From the Collection: ’51 Ford Trucks

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A recent addition to the HCHM’s collection of business advertising was this cloth banner.

Advertising Banner for ’51 Ford Trucks

The banner was used to promote the 1951 Ford Truck at the Nordstrom-Mack Auto Dealership located at 200 West Broadway in Newton.

1947 view of 200 West Broadway, Newton, and the Nordstrom-Mack Ford Dealership. Sign reads: “No parking During School Hours Except for Loading and Unloading.

The banner was donated to HCHM by Carol Hoffer.  Her father, Leonard Hoffer, worked as a mechanic for the dealership.

Nordstrom- Mack Ford Dealership, 200 West Broadway, Newton, 1949.

Nordstrom Mack Motor Co, was a Ford dealer for new and used cars in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  The description in the 1952  Newton City Directory also noted that the business was equipped to handle “body repairs and painting -all makes of cars.”

Driver-training class and police officers pose in front of NHS. Nordstrom-Mack Dealership visible.

The company was run by Albert E. Nordstrom (president), Herbert H. Mack (vice president), and Newton O. Ream (sec/treas).  W.E. Hummel was the manager.

Construction in front of NHS, 1954. Nordstrom-Mack Dealership visible.


Newton City Directory: 1952

Open For Business – Again

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Note: This post concludes our three part series on the Ragsdale/Knoepker Opera House Fire, January 1, 1915.

It is hard to imagine what Thomas H. McManus thought on the morning of January 1, 1915 after viewing the destruction of his business, for the second time in five months. The Weekly Kansan Republican noted that McManus“had no statement to make . . . He is very much discouraged.”

A heavy loser in the fire that consumed the 500 block of Main in August, McManus was temporarily located in the Opera House while he was rebuilding his store at 516 Main.

 McManus Department Store, 510-512-514, Main, Newton, 1911.

McManus Dept. Store, 1911.

McManus Dept. Store, 1911.

Scene from 4 August 1914, McManus Department Store, 510-512-514, Main, Newton.


After the August 4, 1914 Fire


McManus Dept Store Open For Business Opera Block

According to the newspaper reports after the Opera House fire, he was well stocked with new merchandise.

“The heaviest loser, aside from the owner of the opera block, is T.H. McManus, who has built up the stocks of his department store in this building since the great fire in August, when he was also one of the heaviest losers.  . . the rooms occupied were packed full of new goods.  the store occupied the entire front of the first floor and a part of the second floor.”

Bystanders had been able to rescue “a few armsful of ready-to-wear garments,” McManus’ desk, and the “safe was dug out of the debris.”  Everything else was a loss.

Born in Ireland in the mid-1860s,  Thomas H. McManus had immigrated to the United Sates in the 1880s.  In February 1895, he purchased purchased the dry goods portion of H.M. Walt’s Newton store.  A year later, McManus married a Kansas girl by the name of Bernice.  They had at least two daughters,  A. Irene, born in 1897, and Bernice, who died at eleven months.  For a short time, his brother Bernard, was also part of the business.

T.H. McManus, 1914

T.H. McManus, 1914

Following the opera house fire, the Weekly Kansan Republican had words of encouragement for McManus.

“He has overcome great obstacles . . . and will not himself be overcome by this last disaster.  He is, of course, undetermined on future plans in detail, but Newton needs Tom McManus, and will pardon the expressed thought that his greatest asset is his loyal friends in the locality.” 

On January 2, McManus announced that the grocery portion of his business would be ready to open at a temporary location on west 6th.  In addition, he expected to be in his new building on Main by the middle of January.  Noting that he “has employed 113 men . . . and they will be kept at work night and day until the work is finished.”

Newton Kansan Republican, 2 January 1915

Newton Kansan Republican, 2 January 1915

McManus operated some form of his business in Newton until approximately 1920.  At some point after 1920, the McManus family moved to California.  Bernnice McManus died in 1928 and Thomas in 1934.  There are both buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Thomas H. McManus Marker at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, CA

Thomas H. McManus Marker at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, CA

Trousdale Building

Although McManus lost the most, several other businesses also suffered from the fire.  The Trousdale Building was the structure to the north of the opera house. A hotel, operated by J.E. Hall, and Marten Motor Co were located in the building. In addition to hotel guests, Hall and his wife lived in the building and lost all of their personal possessions in addition to new furniture for their new restaurant.

Opera House Fire, January 1, 1915.  Building at the far right Marten Motor Co, 709 N. Main.

Opera House Fire, January 1, 1915. Building at the far right Marten Motor Co, 709 N. Main.

Once the structure was “declared safe,” the Martin Motor Co.  continued to operate in the Trousdale Building. Until the evening of January 6, when,

“during the worst of the wind storm they [the walls] were blown over. The bricks fell on the top of Martens garage . . . and the roof on the south side was caved in and the automobiles which were kept in the building were covered with falling brick and wood. . . there is not much chance of any of them being repaired.”

Martin Motor Co. after January 6, 1915

Marten lost two cars, both Buicks, one of which had never been used. Seven other men lost cars they had stored there. Luckily, only one person was in the building at the time, Dora Dahlem worked for Marten Motors, and she was able to get out safely.  She reported that “from the noise that was made she thought that an earthquake was taking place.” The damage was estimated to be around $8,000. Following the collapse, “a force of men was set to work . . . tearing down part of the third story in order to prevent another occurrence.”

Total losses for the opera house fire $158,000 and affected six businesses, not including Knoepker’s loss as property owner. Those affected included; T.H. McManus, J.E. Hall, W.J. Trousdale, Mel Reynolds, John Murphy and Martens.

