by Mary Rupert
As plans move forward for a new apartment complex on part of the former Schlitterbahn property on the northwest corner of 94th and State, a part of Wyandotte County history is disappearing.
The old Wyandotte County courthouse annex building at 94th and State was being demolished this past month.
While the old county annex building no longer will remain at the site, a graveyard to the north of it will not be affected by the demolition, according to Dave Reno, a spokesman for the Unified Government.
When the old county annex property transferred from the county to the Schlitterbahn water park, the old courthouse annex building was used by the water park for offices and storage. In recent years, the building showed a lot of signs of age, including broken windows.
Before its Schlitterbahn years, the building housed local county government offices such as the election office, motor vehicle tags and Extension office.
County home for aged and indigent
Years earlier, there was a county home for the aged and indigent on the property, which was sometimes called the “poor farm” by local residents.
Jeff Jennings of the Wyandotte County Museum said there were two buildings on the property, one which is the former county annex and the other that was called the poor house. The second building has been gone for a long time, he said.
A newspaper clipping from the Kansas City Kansan, dated Sept. 29, 1930, stated that the construction of a new $200,000 home at the county farm was progressing. It was described as a two-story building of brick and stone that would house 200 residents.
The home was built on a plan that placed a courtyard in the center, allowing sunshine and fresh air for residents, according to the news story.
Another old news clipping, from February 1930, said there was a proposal for oil and gas drilling at the poor farm, with oil struck there in 1930.
A third news clipping reported there was a fire at the county home in December 1930, with 146 residents fleeing the building. The story said there already were plans to replace the building with a brick and stone structure.
Cemetery located near county home has hundreds of unmarked graves
To the north of the home for the aged and indigent was a cemetery, according to Jennings. It was sometimes called a pauper’s cemetery, and it is listed under the name Wyandotte County Cemetery in some of the records.
Besides an entrance sign identifying it as a cemetery, there are only about two marked graves, Jennings said. The cemetery contains over 500 unmarked graves, perhaps as many as 600 or 700, he said.
Jennings said he had a list of the names of the persons who were buried in the cemetery, which is located to the north of the old annex building, on the east side of the property. However, he added he didn’t know exactly where in the cemetery those persons were buried.
Jennings said the cemetery should stay in place during the construction process for the new apartment buildings.
The cemetery was the subject of a story in February 2007 in the Wyandotte West, as preparations were being made to turn the property over to Schlitterbahn.
There was an extensive investigation into the cemetery and graves in 2006, with an agreement made then that graves would not be touched. There was discussion about creating a park-like setting for the cemetery.
Investigators used metal detectors to find the perimeter of the burial grounds and noninvasive measures were used to discover the unmarked gravesites. The UG commissioned the study, with Chris Schoen of Louis Berger Group, Marion, Iowa, as the main investigator and Geoffrey Jones, geophysicist, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the geophysical surveyor.
A report issued by Jones in December 2006 noted that the cemetery was established in 1870 and was used until 1973. The number of total burials there was unknown, but 541 burials were recorded during the last quarter century of the cemetery’s use, the report stated.
A magnetic survey and an electrical resistance survey were completed. After testing and investigation, the researchers concluded the cemetery was limited to the interior of the road loop and to the flat hilltop between the road loop and 94th Street. Another area containing burials was on higher ground between the eastern road of the cemetery and 94th Street, according to the report.
The report is online at http://www.archaeophysics.com/pubs/wy-cem.html.
Multifamily apartment project planned for site
A multifamily apartment project planned for the site of the former county annex building at 94th and State received preliminary approval for industrial revenue bonds at the March 1 UG Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting.
IRBs not to exceed $45 million were approved for the Milhaus Properties project.
As part of the Homefield project for the former Schlitterbahn property, the project was already approved in concept earlier, according to Katherine Carttar, UG director of economic development.
The 18-acre apartment site will have 274 units, and will include a clubhouse pool, enclosed garages and surface parking, John McGurk, vice president of development for Milhaus Properties, said at the UG meeting. It will have a fitness center, lounge, coffee bar, pet park, pool with a sun deck, and fire pits. There will be nine buildings and a clubhouse, and the apartment buildings will have three stories and a basement.
According to McGurk, the project will have a trail system through the entire Homefield development.
The project is to start construction this summer, with the first units completed within 12 months, McGurk said. The project should be completed in spring 2023, according to developers.
The northeast portion of the property will remain a forested area, according to the developer.
The UG Committee meeting is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt6BdMl46yM.