Hammers pounding and men shouting up and down the streets of WaKeeney. That was the sound of our city during the agricultural boom years of the 1920s. Our founders were building their dreams on the prairie that had given them bumper crops year after year during that incredible decade when our frontier town was cementing its footprint on the Great Plains.
One of the first businesses erected in our busy commercial center was the WaKeeney State Bank at 134 N Main Street, a beautiful building with a unique façade inspired by the Art Deco architecture popular at that time. Using terra cotta bricks and native Kansas limestone, the facade was crowned with an ornately painted scene from nature that featured two golden eagles and a medallion at its center. Framed with a geometric pattern of green, grey, and beige stones, it reflected the wealth of WaKeeney’s merchants and the farming community that prospered so greatly during that period.
As time moved on so did the stones that gave the building such style. In the 1960s, after the WaKeeney State Bank and the Trego County State Bank merged to form the Trego-WaKeeney State Bank, the stones were removed by WaKeeney’s Deines Construction and later privately stored by local residents Max and Irene Dirks. Last spring the Dirks contacted the Trego County Historical Society with the offer to donate all the stones to the museum. They accepted and soon the project became a community endeavor. Students and teachers from Trego Community High School, along with additional help from Society members and volunteers, assisted in moving the entire collection of 145 stones to the museum where they are now installed as a permanent display in the new addition.
The Trego-WaKeeney State Bank provided a generous donation of $5,000 to cover the masonry work, bricks, supplies, and materials, and with the help of archived photographs, Ed’s Masonry from Garden City recreated the original pattern of the bank’s façade and it has already become one of our museum’s most interesting displays.
The next time you are in WaKeeney plan to stop at the Trego County Historical Society to view the unique architecture that stood as a monument to the wealth of Trego County’s agricultural history.