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Gish Building

1BIn 1917, T.R. Reed was commissioned by Amos Gish to construct the Amos H. Gish Building.  Amos Gish operated his veterinary practice out of a second-story office and leased the first-story retail and rear garage space to various auto and storage business over the years.  Gish and his family lived in an apartment on the second floor while renting the additional apartments.  The Amos H. Gish Building was approved on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 under Criterion A in the area of Commerce.


El Dorado, Kansas (population 13,201 according to the 2010 U.S. Census) was platted after the Civil war and incorporated as a city of the third class in 1871.  It was situated along the banks of the Walnut River and by the time Amos Gish arrived in 1910, the city of 3,129 was serviced by two railroad lines, “four banks, an electric lighting plant, waterworks, a fire department, two daily and three weekly newspapers, good hotels, and well-kept streets.”

6BThe early twentieth century brought new interest in the area with the discovery of oil in Butler and Greenwood counties.  By the mid-1920s, this area produced a million barrels each month, making it an attractive area for investment and development.  With the community’s proximity to Wichita and the increasing industrial development of the early twentieth century, the need for good roads was obvious.  Associations formed throughout Kansas to promote good roads and connectivity as favorable for business and tourism.

The period 1900-1917 was the pioneering automobile period during which Kansas roads were developed from primitive dirt paths to interconnected and paved “dustless highways.” Car ownership grew exponentially from 220 automobiles in Kansas in 1900 to over 30,000 in 1912.

US Highway 54 connected western Illinois with El Paso, passing right through El Dorado. An auto-related commercial district emerged along US Highway 54, which entered the city from the east on Central Avenue and turned south on Main Street/Highway 77.  Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of El Dorado from this period illustrate the emergence of roadside oil- and auto-related commerce, particularly along South Main.

In 1912, the 300 and 400 blocks of South Main included three livery stables and a carriage house, but the 400 block was still primarily single-family dwellings.  By 1917, the Gish building at 317 S. Main was one of two auto businesses in the area. That number had expanded to six by 1923 and fourteen by 1930, including at least five car dealerships on South Main.

Built in 1917, the Gish Building was part of this boom of development in downtown El Dorado. While Gish ran his veterinary practice out of a second-floor office, various auto-related businesses operated out of the first floor.  The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map published in 1917 illustrates this scenario with two “auto-sales” rooms operating out of the first floor commercial spaces and a veterinary stable at the rear.  The 1923 and 1930 Sanborn maps note a furniture storage warehouse operating out of the first-floor commercial space and an auto-repair business in the rear.

historicfrontThe historic photograph to the right provides an illustration of what the storefront space looked like during the mid-1920s, with openings wide enough for vehicles to pass into and out of the building.

Later city directories list a succession of auto-related companies operating out of the first floor: the Wesley Moor Motor Company and El Dorado Standard Auto Pars (1941); Angle Motor company and Lane Supply Inc. (1946).

For nearly his entire professional career, Gish operated his veterinary practice out of the building at 317 & 319 South Main Street. The Gish family lived in an upstairs apartment and rented the remaining four apartments. The 1920 federal census lists tenants that included an auto mechanic, general laborer, oil company geologist, office receptionist, and railroad clerk. The 1930 federal census lists tenants with occupations such as a boilermaker at an oil refinery, a collector for a sewing machine company, and a bookkeeper at an ice factory. They paid monthly rents of $25 and $27. Amos Gish reported the value of his building as $20,000 in 1930.

At the time of his death in November 1969, Amos Gish and his wife Merle still lived in that second-floor apartment. She lived there until her death in 1971.

Amos H. Gish

Amos H. Gish was born in October 17, 1886 near Abilene, Dickinson County, Kansas. He was the third child born to John and Fanny Gish, who in 1900 were recorded in the federal census as having ten children.  The Gish family lived on a farm in Newbern Township, but moved to Manhattan sometime before 1910, when the federal census notes John working as a traveling salesman.