The cause of the fire that consumed the Ragsdale/Knoepker Opera House, took one life, and damaged nearby structures in the early morning hours of January 1, 1915, was never determined.


  • Evening Kansan Republican, 1 January 1915, 2 January 1915.
  • Weekly Kansan Republican, 7 January 1915.
  • Newton Journal 8 January 1915.
  • Newton City Directories:  1887, 1902, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1931.
  • U.S. Census, 1900, 1910.
  • Early Fire Protection In Newton, Kansas, 1872-1922.
  • Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary, 22 August 1922.
  • Fent, Mary Jeanine. Ragsdale Opera House — Newton, Kansas, 1885-1915. MA Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1977. HCHM Archives.
  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • Find A Grave, Thomas H. McManus and Bernice McManus.

The Building at 815 Main

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In the early 1880s, Newton was growing.  The ‘rougher’ cowboys and the businesses associated with them had moved south to Wichita with the cattle trade.  Town leaders focused on building a community with stable businesses.  Several businesses were soon established along Main, just north of the railroad tracks between 5th and Broadway including banks, hotels and general stores.  The Ragsdale Opera House at the corner of Broadway and Main was completed in 1885.  North of the Opera House there was still plenty of room for businesses.  The First Methodist Church was located at the corner of 7th and Main. The new Harvey County Jail had just been completed between on the east side of Main between 7th & 8th, otherwise few businesses had moved that far north.  There were opportunities for growth in Newton, Kansas.

In 1883, 22 year old William Bergh, a native of

“Luxemberg, Germany,” arrived in Newton Kansas.  He must have been skilled at working with metal because within four years he established the Newton Cornice and Tin Works at 815 Main, next door to the Bretch Building which was built in 1888.

Bergh married Jeanette Dreyfuss on 23 November 1887 and they had two children.

Bretch Building (811 Main) and Newton Cornice & Tin Works (815 Main) in 1910

Bretch Building (811 Main) and Newton Cornice & Tin Works (815 Main) in 1910

Bergh operated his business until 1918, when he retired.  His obituary stated that “he was the owner of the largest cornice and metal works business ever constructed in Newton.” Bergh died in 1933 at the age of 71.

Over the years, the building at 815 Main has been home to a number of businesses. Often the second floor served as apartments.

In 1971, it became the location of Cuellar Sewing Machine Co. Rosalio ‘Russ’ Cuellar grew up in Newton.  After graduating from Newton High, Cuellar worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, but soon he was looking for another opportunity.  He started working for the Singer Sewing Machine Co as a salesman and technician.  By 1967, he was able to open his own store in Newton. Four years later, he became the “first Hispanic business owner on Main Street in Newton” when he moved his business to the building at 815 Main.

In addition to his business, Cuellar served as a court interpreter and was active in various community organization and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.  He married Judy Macias in 1951 and they had six children. Cuellar died in 2010 at the age of 79.

In 2003, the building at 815 Main was included in “Main Street Historic District No 2” on both the National Register and Kansas Register of Historic Places.  At that time the building was described as an

“elegantly designed building . . . one of the eye-catching gems of Main Street.  It has a three-sided bay window, topped by a cast iron railing; above a metal cornice with urn finials at each end, and a Mansard roof.”

Billie Jo Wilson, Historic Preservation Planner, City of Newton, provided additional architectural information from the nomination forms for the National Historic Register.

The architectural style and details were described as follows:

“This two-story, three-bay masonry building dates between 1886 and 1896.  It is one of the more high style Italianate buildings remaining on Main Street.  The ground floor has received some alterations, but it retains the door to the upper floor.  A substantial cornice separates the first floor from the second.  On the second floor, there is an ornamented, projecting three sided bay.  The front window opening is arched, and the two side windows of the bay are long, narrow rectangles.  The top of the bay is surrounded by a bracketed cornice, above which is a cast iron railing.  The windows on either side of the bay are also in arched openings, but unfortunately, all of the arched windows have been removed and replaced with flat top windows.  Above these arched windows are particularly ornate cornices. The second floor is capped by a large decorative bracketed metal cornice, featuring urn finials on each end.  Above this is a diamond patterned shingle roof, which looks like the bottom section of a double-pitched mansard roof.  There remains one metal cornice cap at one end above this shingled section.  The 1896 Sanborn Insurance map indicates that this was a three-story building with a framed roof, and shows a dwelling on the second floor and furnished rooms on the third.  The 1915 maps shows a third story, which this building appears to share with the three story building next door at 813 N Main as the Bethel Business College.  The adjacent three story building was demolished some time after 1963 [The building was demolished in 1994].  “The south wall of the current building, which would have been the party wall between the two buildings, is now stuccoed.  It is probable that the rest of the mansard roof was removed at the same time as the demolition of 813 N Main.  The north wall displays its limestone construction and retains two chimneys.”

Today, the building is empty.

Update June 18, 2019

The space has been re-imagined to a area for food trucks to gather.

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  • Sanborn Insurance Company Maps, 1884, 1891, 1896, 1909, 1915.  HCHM Archives.
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902-03, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1973.
  • US Census: 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.
  • Evening Kansan Republican 21 July 1933. William Bergh Obituary.
  • Newton Kansan, 22 April 2010.  Rosalio ‘Russ’ M. Cuellar Obituary.
  • Newton Kansan 30 June 2010 “Cuellar Sewing Shop, Wonder bread outlet close doors for good.”
  • The Historic Preservation Commission of Newton and North Newton, Ks.  At The Crossroads of Kansas: Architecture, History, and Preservation at Newton and North Newton, Ks, 2003.
  • Waltner, Rachel. Brick and Mortar: A History of Newton, Ks Mennonite Library & Archives, N. Newton in Cooperation with the City of Newton, 1984.