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Saturday, February 13, 2021

60 Years of Memories: Ghost Places


60 Years Of Memories Of Butler

by James Ring


Follow the Butler Square’s paving bricks westward, down Ohio street, and you’ll find they stop at Fulton street—except they really don’t. You’ll find them down under the asphalt of Ohio, cropping out again on the west side of Orange street, the Old 71 strip. They led to the railroad station, where disembarking travelers could ride uptown on a real paved street over a century ago.


I still remember the Missouri Pacific Depot, which sat on the east side of the tracks between Ohio and Pine streets. Freight and mail passed through it when I first came to town, although passenger trains no longer ran. Nothing remains of the MOP era.


Out at the Recreation Lake on east Nursery street, there’s a curious reverse-curved embankment holding the lake waters on the northeast corner. That’s because there was, in the early 1900s, an oval horse racing track in the adjacent field with a huge grandstand. I’m told that its outline can be seen from the air, traced in the crop’s colors when conditions are right.


On the east side of south Main street, down past Nursery, there are traces of a long hump in the pasture surface. It’s what’s left of a failed scheme to build a railroad right-of-way, taking investor’s money and dreams back in the early days of the town.


Of course, regular readers know that a short yardage golf course used to lie on the west side of the railroad tracks, between Fort Scott and Nursery streets, in use during World War 2, and that the Butler Fair grounds were on the west side of West street, between Ohio and Mill streets, with a horse track. It was discontinued before 1960, but I attended as a child.


At the extreme south end of High street, there a brief time when a large contingent of trailer homes housed workers for the Boeing Minuteman nuclear missile installation project, about 1961 and 1962. The speed limit was 5 mph in the tight lanes of that complex. Not a trace remains.


On the east side of the I-49 bypass, just after it passes under TT highway and curves back east to climb over the railroad, you’ll see a big post sticking up in the field south of the Bates County Speedway racetrack. That’s a missile cable marker post; they were installed where the communication cables between Minuteman sites changed direction. Buried 5 feet or more in the ground, the arm-thick cable ran straight from that post to another one on the airport, and then to the southeast around the city of Butler. Few of these posts remain.

Farther afield, we can remember the dismantling of the Midway Queen dragline in the field just west of Amoret, on the south side of 52. Coal was dug between Amsterdam and Amoret to feed the KCP&L LaCygne power station, until even the huge Queen and Princess couldn’t uncover enough clean coal to meet new environmental regulations.


At Montrose, KCP&L’s Montrose station is now just a memory, all traces of its huge structure and stacks removed just last year. I watched it go up, as a kid, and now I watched it come down, as an old man. Before LaCygne was built, we thought it was the biggest thing we’d ever seen, to our country bumpkin eyes. 


Memories are all we have to resurrect those by-gone places.