You are on page 1of 22

WANT TO BUILD A

MIRACLE CITY?
War Housing in Wichita

by Julie Courtwright

“N
ow behold the day of the war industries,” wrote famed Kansas editor William Allen
White in 1942. “Towns like Wichita, Pittsburg, Parsons are being transformed.” And
transformed they were. Wichita, seemingly overnight, changed forever from what
one citizen called a “sleepy little cow town” to a booming city that “shook off the dol-
drums of the Great Depression to become one of the nation’s busiest military production centers” in the
wake of World War II.1
An important facet of Wichita’s explosive war metamorphosis was defense housing for the thousands
of workers who migrated to the city. Lack of adequate wartime housing was a serious consideration. If
workers did not have a place for rest, relaxation, and recreation while not on the job they would suffer
from the effects of stress and sleep deprivation. A decrease in productivity would result, hindering the war
effort. This was a situation to be avoided at all costs. Production was essential to military success; many
maintained that although housing would not win the war, it could lose it.2
Because Wichita was unable to provide housing for the vast number of in-migrating workers, Presi-
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the city as one of 146 defense areas. This distinction allowed homes
to be financed through the Federal Housing Administration with no down payment, thus encouraging
private building. Also, the federal government announced that it would build new homes in Wichita be-
ginning in 1941. The first of these additions was Hilltop Manor, soon to be followed by Planeview and
Beechwood. Although the Wichita Evening Eagle proclaimed the city’s housing as “more or less the ‘bell
wether’ of the gigantic [United States] war housing program,” the projects were not the largest, nor the
smallest, nor the most problematic, nor the most controversial of the national scene.3 In fact, despite its

Julie Courtwright is a Ph.D. student in American history at the University of Arkansas. She received her master’s degree from Wichita
State University, and her research interests include regional and western history.

1. “Wartime Wichita,” Wichita Eagle, August 12, 1995; ibid., November 14, 1944; White’s comment in “Kansas — Jekyll or Hyde?”
Kansas City Times, January 23, 1942.
2. Charles Abrams, “Housing the War Workers,” New Republic 105 (December 29, 1941): 886.
3. “Pick Wichita As Model on War Housing,” Wichita Evening Eagle, October 10, 1945; Craig Miner, Wichita: The Magic City (Wi-
chita: Wichita– Sedgwick County Historical Museum Assn., 1988), 189; Wichita Eagle, April 25, 1943.

218 KANSAS HISTORY

Wichita Sunday Eagle, April 25, 1943,

WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 219

built a biplane that was used served in 1942. what the battle of Kansas was all about. was tracts for all aircraft companies.” noted for Wichita and for Kansas. 1941. Therefore. 8. Culver.” Newsweek 20 (October vember 1945): 483. Wichita: The Magic City. flat plains of Kansas. contrary to was the new addition to Stearman. 220 KANSAS HISTORY .” Fortune 26 (October 1942): 193. and Cessna. “Kansas in the War. “Wichita Aircraft Factories in Line for Big Con- 12. Wichita was already established as commission noted that Plant II. That money came in the form of war industry con- periment in social reorganization and an ongoing and tracts and orders. and Lloyd of the war Boeing– Wichita was producing 4. “is expressed in four words: Boeing. The most were the Wichita image as a loyal “heartland” town. 4. Boeing– Wichita in 1942. Of the lendick before they started the companies that became total 3. “The Battle of Kansas.888 Superfortresses made. . working at only one-quarter capacity. High Wichita Eagle reported more rumors of impending con- quality quick aviation manufacturing. legislation to produce bombers. “Kansas—Jekyll or Hyde?” 184 – 86. in particular. Nevertheless. “pioneers in aircraft-flying and new employees per day hired to work on the famous B- manufacturing . In July 1941 the cant part of the war on production. “On ployment from thirty-five hundred to more than twen- the great. demand escalated. Reports to the city its cowtown image. problems. than did many others across the country. known just how many dollars were on the way. July 6. when total business pending was estimated at twenty- W hile Kansas agriculture was vital for victory. Beechwood. 183 – 85. [were] at work for more than thirty 17 and B-29 “flying fortresses. Raymond Moley. “Had it been sight. 7. renamed far-reaching lesson in community identity. As White ob. tracts.2 Super- Stearman worked for pioneering aviationist Jake Moel. By the end plane moguls Walter Beech. Miner. was trans- both the human and physical makeup of the city almost formed into a major defense production center because overnight.” 1940s journalist Ray. but when V-J day was clearly in rious expansion and serious money. 1942): 96.” Employment increases years” prior to the war and had managed to stay at such as these were astounding to plants that were. As war We are standing on the threshold of a new day. Beech. in even these comparatively “easy” modifications changed addition to its established aviation industry. Delivery began as early as 1936 on change that comes with this great defense program . “isolationist sentiment in creased government involvement in private industry. Miner. Wichita historian Craig Miner. and perhaps more important. and its extremely low Kansas “air capital” began not in the frantic confusion alien population.644 were built in Wi- the foundation of the air capital city. Wichita: The Magic City. 1939. an unintentional ex. heated arguments concerning war housing in the useful for war effort propaganda. not only an example of in. fortresses per working day. The big news. would increase em- plane manufacturing in the early years of the war. .” Wichita Eagle.” 193. “Housing For War. town might have all but disappeared. the first of ten thousand P-13s built in Wichita. 1. Kansas and Wichita would “feel the as a primary trainer.” wrote a from pre-war sleepy city to industrial defense center Fortune journalist. local contracts were signed in one week. .8 6. in work during the difficult depression decade. an accomplishment that could not be of its central location in the country.”4 loomed closer.”7 but. Wichita experienced a smoother transition “What Wichita means to the nation at war. In September 1940. and Hilltop Manor were.5 chita. and. however. the city was primed for se- of the early war years. making it less sus- achieved without major ramifications—the results of ceptible to German or Japanese attack. thirty million dollars in additional so too were Kansas war industries a signifi. one million dollars. Future air. . The Stearman Company.”6 The midwestern city. built under emergency an aviation center prior to Roosevelt’s demand for air. “Housing For War. ty thousand within three years. Clyde Cessna.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 13 (No- 5. Planeview. or 100 per month. Other factors which are still being felt in Wichita today. . This translated to fifty mond Moley observed.

” Beginning in 1943 a steady stream of Wichita’s war workers moved into the new homes. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 221 .” Planeview became Kansas’s sev- enth largest city as thousands of defense housing units seemed to “spring up as if by magic. Known as “the mira- cle city.

