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National and State Registers of Historic Places

Boot Hill Museum

Picture of property 500 West Wyatt Earp Blvd
Dodge City (Ford County)
Listed in State Register 2013-02-09

Architect: see notes
Category: museum
Thematic Nomination: Roadside Kansas

Dodge City's livelihood has long depended upon its ability to reinvent itself. It was born of the Santa Fe Trail, developed with the coming of the Santa Fe Railroad, and looked to the New Santa Fe Trail - Highway 50 - for renewal. While Dodge City was remaking itself, the entertainment industry was capitalizing on its place in American popular culture - as the stereotypical Wild West town. While the protagonists of dime novels, movies, and television series like Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon were telling bad guys to "get the heck out of Dodge," tourists flocked to the legendary town. By the mid-20th century, the city's efforts to live down its rowdy past were overwhelmed by the potential for capitalizing on it. Locals had been advocating for a Boot Hill museum as early as the 1920s, but it wasn't until after the 1939 world premiere of the movie Dodge City, which firmly placed the town within the popular culture lexicon, that the city commission issued bonds to begin construction. The site developed in stages and was largely complete by 1964. Boot Hill Museum was nominated as part of the "Roadside Kansas" multiple property nomination for its significance in the areas of entertainment and education as a mid-20th century museum that interprets Dodge City's history as a cowtown and for its association with the local tourism industry.

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