By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays Public Library took people on a trip back in time during historic downtown tours Friday night.
Tours started every half hour from the library and traveled through Hays’ Chestnut District. The original name for Hays’ Main Street was Chestnut Street.
The tour began at the Hays Public Library, which was built in 1911. The Women’s Literary Club, which was organized in 1899, raised money for the library. However, the bulk of the $8,108.25 for the construction of the original library came from a gift from Andrew Carnegie.
A new larger building was constructed in 1968 at a cost of $440,000, and the most recent renovation and addition to the building was completed in 2004 at a cost of $700,000, said Samanthan Dean, adult librarian.
The Wiesner Building is one of the oldest buildings in the Hays. It was built in 1913 by AA Wiesner, a Volga German. He worked in a couple of grocery stores before borrowing $500 from his uncle to open his own store. He made $2 on his opening day in 1879. The store remained open until 1991.
“One of things I wanted to hit on is I talked to a lot of locals in doing research on these buildings and every single one of the locals I spoke to said this is one of the most iconic buildings they feel in the Chestnut Street District because they remember shopping here when they were kids,” Dean said. “It is one of the buildings they cherish the most and they want to see talked about and preserved.”
The Philip Hardware Store, 719 Main St., was built in 1874. However, it did not become a hardware store until 1896. Before that it housed a U.S. Public Land Office in 1875. The store was operated as a hardware store until 1997. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1970s.
Most downtown Hays business owners were Volga German, but Philip was from Scotland.
Down the block at 715 Main, there was a carpentry store in the 1890s. The fire department was located in that block until 1911. Dr. Hugo Kohl, the army surgeon at Fort Hays, moved to Hays from Victoria and set up his apothecary in that same block in 1894. An apothecary was the drug store of its time, Dean said.
Charles Harkins fell in love with the boss’s daughter and would eventually take over the business. The business was originally at 1111 Main before it was moved. Harkins Pharmacy also had a soda fountain and on Saturdays sold banana splits for 29 cents. It was moved to the 715 Main location in 1960s and was closed in 1974.
What is now called the Chestnut Building, 1200 Main, was originally the Lamar Hotel, which was built in 1930 by CW Lamar. The Lamar family had other hotels in the area, and the family worked in and lived in the hotel, Dean said.
Shirley Temple stayed in the building in the 1930s. In 1966, the building was purchased by First National Bank. Hall Street was named for the first president of the First National Bank, Andrew S. Hall. The bank was remodeled into a Williamsburg style building, which is how the exterior appears today. In 1989 the bank changed its name to Emprise Bank.