and Vancouver. Planning for Wichita’s Fu. Library and 10. The American West Transformed: The Impact of March 1946).: Government Printing Office. lic Housing Authority (Washington. under sale or rent in 1940 Wichita were hardly adequate for re.966 in 1940 to approximately war emergency.: Government Printing Office. rose Van. Arthur Capper Collection. Debate over defense housing was a nationwide one from the great state of freedom loving Kansas phenomenon. however. 12.C. A Decade of Change” (master’s thesis. The city received Planning Commission.13 The confusion partially cleared. U. all over the state. 1985). (Chapel Hill: University frey L. . The senator re- (Washington.C. you take away workers. hearts of city authorities. had to be provided a great part of what our boys are fighting for.” It is almost impossible for me to believe. 1987): 61. The New Urban America: funding for thirty-four such projects between 1933 and 1942. by the New Deal and by the frantic atmosphere of the tion escalated from 114. cies involved in war housing resulted in chaos and inef- tated by the precedents of government involvement set ficiency. 11. the sheer number of federal agen- was a controversial idea. Jeanne Brooks and Julia Emery.11 In Kansas. that. Leuchtenburg. 103. 76. Franklin D. Kansas State Historical Society.12 through government assistance.: Harland Davidson. North Carolina Press. From April cries were surprisingly not pervasive. Built great a problem as might have been expected. Tully. 1941). 1996). on the floodplain of the Columbia River. February 25. more than twice cracy did not endear war housing programs to the the population of Wichita’s largest defense community. normal conditions. Six. Kansas 1940 12. or the temporary housing structures. National Housing Agency. ceived other letters concerning government intervention from people National Housing Agency.S.: Government Printing Office. Henry A. dence. ed. Wichita was no ture: A Summary of the Wichita Comprehensive Plan: 1946 (Wichita: City stranger to federal aid for construction projects. California. Between Portland. 1946): 7. lack of it. D. might have been the typical Kansas quired defense housing. and Wichita. however. D. D. arguably the most consis- 200. According to Gerald D.” box 8. Roosevelt and the New Deal: 1932 – 1940 (New York: Harper and Row. for example. When you take assist in wartime production. Four million war workers plus would be rendering comfort to this group of So- cialists who want the government to eventually their families migrated to various parts of the country to house most of the people . April 1945): 4 – 23.9 response to the “Public Housers. See Jef- Growth and Politic in Sunbelt Cities. Washington. eds. Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.C. . Housing: First Series Data for Small Areas. The others. Bubb to Arthur Capper. although they 1940 to October 1941 the highest growth rates were in were heard. By the end hazard planning. Public Housing: The Work of the Federal Pub. at 27 percent.598 vacant dwellings for man and noted Republican Henry A. overall Kansas reaction. work began in As construction began. the federal government built approximately one million Despite such objections. from prominent Topeka business- Kansas. Carl Abbot. made the city tently Republican state in the union.10 author of The American West Transformed: The Impact of Dependence on the federal government for housing the Second World War. Modern Housing for America: Policy Struggles in the New Deal 9. the government’s September 1942. at 20 percent. 1987). War Housing in the United States Archives Division. Carl Abbot. Kansas. for example. al Housing 1940 – 1945. Department of the Interior. and war workers settled into the first of zeal to build houses as quickly as possibly led to hap- nine thousand apartments on December 12. Mistakes. . 1963). “Feder- (Washington. 222 KANSAS HISTORY .. But the new policy was facili. 1944. Senator Arthur Capper received correspon- San Diego. Wichita’s popula. and bureau- of the war over forty thousand people. rev. Urban America in the Modern Age: 1920 to the Second World War (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. teenth Census. called Vanport’s “dull gray” buildings home. Wichita State University. involvement in construction of war housing was not as port. however. see also Gail Radford.000 in 1943. Ill. Nationwide “share your away the will of an independent American citizen home” campaigns found dwellings for two million to buy and pay for his own home. Nash. that any- T he Kansas city was not alone in this inadequacy. 13. Ore. inefficiencies. Nash. the largest war housing project in the nation. antigovernment one of the fastest growing in the country. 164. 9. and. 46. Bubb. The 1. As a result of increased activity. indicates that initial acceptance of government gon. William E. the Present (Arlington Heights. Gerald D. for many months. 1994). Under the Lanham Act. “New Deal Construction Relief Projects: Wichita.

One-unit houses were twenty-four by thirty feet tion. 14.18 The goal for this phase of the project was to work. 100 of roofing. Tents ported that an estimated thirty thousand people would were set up to keep materials dry. supplies around “bottomless quagmire” roads. Eagle. the proposed housing units began to pour in at a rate of tices were simply creating tomorrow’s slums in their twenty to twenty-five per day. By January 1.14 service. The Associated Press last shipment of gas ranges.15 Local construction crews worked in boots and raincoats for much of the time. . “Fighting Mud to Erect 600 Defense Units. Housing for War and the Job Ahead (Washington. “Work on 600 Demountable Homes Begins. 60 of plumbing. Ice cube trays for the refrigerators have also been received. but this proved impos- sible. 1940. This was not easy among city officials. 1941. Then go to had ended. Harry and Oliver Streets in Wichita.” Wichita Beacon. Tulsa.” Wichita Eagle.” Wichita Evening chita Eagle. Noted the Eagle: “The were praised in national news. The demountables were prefabricated struc- naces. 800 of road materials. July 6. ‘Miracle City’ of 18. 1941. 145. September 18.19 The working condi- need housing in 1941 alone.. Load aboard a train six feet square. 15. 1941. October 20.17 Although a shortage of materials slowed the Although the air capital city experienced many of project at Hilltop Manor. also embarked on an edu. The Wichita Beacon re. “Government to Build 600 Demountable Homes Here. 42 of tures manufactured by the Southern Mill Company in water and gas mains. 14 of shower stalls. the local projects completed down to the last detail. The Chamber of Commerce members hoped that the housing boom could be han- dled through private financing. Kansas’ seventh largest city. the houses eventually were the problems typical of war housing. 280 of brick and al six hundred demountable homes adjacent to the orig- flue tile. April 1944).” Wi. 40 of bathtubs. D. Frank Rowe and Craig Miner. 70 of fur. Rowe and Miner. 77 of insula. “Planeview. 145. an average Housing Agency (NHA) in 1942. That year the Federal Public Housing Authority an- cational campaign to conjure positive public support for nounced that it would build four hundred homes near war housing. 50 of refrigerators. was received. September 17. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 223 .C.when President Roosevelt established the National and welcome for others. National 18.” Ice cube Want to build a “miracle” city? Here’s the recipe: trays in hand. 1941. October 18. while two-units measured twenty-four by fifty- electrical wiring and fixtures.16 problem of defense housing.: Eagle. “Population Hiked 21. The new department. 75 of stoves and four of square.” Wichita Evening Eagle. and eventually totaled cities through today’s supposedly temporary federal eleven hundred. The overwhelming situation and the seemingly never ending supply of new workers made acceptance of government interference in housing easier for some 16. 1944. 17. That’s how Uncle Sam built Planeview— complete all six hundred homes in one hundred days. 7th in State. Borne on the South Wind: A Cen- tury of Aviation in Kansas (Wichita: Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publish- ing Co. . 19. “Wichita Faces Acute Problem in Housing. “Gothic Gazebo.” Wichita Evening Housing Agency. July 6. 1942): 29.870 For Wichita in 14-Month Period. an indicator of the great need for the war housing.” Time 39 (January 5. November 14. 1994). workers soon began to build an addition- Take 1635 railroad cars of lumber. Applications for who feared that poor government planning and prac. one of the items which was composed this “recipe”: holding up completion . “Defense Housing Units at Wichita in Great De- mand. 1941. All houses were designed to fit together 100 miles long and transport to site. 1941. Add 4500 easily and quickly and to be moved after the emergency truck loads of ready-mixed cement. 24. 16 of nails. The construction site became a sea W ichita housing concerns began in 1940 when of mud for which special “mud boat” sleds were con- employment at the aircraft plants started to structed and powered by a Caterpillar tractor to haul drastically increase. Borne on the South Wind.” Wichita Eagle. 17 of paint. inal site. 17 of hot water heaters. of twenty-two new families were moving to Wichita per in addition to supervising the massive organizational week.599 Persons. Government Printing Office.