Amos attended Kansas State College and graduated from the veterinary program in 1910.  Upon graduation, Gish moved to El Dorado to practice veterinary medicine. There was an established

veterinarian already practicing in the city – Charles G. Saunders – and Gish likely collaborated with Saunders during his career. Saunders was listed in the 1910 federal census as a 61-year-old English immigrant who worked as a veterinary surgeon. His obituary published in the El Dorado Times on November 6, 1925, said he was born in 1849, educated in the schools of London, served six years as an apprentice in the study of veterinary surgery. He graduated from the Kansas City Veterinary College in 1893, and was working in El Dorado when Gish arrived in 1910.

4CAccording to the 1915-1916 city directory, Gish operated his new veterinary business out of a livery stable at 116-120 North Main. As was often the case with livery stables, the building was modified for automobile use at about the same time his new building was being constructed at 317 South Main.

Gish married Merle Gifford of El Dorado on November 12, 1914, and they had three children.  His son John also graduated from the veterinary program at Kansas State College, and joined his father’s practice in 1941.  Their practice cared for all types of animals. Amos was an expert in bovine medicine, and John specialized in equine care. They would typically travel to farms to care for the animals, but small animals were often treated in their downtown second-floor office.

John began his own practice when Amos retired in 1960, and it remains in business today as the El Dorado Animal Clinic.  Amos Gish served as president of the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association in 1919 and on the Kansas State Board of Veterinary Examiners in 1939.  According to his obituary, he served one term on the city commission in the 1930s and was particularly active in the formation of the rural electrification association serving Butler County. He served as the president of that organization from 1939 to 1959.

Veterinary Medicine in Kansas

During the mid- and late-nineteenth century in Kansas, local, minimally trained men – often simply referred to as horse doctors, largely performed veterinary services. The development of the stock raising and herding industry in Kansas brought large numbers of animals in contact with one another.  Stock raisers struggled with diseases in their herds, which led to many states implementing herd laws aimed at curbing the spread of disease. Concerned about epidemics and unqualified veterinarians, the few trained veterinarians throughout the country formed professional organizations and pushed for the professionalization of the field.

The Kansas Veterinary Medical Association8 – one of the first such veterinary associations in the United States – was organized through the efforts of Dr. A. A. Holcombe in 1884.  Holcombe, who had served as a professor of pathology and surgery at the American Veterinary College in New York City, was outspoken against unqualified and imposter veterinarians. The Kansas organization he founded was largely inactive after his departure from Kansas in 1886, but it was revived during the years 1889-1894 and again in 1904, just one year before Kansas State College established its veterinary program.

3DThe first reference to veterinary medicine at Kansas State University dates back to course catalogues of the mid-1860s and animal health courses were offered to students studying agriculture at the school beginning in 1886.  The Kansas Veterinary Medical Association was key to the professionalization of the field of veterinary medicine in Kansas during the early 1900s. The organization lobbied for the proposal of a bill in the Kansas Legislature known as “An Act to protect livestock owners of the State of Kansas from incompetent treatment of sick and lame animals, to License Veterinarians, and punishment for persons violating the provisions thereof.” They elected an executive board of Dr. O. O. Wolf of Holton, Dr. T. W. Hadley of Kansas City, and Dr. W. N. Hobbs of Holton. They paid Dr. Hugh Maxwell of Salina to represent the group at the statehouse in Topeka.

The Kansas Legislature passed the Veterinary Practice Act in 1907 and legitimized the practice of veterinary medicine through a license certification process by a board of veterinary examiners. The board issued its first register of licensed veterinarians in September 1909, and it

contained 642 names, which included 166 “graduates” and 476 “existing practitioners.”  Dr. D. M. Campbell of Chicago, who had lived in Kansas during this period, later recalled that “very few veterinarians in the state were known beyond the locality in which they lived.”  Nonetheless, veterinary medicine had taken a big step toward professionalization, and this was the professional environment into which Amos Gish was thrust when he graduated from Kansas State College in 1910.

317 S. Main

The building is for rent and the owner is willing to build to suit. For more information contact David Sundgren at 316.321.6100.

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