Connecting underground businesses, Ellinwood
1 N. Main, Ellinwood, KS 67526
[map this location]
Custom: Connecting underground businesses
Place to see it done: Ellinwood's Underground Tunnels
Come to 1 North Main, Historic Wolf Hotel, to start your tour. Call ahead. Tours by appointment. Fee.
THE BEGINNING OF UNDERGROUND LIFE
(Note: The tunnels and basement businesses referred to are two separate entities --the tunnels being connecting corridors.)
The tunnels of Ellinwood at one time ran through the entire business district. Initially they seem to have been elaborate coal chutes, with the coal delivered by horse and wagon throughout the summer. The covering wooden sidewalks were lifted up and the coal dumped in and then taken back to the furnaces as needed.
The gas boom in the early 1930s changed this situation in two ways - first the buildings were heated with the plentiful and inexpensive natural gas, and the influx of population brought increased needs for shops and services. The heavy limestone block basements provided space for the shops, the tunnels provided communicating links very similar to modern malls. The connecting tunnels (under the sidewalks) ran the two blocks of Main on both sides of the street, up the side streets, and are said to have connected the business district, hotels, and Drummers Sample Room, with the depot, Maennerchor Hall, the mill and brewery. There are indications that at least one, perhaps two tunnels, went under Main street to allow the ladies to cross without wading through the mud.
Businesses known to occupy space in the tunnels were Jung's Barber Shop, which in
those days included a public bath, Wolitz Shoe Shop, John Wever's
Sample Room, Petz Meat Storage, and a Drummer's Sample Room under the
Then in the summer of 1982, with the building of new sidewalks on Main street, most of the remaining tunnels were filled with sand, retained, but blocked. Now, only the tunnels under the Dick Building, the Wolf Hotel, and the 1883 are open, with those under the Dick Building the only ones opened regularly for visitors.
Upon entering the tunnels you will see the leather harnesses as they were left hanging on the pegs in the harness shop. Along the tunnel is Jung's Barber Shop with its original flooring, wallpaper, and barber's mirror. From the barber shop you will enter the "Bath" room with its bare, but luxurious accommodations of the time.
Entrance to the tunnel is behind this building. Photo courtesy Robin Proffitt