“Homes for 5000 Families is Huge Project”.” War Housing file. 23. “Huge Organization Rushes Housing Project to Completion. Planeview opened February 9. nity activities fell to an executive council composed of nying storage bins on each house. Project: ‘Planeview. which was built in conjunction with the spersed with cul-de-sacs and lined by many sidewalks. was a one-story prefabricated structure while the re. A Comprehensive City Map.”20 The “magic. More time.” however. City Planning Commission. November 29. H. April 25. Utilities. One type. ouses alone do not make a city. War Housing file. Wichita – Sedgwick County Historical Museum. tions under which the crews operated demonstrated the through a reservoir. really consisted of a delays.”23 Wichita were urged to visit the area “before gasoline ra. and utility rooms. inter- was Planeview. tory Division. Wichita Public Library. orga- es. heaters. 1942. a tract orig. April 25.22 zation. “Wichita Housing Area is One of Largest in United States. often caused by magic. directed each war hous- of bedrooms varying for different families. housing project in the United States at the present however. Therefore. electricity. The physical construction of Planeview and the tioning starts” and view the “largest active defense other war housing units was only the first challenge.200 units were two-story site fabricated hous. and was tractors who employed more than two thousand work- fully occupied by January 16. had maining 2. “Homes for 5000 Families is Huge Pro. whose job was to oversee the oper- rooms.” 21. Kansas). 5. smaller five-hundred-dwelling Beechwood develop. “Homes for War Workers: Planeview. Has 4382 Dwelling Units. social changes and problems that developed as a result inally designated for a large city park. 1943. kitchen cabinets. explained to the for its host city. Houses ing project while maintenance groups supervised hous- came equipped with gas for cooking and hot water ing and landscape upkeep in each zone of the city..” Planeview file. Materials.” 1. 1943. “Planeview. “Homes for 5000 Families is “Streets.” 22.”21 The huge Planeview project was located on 592 complicated than boards. A Souvenir ibid. 1943. “But contrary to general opinion. April 25. 1923). Samson. and the largest. showers. Kansas (N. resulting in significant and long-lasting changes C. “Homes for War Workers: Planeview (in Sedgwick County. April 25. were very difficult to ob- consisted of 4. and ice re. Local His. 224 KANSAS HISTORY . with the number ation of the entire community. Kansas. stated Samson. poration. through a connection with Wichita.182 units were built. nails..p. ject. and Planeview. as in the Hilltop Manor project.000 Wichitans Affected by War Housing Area Projects.p. All houses. neither the great amount of work and organization of the volumi. Wichita. saving rubber and gasoline. City’ of 18.24 Residents participated in a variety of activi- 20.382 units that seemed to “spring up as if tain and.” American City 59 (August 1944): 73. even though it was constructed hurriedly.’ Wichita. “30. Water was obtained chairmen from each of four zone councils. Both projects were situated so that workers became an unintentional experiment in social reorgani- walked to work. Wichita’s built on forty acres southwest of the Beech Aircraft Cor. but sewage could be disposed of importance of raising housing quickly for the war effort. The councils attended to any problems that arose and backed civic functions. Residents of ing building materials. 1944. 1943. Wichita – Sedgwick County Historical Muse- Plan for Wichita.599 Persons. bathrooms. The “instant” city was built by twenty different con- ment. Beechwood was of the need for defense production. no shortage of facilities and activities.” 24.” Wichita Eagle. living A resident manager. Responsibility for planning and promotion of commu- frigerators. project manager. Planeview houses The next housing project in Wichita. 7th in State”. um. of which 2. 146. and Community Facilities in a Large War Housing Huge Project. The “miracle city” ers.: n. and concrete were the acres north of the Boeing Aircraft Company. in establishing real defense communities. like others around the country. Unidentified clipping. ‘Miracle Borne on the South Wind. which had an average rent of thirty-two nized by a regimented system of community leadership.” Wichita Eagle. 1943. had fairly uniform kitchens. “Two Distinct Types of Houses Wichita Eagle. Coal furnaces were installed with accompa. Eagle the two types of houses built at Planeview and H Beechwood. on the job is in a preferred position in regard to obtain- sand-person community all at one time. Wichita. Rowe and Miner. “Planeview: The Miracle City. Constructed on Planeview Site. Federal Public Housing Authority nor the contractors nous details involved in construction of a twenty-thou. dollars per month. 74. war housing population.” Wichita Eagle. were linked with a twelve-mile system of roads.

Aerial map of Planeview. 1943. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 225 . ca.

1943.” ibid. a great new crop of pupils every Monday morning and finally four well- mowing work. choirs. this school system into gear. 191. softball. Families rented plots of Planeview Story.26 equipped elementary schools and high school for On Sundays parents took their children to Protes. including library services. In fact.d. barrack buildings for class- tion.” located near the housing area and proudly des.” ibid. Kansas State Historical Society. April 25. Planeview schools operated year round.000 Wichitans Affected by War Housing 30.: n. Planeview. land for the gardens. Boy system and were careful to portray it in several maga- Scouts.” Wichita Evening 1950): 33. archery.p.. The population explosion in the Wichita area put a tremendous strain on the school sys. 4. are commonplace today were new and much more un- cation agreed to “take the children into the local schools usual in 1940s Wichita. “30. muddy streets (therefore muddy floors). then classes operated in shifts in those hectic During the week. Utilities.30 Planeview community. and family evenings. and Community Facilities in a Large War ibid. The board of edu.29 “Don’t think it was easy to get dens. April 25. ties. 226 KANSAS HISTORY . reading. and structed separate from Wichita’s facilities. fire protec.” (N. 1943.. 1941. and at Planeview four tion. “Provide Modern School Systems. “Defense City Pupils Enter Schools Here. Only the “physical features” of the schools were Eighteen acres of organized play areas for children the Federal Housing Authority’s. Eagle. Library and Archives Area Projects. as they served more purposes than simply a reported that the 128 children of Hilltop Manor were as. Teenage boys who joined the “Clipper Club” used rooms.” Wichita Eagle. holiday par. not a government.” Kansas Teacher 58 (May 27.000 was en route ditional as well as recreational summer school classes to assist overcrowded Sedgwick County schools. 1941. February 15. September 12. The programs. News.” 26. kindergarten. Wichita: The Eagle. 1943. “Big Responsibility Rests With FPHA Project Services Sec. school in their neighborhood. Children Kansas Teacher.25 tion. In 1941 the Wichita Evening Eagle Planeview.75 for a twenty-five. Also pro- 25. Planeview residents were very proud of their school game rooms. operation. School officials hired more Planeview children took advantage of classes such as than one hundred teachers to instruct children of avia. Religious opportunities were avail.00 for a fifty-by-fifty sec. dramatics. Bible classes. Girl Scouts.” 12.). and success be- also helped in the upkeep of “Planeview Victory Gar. Red Cross tion war workers. 1945. place to learn history. women’s rhythmic exercise classes. and crafts.” warned the author of “The ignated as such by a large sign. 28. opera- ties. paying $1. the some four thousand students who came. stated a 1950 article in were distributed throughout the development. Services that signed to thirteen schools in Wichita. Even tant and Catholic services held at community centers. longed to Planeview. More than 25 percent of to relieve overcrowding. charging pre-set prices for each task. “To Erect Several Permanent Schools. providing tra- received federal notification that $172. Brownies. zine articles as a community. and math. Miner. air raid warden meetings. large elementary schools and a high school were con- able through Sunday schools. and nurse care. 1941. October 8. “Elementary School. “The Planeview Story. “Permanent Schools. 29. “Planeview Victory Gardeners. Cub Scouts.” Wichita Eagle. miss out on their education. for example. school buildings were rarely not in use in tem already in place. “Board Takes School Offer of Uncle Sam.”27 Wichita soon.” Division.S. “U. Inquires About School Enrollment.” a booklet about Planeview schools. “Streets. Planeview’s 240 community mowers to solicit lawn home made furniture.by twenty-five-foot plot and $3. concerts. band.” 74. April 25. Recreation activities included band. Eagle. “Homes for War Workers: Planeview. Welfare Magic City. In response to an increased need in spite of technicalities in order that they would not for child care for working parents.” Wichita Housing Project.. A new for students who needed some place to go while their building was constructed at Orme and Pershing Streets parents were on the job. Beechwood children attended one nutrition classes. September 26. however.28 special lectures.” Wichita Evening tion. Small beginnings. youth attended school within the days.

