Old Cowtown Museum is starting construction for a new building that will showcase vehicles of the 1880s, including buggies, carriages and wagons.

The $250,000 project was made possible by a year of fundraising including both large and small contributions from a long list of donors.

The McKenzie and Company Carriage Works Repository Building stood on two lots at 157-9 North Water Street and was built in 1884. It was owned and operated by M.A. McKenzie. Carriages, buggies and spring wagons were made there. Workers also repaired, repainted and trimmed used vehicles.

Anthony Horsch, education director at Cowtown said it is quite likely that the Carriage Works provided jobs for African American workers as the time frame coincides with the period when Wesley Hodge operated a successful blacksmith shop in Wichita.

It was also the time frame when many formerly enslaved people were leaving the South to try to find opportunity.. 

Railroads advertised Kansas’s good farmland and pleasant climate and provided cheap transportation for settlers to come. Because Kansas was a leading anti-slavery state before and during the War, many formerly enslaved people thought Kansas was a place they would be welcomed.

The Cowtown Carriage Works exhibit building will have room to display about 10 vehicles that are already in the museum’s collection.