiere of the movie “Dodge City,” which firmly placed the town n the popular culture lexicon, that the City Commission issued bonds to begin the museum’s construction, according to a summary of the nomination.

The site developed in stages and was largely complete by 1964.

There are 21 “resources” in all at the museum site, of which the application identified 11 as contributing to its historic significance. Of those, six were constructed on site, and the others moved there over the years.

During the height of the popularity of the television series “Gunsmoke,” which was set in Dodge City, tourists flocked to the legendary town, peaking at some 400,000 visitors a year in the 1960s.

The series was canceled in 1975 and, despite continued investment in the museum, annual visitation plunged 25 percent in just a few years. Visitation continued to decline during the 1980s and 1990s and today hovers at about 60,000 people a year, according to nomination documents.

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