Victor Brewer. however. and several club rooms.gressive was the establishment of all-night child care for forever as a result of war housing. in name recreational center. mopolitan city” of Planeview.C. a policy upsetting to many policy changed to allow two co-ed nights and one boys who believed that black and Filipino workers should night each week. segregation was more overt. “Planeview: The Miracle City. 1945. “Something New in Education!” Recreation 34. pointed toward the future. both large which were used for various purposes throughout the and small.34 They were part of what made World War II a benchmark for Wichita. A Souvenir Map. Welfare News. some problems were more difficult to solve week for recreation and social purposes. Nash. for the first time. but it was nevertheless pre- minded of the importance of “proper relaxation” and sent. City. Wichita. bank. Racial discrimina- the size of the crowds. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 227 . and also were connected to a community building with A an auditorium.32 Changes in business and child While nurseries were segregated. War Housing in the United States (Washington. “Planeview: The Miracle Wind. as all were avail. so too were many fathers and mothers who worked irregular hours. At first. such as In Old Okla. 31. strikes. and the co-ed night proved highly popular. For African Americans. as well as for the rest of the country. The Welfare News. 1940– 1947. In the Bay Area. The Beechwood Grocery advertised city was reserved for blacks. were in actuality a part of the myriad of so. November 18. attitudes. Wichita: The Magic City. worker convenience. or ported that thirty families of American Indians were to take advantage of the “Bowling for Health” center. In an effort to control incidents of juvenile delin. Not only was the physical environment of Wichita changed 33. dentist. lead- at the time. the California housing authority practiced in- ever. Beech- teria.” which. Miner. History Depart- 1944. discrimination at Planeview. or supermarket. April 6. A “one of the most interesting groups” living in the “cos- trip to Wichita was not necessary to visit the post office. Wichita State University. Many phlet reassured prospective tenants. example. Borne on the South 15. so that tegration in defense areas. In contrast. The “finest supervision.” displayed a photograph of a bingo game at a “colored” while Kroger opened a “Super Store. visible to most Wichitans. to limit than the need for all-night child care. “Wichita: The War Years: 32. The American West Transformed. 1945. and one co-ed ing communities across the nation. 145. War workers were re. Planeview Barber Shop (complete with eight bar. Businesses were located at the intersection of Roo. “American Indians Hold Meetings. a 1930s labor-interest newspaper were urged to attend the movies. near Detroit. was available for stores.” ment.33 map boasted advertisements from the Planeview Cafe. Johnson. Girls night was sparsely attended. officials opened school gyms three nights a tion frenzy. February 15. dents and Wichitans during the war produc- quency.: Govern- ment Printing Office. customs. At Willow Run. 191. tion was present not only in Planeview but in war hous- ed out for one boys night.31 not live in the same areas as whites. 1943. at the Planeview Theater. doctor. for night per week. all school-age children care practices. and Planeview Shoe Store. Strong Hinman. all of lthough many social adjustments. how. ing to outbreaks of racial intolerance. and Hilltop Manor was quiet and relatively in- bers). one girls night. and daily procedures altered by the mentary schools housed the nursery school facilities experience. National Housing Agency. Ele. one hundred tickets were hand. 612.” the pam- and advertisement. kitchen. Rowe and Miner. A Souvenir Map”. wood. 98. and the “Souvenir Map” in the Welfare News: “This is the Store for War Workers. 19. February 38 (February 1945): 575 – 78. April 1945). more serious actions such as riots. re- homa starring John Wayne. such incidents as rock throwing and name calling. D. that in the 1940s became Wichita’s war housing sheet. A section of the able in Planeview. although seemingly of little significance of the war housing communities attended together. were open on Sundays for war “both colored and white children” at area facilities.” private collection of Judith R. A Planeview souvenir and shut-outs erupted over racial tensions. were made by defense housing resi- week.” Welfare News. sevelt Drive and Ross Parkway. Teachers reported cial adjustments that had a lasting effect after the war.

Social changes. crowded America. Your coming to As the title of the editorial indicated. chita. Although Wichita planners encouraged and near these good people are coming . We shall have to build eyes of the general public. the majority of press given to the devel- opments was positive. 191. advertisements the school roll. despite the beneficial economic morals” attracted the attention of local ministers and the gains of war production. Planeview residents hailed from forty-two an increase in venereal disease were topics discussed in states and had 225 different professions. or West Virginia. . 35. tried to convince officials to outlaw wearing Public housing. but to no avail. “Victory Girls” working the streets and the better. Dress up your home ful social and economic changes that were a result of the with attractive new furniture. . Wichita means much more than just numbers. 7th in State”. “Planeview. April 25. Welcome War Workers! The coming of thousands nois. This eclectic 1943 commission meetings. . reinforcing their fears about the popu- activity would somehow change their home. It will be like Illi. Incidents of “juvenile delin- population. and not for lation increase. 36. did not want. . the influx of a new popu. Ministers.599 Persons. Those men and women with strange names will go to the Legislature. this xenophobic at. . he wrote. ‘Miracle City’ of 18. . especially concerned the [eighteen] sixties. were concerned that the new city commission. . . Despite the undercurrent of negative feelings about lation. a family united in the purpose of making Wichita the finest into Mr.35 A cross-section was specifically what Empo. Hyde. are coming war effort morale and war worker respectability in the from all over the country. which to live. quency” concerned Planeview High staff and parents.37 longer be able to boast of its homogeneous. Hinman. It titude is a response to a fear that Dr. Wichita: The Magic City. and eighties would about the seeming change in the moral climate of Wi- stand aghast at this new Kansas.36 Instead of focusing on positive and use- city in . Teenage com- ria editor William Allen White. noted one author. . or Massachusetts. In addition to the belief that war housing would be- lation to Kansas and Wichita also sparked fear in many come the slums of the future. “Kansas—Jekyll or Hyde?” 38. . who. . into a building built for eight hundred. Newspaper propaganda bol- new school buildings for their children and stered the public’s image of Planeview and also served strangely unpronounceable names will appear on as a useful business tactic. Kansas will no sent in war communities. . From far ture identity. Miner. . cal MIDDLETOWN” and represented a cross-section of The school held fourteen hundred students. Jekyll would turn means a greater and happier family . “How the old individualists of but did little good. Wichita Eagle. were inevitable during the war and were pre- leadership in politics and business. of you to Wichita means that new cities have been placed within the city of Wichita. provides luxury unheard of to shorts in public. the fast-track war housing complete with a stretched hands and beaming faces.38 new war population. For example. 228 KANSAS HISTORY . “Something New in Education!” 574. war housing. will ap.” White editorialized. Migratory labor will result in changes of and bad. the Chamber of “foreign” population was not the kind of expansion en- visioned for the city. . . many citizens and members of the Wichita city government viewed war housing as a The Welfare News more sarcastically observed: “Fifty symptom of a situation that threatened their city’s fu- thousand newcomers are settling in Wichita. Besides racial prejudices. . made Planeview a “typi. Kansas will no longer be unique. for goods such as furniture read: pear on Commercial street and Main street. 37. incidents of “loose pre-war citizens. and other like-minded mittees organized to help find remedies for the trouble Kansans. good old pioneers. . This was necessary to maintain The new migrants of the forties . 1943. With out- growth. seventies. static popu.

WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 229 . containing five hundred dwellings. Beechwood (below) was the smallest of the housing projects. Constructed in 1943 in conjunction with Planeview. Shortage of supplies and rain slowed con- struction as applications for the units poured in at a rate of twenty to twenty-four per day.Built during 1941 Hilltop Manor (above) was the first of three war housing projects in Wichita.

near Lincoln. A Souvenir Map”.”39 home just as if their houses had stood there for Another attempt to show war workers as vital citi. er of the FPHA.” In short. enlightened the crowd with words on Then came the influx of defense workers as the “What War Housing Means to the Federal Public Hous- plane plants swung into work at furious tempo. hectic shopping experiences. People are at the money-lenders. entitled “Defense Wives Like Homes. and Manor boys. children shout at play zens of Wichita was included in the September 24. included several national and state dignitaries who were homey. Pictures of the Planeview “vil- involved in the war effort.” Wichita Evening Eagle.” Held on Easter their share of the work to “keep their husbands healthy Sunday. dozens of years. the profiteers. . main- triotic activities. “Defense Wives Like Homes. was the favorite toy of Hilltop Beechcraft Band. Beechcraft All-girl Guardettes. are checking them in. defense wives shouldered housing authority projects in Wichita. Commerce. It scarcely is begun. joys and tragedies appear. and life goes on as it does in all parts of Wichita. “Lights Blaze at ing. Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. “A Look at America. Guest lists for the event ing the pastel colored houses as clean. including veniences of rapid population growth that accompanied the fact that “families of defense workers who occupy the war patriotism and economic boost provided by the government homes in Hilltop Manor are a friendly and war workers. where once dark prairie reigned. and green roofs.” unidentified clipping. Night. Hilltop Manor at Night. “Hilltop Manor Children Like Airplanes. but we are under the headline “Lights Blaze at Hilltop Manor at taking this moment to dedicate what we have done.. 42.” Wichita Evening Eagle.” Lee Johnson.” profiled Mrs.” another picture caption read: Our project stands as a model of cooperation between A few months ago Wichitans driving south on federal and local governments and shows what we Oliver. 1945. and comfortable. “Planeview: The Miracle City. cooperative group of men and women who like their A further activity tinged with war effort propagan- homes and are more neighborly than families in other da was the 1943 “formal dedication of the federal public parts of the city. . 1941. the realtors. War Housing 41. 40. including performances by the tained the reporter. blue. director of lage” displayed the “cheery” bedrooms and “attractive” region seven of the Federal Public Housing Authority breakfast nooks. 1941.” ibid.” Wichita Beacon. et al. October 17.” The day was designed to reemphasize T o ward off images of future Wichita slums. Friendships have been formed. Earl Mo- Statements such as these clearly were attempts to make bray happily going about her day’s business in her new Wichitans forget the traffic problems.40 sing-alongs to the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America. the ceremony showed visitors “the miracle that and happy in defense work. overcrowded Hilltop Manor house. encouraged Wichita’s work to continue: “Our scribed houses with “red. July 29. new.” The children also did their has been accomplished in such a short time. . assistant commission- one of the few dark and lonely spots near the city. and other incon- war worker couple is described for the reader. Septem- ber 24. noted the Evening Eagle. by keep- were urged to come early and stay late for the many pa- ing a “vital interest” in airplanes. the the importance of the war worker to success in both the Eagle and Beacon frequently ran articles describ- European and Pacific theaters. January 1942. file.41 Impressive aerial photographs de- (FPHA). Gunner Mykland. The article. 1941. 1941. Welfare News. October 6. 230 KANSAS HISTORY .” and work is not complete. ing Authority and the War Effort. The typical productive life of a schools. The airplane. at night looked to the west at Americans can do. “War Hous.” Citizens part for the war effort. the racketeers.” He attributed Wichi- Now cheerful lights shine from scores of windows ta’s war success to the Kansas environment and its his- tory of thriving amidst challenges: 39.42 issue of the Wichita Evening Eagle.

city leaders and tempt for a Nazi or a Jap.. treeless site. In the first sale. 1943. We know it to be a fact that some merchants leaders wanted.” roadways are lined with the blank windows and The author addressed the concerns of local real estate “no trespassing” signs of empty houses.”45 This view was entirely different from the pro-war worker articles in the Eagle and Beacon. the screens and coal bunkers and garbage cans along quickly built houses would sit vacant.”43 provided by the government. 1996. the drouth and the dust in the end. 1943.46 er. Nonpriority parties could place city’s future real estate values. They could not mask or change the to state or local governments. became disgruntled agreed to tear them down and remove them from with the “strangers” in town. city. Welfare News. July 29. Purchasers of the buildings al public. “Hilltop Manor to Hold East. “quasi-public” institu- opinions of leading Wichita citizens concerned about the tions.47 Therefore. ture of Wichita. described the dwindling Planeview: tomers to satisfy. “Fear Permanent Housing Units to be Erected 43. . “feel that the ‘native lahoma. for permanence or beauty.” 193. with 1720 of its 4051 family units va- As early as July 1941 the Wichita Evening Eagle. . . that they servicemen. box 8. 1943. Now the curving cle titled “Think Homes to be Moved From Wichita. so that the 46. Wichita Eagle. such as fire.” February. per federal guidelines. That spirit has made Wichita a great airplane businessmen became increasingly proactive in center for victory. So today Planeview sits waiting on its rolling. “Think Homes to be Moved From Wichita. Planeview file. only to lick the weath. vember 1945 sixty-three of Planeview’s buildings were eptitude. thought of in regard to war housing. city commission opposed this plan because services fense stamps in keeping with the April Bond Drive. The very nature of life in these western plains structures can be moved where they are needed. Rusting owners that when the nation returned to normalcy. That spirit certainly could have nothing but con- A s the war neared completion. tion. April 25. April 25. .” Here. should be ment after disappointment. and veterans.44 On the surface.” ibid. The January 8. March 23. June 17. Capper Collec- 45.” Wichita Eagle. to relieve the housing shortage there. thereby seriously the streets contribute to the appearance of disuse. “Many Notables At Dedication of Big 47. with a plan. The hunt at Hilltop Manor for which the prizes were “de. damaging the real estate market. 44.” the editor maintained. “I know that many [war Planeview. Public Library. . giving priority however. In April 1944 they met with FPHA officials to discuss The day of celebration concluded with an Easter egg bringing Planeview into the city limits of Wichita. . 1945. Ok- workers]. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 231 . a cure-all. printed an arti. in No- tants and the lack of complaining about government in. The truth is. port.” Wichita Evening Eagle. . and not solely the present. Wichita Evening Eagle. Temporary housing should be used. and A national magazine praised Wichitans for their education. . The government true. . That spirit knows no fear. the fight to remove the housing communities. to completely communities around the country. cant. “Wichita’s Mammoth Housing Areas to be Dedicated Today. “Wichita Historic Preservation Board Item No. buildings went to Enid. April 26. have to be provided by Wichita. bids on a competitive basis. October 10. Plainview [sic] was not built amidst all the war housing propaganda. 1946. Wichita er Egg Hunt. Positive propaganda and patriotism were not. The fu- makes man know what it is to fight disappoint. “Housing For War.” ibid. 1941. 48..” Federal Housing 1940 – 1945. “Notice. Kansas City Times complain that the defense workers are the hardest cus. if Planeview were a part of the larger “hospitable” attitude toward the influx of new inhabi. the Welfare News reported. and to ex- sons of Wichita’ are cold and straight-necked.48 are making unfair remarks about defense workers in The beginning of removal was just what Wichita general. the citizens maintained. the wind. Even some of the gener. and compared with other sold. 8A: Staff Re- Housing Projects. would. this probably was remove Planeview within two years. Local History Division. 1941. took sealed proposals for the properties. police. 1943.

Residents were staying gardless of the fact that some had been there for many in Planeview because they did not yet have another job years. 50. played on Hilltop’s playground equipment in within the city.” she remembered. in sion. “Wichita Makes Community-Wide Housing Survey in One 27.” ibid. including three of would cause “unjust competition to the housing units her own. January 8. Nevertheless. in 1947. “Planeview is Stunned. Leah Claney. Beechwood Filling Up. The problem was that the temporary the real estate business.” ibid. June 12. Leah Claney. found a home The truth about the condition of Planeview proba- at Hilltop Manor in 1947. So it will post-war housing crunch. When the family was forced to bly lay somewhere between the two extreme positions. city officials were afraid of that once hurried through it .49 war communities continued. told his supervisor try to push Planeview out. October 51. them a defense house at Hilltop Manor. . The United States Trea- sury. more than five years. hardly anyone had left. although much of the war housing did get where everybody watched over each other’s children. August 30. shows little of the life According to Craig Miner. pressure on the be torn down. 1950. July 1. Claney’s boss subsequently found hired to revise a city plan.” This was despite the fact that housing was occupied by people who had learned to low-income housing was needed for many residents love their homes. re- reality.” Kansas City Times. Even temporary housing. City commissioners agreed that leav- The Claneys enjoyed their home at Hilltop. Miner. 53.. war housing was always meant to be tempo- Planeview. “Bank Will Close. “Everybody cared about one another. War Plant Town. decided not to authorize the Planeview This view of Planeview and the need to demolish its Fourth National branch bank. . 1945.52 or a better place to go. Packed into less the “justified criticism” they would face if any more than a square mile of Kansas prairie. Beechwood. 1946.” Welfare News. “Planeview vacancies 842.” Residents were therefore left with little the late 1940s. the institution had to close. Welfare News. In contrast to the bleak view of the By 1949. Planeview housing was torn down during the well-publicized could become a rural slum if it remained. . the doings of “the big wheels in Wichita in difficult to dismiss. the Welfare News reported in 1945 that. whose the antidote of truth.” Public Management 30 (March 1948): 77– 78. was sometimes to the editor. 2000. . 232 KANSAS HISTORY . where the published in 1946.” January 27. however. he blight.”53 value for the city. Downtown Planeview . telephone interview by author. according rary. Leah re- ing Planeview. Offers Opportunity for Housing Veterans. “Planeview. did not consider them “slum and who did not want to leave Wichita. still a front-page item in 1950. was that the housing developments Claneys had been told they could not live because they should be torn down to achieve long-range stability and were no longer “defense workers. vacate its wartime house. despite a lower vacancy rate that the family would have to leave Wichita because he in 1947 Wichita than before the war and a clear need for could not find a new place to live amidst the post-war low-income housing. The people. Because the state of Kansas had a law dents and the war housing newspaper over a period of prohibiting branch banking. a reprieve from the original two-year removal time plan. a firm was housing shortage. Hilltop Full.”50 family moved to Kansas during the war. while the remainder of Planeview got televi- defense city. Day. however.” and did not want them razed. who Real estate businessmen and other Wichita leaders did worked for the Coleman Company. had to “counteract this propaganda of poison by housing was still difficult to find. The final recommendation. 52. business owners had to bid on their locations.51 Before the war ended. Wichita: The Magic City. striking yet another blow buildings was continually challenged. or Hilltop Manor intact membered that twenty-one children. 1947.” This positive atmosphere was not one that the residents of Hilltop were anxious to 49. Threatened elimination of Yet. Claney’s husband. was. “It was a family affair. 1949. The community was a place for families to stand on. especially when urged.. by resi- to the community. . 196 – 97. “Planeview Sandbagged. .

WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 233 . which included this Safeway supermarket (left). The “miracle city” also devel- oped its own business district. religious. Planeview residents participat- ed in a variety of activities in- cluding educational. (Above) Adults and children work together to establish and maintain the Planeview Victo- ry Garden. and recreational opportunities.

that the state was “not ready to make the houses will be a waste. The temporary community. Welfare News. Left to survive or expire on their own. Schoeppel Administration. “A government man came down with a loudspeaker. Library and Archives Division. They formed the Hilltop Manor Mutual Housing communities was.” resident Leah Claney Can it be possible that these domiciles are like a remembered. 59. The Welfare News quoted persuasion method was economic reasoning. 1946.” the Welfare News lamented. 60. such as A. Beechwood to be Torn Down. Brasted to Schoeppel.. lose. 1944. February 54. .”57 The governor’s concerns about the eco- article detailing the defense cities’ beautification pro. as saying that “Kansas want- headline “Whose Baby is This?” the editor expressed his ed nothing to do with Roosevelt’s white elephants.. placed on the fringes of shame. houses left standing. ibid.000 low rental units . “Unless Wichita immediately launches plans to There is little doubt that the defense communities were build at least 10. nomic problems associated with war housing might not gram.”55 The most dramatic tone the Hilltop Manor commenced on a two-year fight with the Welfare News adopted in an attempt to save the dying city. a changed economy[?] 56 Although economics and politics. a Republican.60 The FPHA. “The men went to meetings about buying bastard child of shame. February 7. 1945. Miner. residents of couraging new factories. however. ibid. Under the Schoeppel. 58.”58 views.. March 5. in valued home to many people. War Effort — Public Works Project. R. July 12. however. Kansas State Historical Society. Records of the Governor’s Office. starving Wichita’s pay roll and dis. shame and guilt. Governor Andrew the city alongside sprawling wheat fields. ibid. February 27.. February 15. “and waste is a sin. the city is cut. May 24. 1945. “Planeview and 23. problem. 1945. Offers Opportunity for Housing for Veterans. were pleased with tried various tactics. 1945. and another stressing that the vacant have been his sole motivation for rejecting the govern- housing was quickly filling up with veterans.” Similar to Wichita’s leaders. points of industry. the State of Kansas did refuse to take over responsibility for Wichita’s “bastards of 57. 196. had become a Schoeppel told two federal housing representatives. Brasted. March 16.” Welfare News. nevertheless. Andrew F. The city. did not want the take over these well arranged war cities and OP.. “Planeview. 1943 – 1945. One was simply to portray how the governor handled the “do-gooders and slum the communities in a positive way. Brasted. considered by Kansas officials to be a federal. 55. . Amis. Ibid.” 234 KANSAS HISTORY . . Andrew Schoeppel to Marshal W. 1945.”59 so-called New Deal inefficiency and wastefulness. . Crying Corporation and hired prominent attorney and former out his disappointment in Wichita for its treatment of Kansas governor Payne Ratner to fight for the right to war residents. was the rationalization. executive vice pres- ident and secretary of the Mid Kansas Federal Savings T o stop the waste.”54 Some citizens. not a ting its own throat by forcing workmen to go to other state. Ibid. however. editor Karl Parkhurst admonished: purchase 1. March 7. instead of fear. Schoeppel to A. October 27. Plant Town. War 56. “The razing of the war February 1945. be afraid to not possess. Wichita Evening Eagle. 1946. printing an enthusiasts.118 housing units. Questions were raised about the ERATE THEM IN AN EFFICIENT MANNER until intended permanency of the structures and the failure their 26. for example. the war housing newspaper and Loan Association in Wichita. Claney interview. R. Hilltop’s location within the city limits of Wichita and all signs of Planeview and Beechwood are to and the fact that it was already using Wichita schools be erased from the rolling farm land[?] Can it be possible that the Republican Administration of and utilities were factors in its favor that Planeview did Kansas and reactionary Democrats .500 human souls can adjust themselves to to meet current building codes. 1945. Wichita: The Magic City. 1945. financial commitment” necessary to maintain the areas. “Towns are Booming.” ibid. Correspondence. A second ment’s proposal. conceived in the womb of the houses. Welfare News.

1955. but that prospect seemed unlikely given the hous- more. the log- poration. “234 Planeview Units Doomed.63 following their purchase of the war housing. which. Governor’s Records). such an action. Housing Authority announced the names of thirty-five ernor Frank Carlson of Kansas confidentially expressed successful bidders on fifty-eight temporary buildings at his support of the Hilltop residents: Beechwood. But as the 1950s progressed even the acutely unde- was the amount the insurance companies were willing sirable Planeview was never completely razed. the opposing sides agreed on a com. or in some cases foundations. 66. the Hilltop Manor Corporation countered of city officials for the removal of Planeview.160. 1949. February 14. Legal rep- resentation at the monthly meetings was provided by 61. veterans at a price that “makes unrealizable the ambi. however. duce federal maintenance appropriations totaling al- cancy and collection loss at 8 percent. February 14. In part. continued to hold meetings through the decade and decision.66 and some other groups are opposing it. garages. The FPHA should not.62 Assisting in the compro.” Ratner pairs and maintenance. Gov. 63. Payne Ratner to Ben. Carlson. to loan the group. and the even greater desire on the part Therefore. Kansas State Historical Society (here- after cited as Carlson. “doomed. the political ramifications of with these amenities added were going up in Wichita. the residents’ attorney. ical thing would be to sell. committee members that because their job was to re- ic life of thirty-five years on Hilltop Manor and the va. Ibid. Wichita Eagle. most nine hundred thousand dollars in Wichita. Wichita. I am sure your splendid committee in the year 2001.000. The bidders had 120 days to remove their buildings from the defense housing project’s thirty-nine Personally. Kansas”. In a letter to Representative Walter Ploeser. 65.offered to sell Hilltop for $3. Jensen. found the assessment unreasonable.900 per unit. ing Project. Furthermore. “is to sell Hilltop Manor. which is still in existence who are now living there should have a prior right of purchase. The Eagle headline pro- claimed in February that 234 Planeview units were E ventually. Wichita. especially when four hundred houses per month ing shortage in Wichita. ibid. “Hilltop Manor War Hous. or $1.”61 Planeview as late as 1956. based on appraisals Ratner. 1956. conveniently. The residents’ cor. the Hilltop Manor portion of the appropriation. November 2. I do not want to get involved in this acres. 1947. Some buildings nevertheless were dismantled in tion of these veterans to become home owners.000. 64. of course. 1947. Frank Carlson to Walter Ploeser. 62. “Hilltop Manor War Housing Project.”64 Another way that basements. The smaller Beechwood development demolition mise was a series of letters written to the congressional was completed without the controversy that surround- subcommittee in charge of disposition of the Hilltop ed its larger counterparts.” Nineteen demolition permits had been is- promise and the Hilltop residents won the right sued in the first weeks of the year allowing some two- to buy four hundred permanent two-story units story as well as several “four or six-plexes” in the for- from the federal government for an average price of mer boom town to be destroyed. it does seem to me that these people Mutual Housing Corporation. March 19. Claney interview. “The only way to eliminate Thirty-five years was optimistic without extensive re. Kansas. reasoned to the various by Thomas Burtch of Denver.. February 3. Burtch placed an econom. Library and Archives Division. after which the land was deeded to the city of Wi- matter.” file 17. was to remove Hill- vacancy and collection loss undoubtedly would be top. In March 1955 the Public project.” Wichita Eagle. F. Frank Carlson Administration.5 million dollars.238. Governor’s Records. On the The still nervous members of the Hilltop Manor other hand. Records of the Governor’s Office. as I understand the Chamber of Commerce chita. more than fifty years after its forma- will give the problem your usual honest appraisal tion. in houses without wrote. with an offer of 2. the Ratner did not mention. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 235 . the residents this was because of an increased need for housing when maintained.65 $2. make a profit from selling to World War II the Boeing Company was reactivated for jet production.

however. The their concerns. 71. if we are forced to it — to pre. now housed Asian families who.” the report bluntly stated. and take them to city hall.72 Once again. nearly four opened stores very different from Planeview’s shops hundred citizens of Planeview met with Payne Ratner forty years earlier and sold items such as fifty-pound in October 1965. . Ibid. Federal con. October 13. In fact. felt stepchildren. We are tired of being treated like of language and pronounced culture differences...” Wichita Beacon. director of the Wichita Urban Renewal Nevertheless. Payne “Darb” Ratner Jr. Hopes For Freedom. This met with little success. We are tired of being threatened and even more transplanted than had the new Kansans of harassed and we are going to take whatever measures the war years.” remained. “Fed-Up Planeview Citizens Will Take Fight to City Hall. Residents protested. Two years later a [not Wichita] problem. when Planeview was designated an urban renewal “is that the inhabitants are apparently doomed to an ex- study area. who joined his father’s prac. . . twenty years later. May 1. Wichita Eagle.” Kansas City Times.” he said. 1967. Star. The final Ross Parkway apartments.. began: “We are tired of war workers. istence that most of us would not consider subjecting mission tabled the plan. but dispensation of public services did Hilltop Manor had always been a part of Wichita. because being kicked around. ac- trol ended and public services were then provided by quired after war housing was no longer “vital for victo- Wichita for the five thousand remaining Planeview res. although. May 2. Even procedures passed by the city commission. Commissioner Clarence Vollmer three areas in Wichita with substandard living condi- advocated bulldozing the substandard homes and start.69 Planeview’s low-income housing. “Wichita Releases a Housing Report. the slum stepchildren image. October 28.” ibid. A transformation 67. city decided to rehabilitate Planeview instead of tearing urrected” what was still called the “pesky Planeview it down. “Wichcita [sic] Takes Over Planeview War-Born Suburb. tions.”71 C. chita’s most controversial population. . and the com. But were they? In the legal sense Planeview was an- ed their continued attention. The younger Ratner even lived for a chita. 1955.” The slums predicted in 1945 housing report listed the development as the worst of had become a reality.67 Even problem well when she suggested: “Why don’t we do though the Hilltop residents had won their case against away with the name of Planeview. Planeview continued to exist and to Agency. 1965. “City Hints Planeview Will Be Rehabilitated. Indochinese residents With the onset of a renewed attack. that idea had been attempted in 1961 be attributed to Planeview. Next November 16. according to Robert our household pets to. serve the existence and integrity of our section of Wi- tice in the 1950s. “The government should be willing to right its Southeast Asian refugees who largely settled in own wrong. . not affect community identity. 236 KANSAS HISTORY . 69. 1988. and per- But it was not until November 1955 that Planeview for. Planeview was home to Wi- are necessary — litigation. written by Ratner. . ry.” Wi.”70 further dismantlement was disconcerting and warrant. “The only all-encompassing characteristic that can ing again. September 28. Similar to the influx of non-Kansas na- gress to facilitate the removal of Planeview and similar tives during World War II.” Kansas City Week. as the Ten years later the Wichita City Commission “res. 1988. the “temporary” stigma and constant threat of Planeview any more. organize bags of rice to accommodate the newest citizens. “Refugees’ Depression Clouds chita Beacon. 1965. We’re not the city. Success. June 70. DesMarteau. telephone interview by author. 2000. haps to themselves. the 1980s brought to Wichita projects. however. Planeview residents were still a part mally became a part of the city under new annexation of a temporary and substandard community. 72.” One woman at the meeting summed up the time in Hilltop Manor while finishing law school. Payne “Darb” Ratner Jr. idents. once a home to Wichita’s statement. 68. We’re part of Wichita. Their purpose was to unite. To Wichitans. 15. nexed in 1955.68 The 1965 threat to litigate worked. many believed a bill should be put before Con. serve a purpose.

After a two-year battle. Beechwood (left). ca. WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 237 . the residents of Hilltop Manor (right) finally won the right to buy some of the permanent housing units. was completely demolished in 1955. The war’s end ignited a fight among Wichita’s residents over the removal of war housing. Not until November 1955 was Planeview an- nexed as part of Wichita. Against much opposi- tion. showing damage from a 1948 tornado. it was not razed and today continues to exist. thereby saving the com- munity from removal or demolition. This photo of the Planeview school library (left) was taken in post-war years.1954.

The obvious change was to the be an area of proposed rejuvenation. “Wichita Historic Preservation Board. commonly known as Planeview is not eligible for struggling to survive in Wichita. the effects of which still rever- the new millennium Hilltop Manor continues to berate in Wichita today. Staff Re. was the human transformation that war hous- that Wichita hired to do a neighborhood study of Hill.” the report concluded.” Wichita Eagle. The city “recognizes the area porary” stigma from Hilltop Manor. Although the development was ac. 1999. The historic context of the housing stock and sup. she noted.” ibid. parks. supporters of the Neighborhood Revitalization Comprehensive Plan of 1993 categorized Planeview as a Project are still fighting to remove the lingering “tem- “Re-establishment” area. during the Great Depression. was. .” Leah Claney is businesses. almost overnight transformed aviation into high- Places. of the city. The war housing developments of Planeview. century. Claney interview. They are determin- as severely deteriorated .. Claney has had the ed. Just as significant. Eagle predicted. . October 7. [which] may require a large ing areas where new housing can be developed. an Indianapolis company however. Item No. of the Mutual Housing Corporation accomplished in income housing.. Jill Owens of De. a once temporary community. and getting offi- of integrity for National Register inclusion was more cials to set rigid punishments for landlords who violate difficult. . opment that are not controlled by the very strict board knowledged as historically significant. Neverthe- and drainage systems. said of the community: “Hilltop is really a The economic boost the war workers created in 1941 fascinating neighborhood. Facilitated by the legacy of the New Deal.” February 1996. 238 KANSAS HISTORY .73 dollar industry and its host into a boomtown.” the 1943. 8A. “The Planeview of 1996 is not the Planeview of city codes. “Hilltop Looks port. proud of the Hilltop community and what the members ued existence and its service to residents needing low. same neighbor for the last forty-nine years. This and the opportunity to “rejuvenate and regenerate” hopefully will establish Hilltop Manor. It was helped Wichitans accept the initial transformation of never intended to be around as we approached the turn 74. permanently in the new port structures has been severely compromised. for Solutions. Optimism may 73. be Hilltop’s Lifeline. both city and resident initiat. left from the war days. Inc. . The onset of war. physical construction of the city. streets. “Special Report: Communities in Transition. ing brought to Wichita. crusad- scale overhaul to create vitality. velopment Concepts. continued into the 1990s on houses. of that boom. made to include Planeview on the National Register of especially in the remaining areas of the housing devel- Historic Places.” In 1996 an effort was ing for aggressive enforcement of housing codes. It shouldn’t be around.74 More than half of the original dwelling units have The long lasting effects of World War II on Wichita. September 2. and the commercial section of the Kansas. The Historic Preservation tined to become responsible for the nickname Air Capi- Board finds that the area in southeast Wichita tal of the World. The Wichita–Sedgwick County less. des- community has been either destroyed or modified beyond recognition . were remarkable. The aircraft industry. but here you have it. Little was recognizable of the “miracle city” that was and Beechwood were simultaneously a result and cause once a symbol for Wichita’s war on production. with a drastic increase of Asian citizens and of the century. 1999. the requirement of the Mutual Housing Corporation. . how- inclusion in the National Register of Historic ever. “Optimism may be Hilltop’s Lifeline. Hilltop Manor. In and community change. top in 1999. the late 1940s. There are still a few “original” residents Rehabilitation efforts. was made possible by Planeview’s contin. been removed. defense communities were an acknowledged necessity T he legacy of Wichita’s war housing is an ongoing of the war but were also a vehicle for tremendous social issue of community identity and acceptance.

This feeling undoubtedly was a contributing other. they helped make Wichita a successful modern industri- minder of unsatisfactory changes. Such an action would. and city leaders certainly newest residents. and the low-cost labor that gave Wichita and the ural that losing that other Wichita. As the city’s attempted removal. “Kansas—Jekyll or Hyde?” WANT TO BUILD A MIRACLE CITY? 239 . As the war ended and it be. in all probability. influenced Wichita’s easier and more appropriate to regret the one than the leaders. economic and political miracle. or witnessing such a Midwest an advantage continued to require the type of rapid transformation of it. defense workers wanted to be accept- wanted growth and progress. whether they were part of the most idealistic city tile effort to regain some semblance of the old. or racial and ethnic encompassing that other aspects of the smaller. Predictions about future came evident that Wichita would never again be the “slums” did come true.their town. pre-war minorities any more than it was to low-cost housing. The push for removal of Planeview was. ings. Wichitans did factor to the incessant and impractical drive to erase all not see that the war housing communities brought peo- traces of war housing from Wichita’s landscape. of course. Manor. just as city leaders feared. would have some effect on living area represented by Planeview and Hilltop longtime residents. an attempt to return to this plan.”75 75. catastrophe. Therefore. of course.” predicted William Allen White in 1942. ers.” nostalgia for the new mix of population surely remained. war on production and war housing improved Wichita Perhaps Wichita was not accustomed to labor unions. It was an at. The ple who were necessary to make the modern city thrive. to Wichita than was suggested by the “re-establish- ta’s expansion. Fears plans or not. and debacle. The people who lived and worked in the war hous- to the more familiar community identity. Their influence was far more important ple and housing was not on the original plan for Wichi. ed as Wichitans. ment” designations of Planeview’s dilapidated build- in some limited form. had mixed feelings about There was no “catastrophe. however. economically. not unalloyed joy either. And same pre-war “sleepy little cow town. It is only nat. But the explosion of peo. But it was what once was. In the midst of their xenophobia. “And let us pray to all the gods at once that it will come gently and not with revolution. “We are about to see a so- cial.” but the “miracle” was the transplanted citizens. but the change came so fast and was so members of the Democratic Party. al city. The city’s just as William Allen White liked Kansas and feared the new industrial strength required a cadre of wage work- “sea of change” brought by the emergency. Wichitans put forth a fu. Wichitans liked their city before the war those came with the boom of which it boasted. ing communities not only won the war on production. Many. prove impossible. The “accident” of World War II forced the about future real estate values were a major factor in the creation of a new community identity. But city were lost. tempt by the city to rid itself of at least the physical re.