1950-1999 Did You Know Wichita

Henderson's Post-War Boom and Diversification (1950-1969)

Wichita, Kansas, has a storied past reflecting its spirit of innovation, community, and resilience. The latter half of the 20th century, from 1950 to 1999, was a period of significant growth and transformation for the city. This online city guide explores interesting facts about Wichita during these decades, unveiling the developments shaping the city’s identity.

Wichita's Golden Era of Aviation

Post-World War II, Wichita solidified its reputation as the “Air Capital of the World.” The city’s aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, Cessna, and Learjet, played pivotal roles in the aviation industry, producing a significant portion of the world’s aircraft.

This era also saw the birth of the general aviation industry, with Wichita at its heart. Innovations and advancements from Wichita’s manufacturers contributed to the global aviation landscape, making air travel more accessible and widespread.  Without Wichita many experts say the World War II outcome would be different. 


1st Wichita Guide 1stwichitaguide.com

1950-1999 Did You Know...

1. 1950: Wichita State University became a state university.
2. 1953: The first television station in Wichita, KAKE-TV, began broadcasting.
3. 1954: The Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport opened.
4. 1955: The first McDonald’s in Wichita opened.
5. 1958: Pizza Hut was founded in Wichita by Dan and Frank Carney.
6. 1962: The first shopping mall in Wichita, Twin Lakes Shopping Center, opened.
7. 1964: Wichita State University’s football team appeared in the Sun Bowl.
8. 1969: Joyland Amusement Park introduced the famous wooden roller coaster, the “Nightmare.”
9. 1970: The population of Wichita surpassed 276,000.
10. 1971: Sedgwick County Zoo opened.
11. 1978: The Wichita Wings, a professional indoor soccer team, was established.
12. 1980: Wichita State University’s basketball team reached the NCAA Final Four.
13. 1985: The famous rock band Guns N’ Roses played one of their first concerts in Wichita.
14. 1987: Botanica, The Wichita Gardens was opened.
15. 1989: The Epic Center, Wichita’s tallest building, was completed.
16. 1991: The devastating Wichita-Andover, KS F5 tornado struck.
17. 1992: The Wichita Thunder ice hockey team was formed.
18. 1996: The historic Orpheum Theatre underwent a major renovation.
19. 1998: Exploration Place, a science museum, opened its doors.
20. 1999: The Wichita State University Shockers men’s basketball team won the Missouri Valley Conference title.
21. 1952: Old Cowtown Museum was established.
22. 1953: Wichita Mid-Continent Airport was built, later renamed Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.
23. 1953: The US military Wichita Air Force Base came into use.
24. 1954: Wichita Audubon Society was founded.
25. 1954: The autopilot was invented by David D. Blanton.
26. 1958: Dockum Drug Store sit-in, an important civil rights event, took place in July.
27. 1965: Wichita State University Shockers men’s basketball team made its first ever appearance in the Final Four.
28. 1967: The central Wichita Public Library building was dedicated.
29. 1969: Century II opened after razing blocks of the warehouse district south of Douglas Street.
30. 1969: Cessna Stadium expansion at Wichita State University was built.
31. 1971: Kansas African American Museum was founded.
32. 1975: Towne East Square shopping mall opened.
33. 1976: Mid-America All-Indian Center was established.
34. 1977: Kansas Coliseum opened.
35. 1979: The Herman Hill riot occurred on April 15.
36. 1980: Towne West Square shopping mall opened.
37. 1984: Kansas Food Bank was established.
38. 1987: Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, opened.
39. 1989: The Epic Center, Wichita’s tallest building, was completed.
40. 1991: The Wichita-Andover, KS F5 tornado struck.
41. 1992: Wichita Thunder ice hockey team was formed.
42. 1993: Southwind Sangha Sōtō Zen Association was founded.
43. 1997: Wichita’s city website went online (approximate date).
44. 1998: Exploration Place, a science museum, was inaugurated.
45. 1999: Wichita State University Shockers men’s basketball team won the Missouri Valley Conference title.
46. 1972: The first “Tallgrass Film Festival” was held in Wichita, fostering the local film culture.
47. 1973: Groundbreaking for the Hyatt Regency Wichita, which would become a key hotel in the city’s skyline.
48. 1974: Wichita’s first community garden was established, promoting urban agriculture.
49. 1981: The Wichita Art Museum acquired the Roland P. Murdock Collection, significantly enhancing its holdings.
50. 1982: The Wichita River Festival began its annual celebration, becoming one of the city’s largest community events.
51. 1983: The Wichita Greyhound Park opened, introducing live greyhound racing to the region.
52. 1986: Wichita’s first microbrewery opened, marking the beginning of the craft beer movement in the city.
53. 1988: The Great Plains Transportation Museum was founded to preserve Wichita’s railway heritage.
54. 1990: Wichita’s “The Big Read” program launched, encouraging city-wide participation in reading and discussing a single book.
55. 1993: The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum displayed the first electric guitar, invented by a Wichita native.
56. 1994: McConnell Air Force Base hosted its first air show, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
57. 1995: The first GPS test flight took place in Wichita, demonstrating the city’s ongoing involvement in aviation innovation.
58. 1997: Wichita hosted the National Baseball Congress World Series, highlighting its significance in amateur baseball.
59. 1998: Wichita’s first internet café opened, providing public access to the emerging world wide web.
60. 1999: The “Wichita Walk of Fame” was established, honoring notable Wichitans for their contributions to the city and beyond.
61. 1956: The first automated teller machine (ATM) in Wichita was installed.
62. 1959: The Monarch Cement Company, one of the oldest businesses in Wichita, celebrated its 100th anniversary.
63. 1960: The “Keeper of the Plains” statue by Blackbear Bosin was erected at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers.
64. 1963: Wichita became the first city in Kansas to adopt a council-manager form of government.
65. 1966: The Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum opened in the original Wichita City Hall, built in 1892.
66. 1974: “Wichita Festivals, Inc.” was established to organize citywide events and celebrations.
67. 1976: The “Wichita Historical Museum” launched its first mobile exhibit, bringing history to local schools.
68. 1979: The “Wichita Jazz Festival” was founded, enhancing the city’s musical landscape.
69. 1981: The “Arkansas River Coalition” was formed to protect and enhance the river’s natural environment.
70. 1983: “The Lux,” a historic building, was converted into a mixed-use space, sparking downtown revitalization efforts.
71. 1985: The “Wichita Symphony Orchestra” performed its first open-air concert at the newly established Bradley Fair.
72. 1986: Wichita’s “Old Town” district was revitalized, becoming a center for nightlife and entertainment.
73. 1988: The city’s first “Art in the Park” event showcased local artists in Riverside Park.
74. 1990: “Wichita’s First Friday” art crawls began, encouraging community engagement with the arts.
75. 1992: The “Keeper of the Plains” statue underwent its first major restoration.
76. 1994: The “Wichita Asian Festival” was established, celebrating Asian culture and diversity.
77. 1995: “The Coleman Factory Outlet and Museum” opened, highlighting the company’s history in outdoor recreation products.
78. 1996: Wichita’s first “community-supported agriculture” (CSA) program was launched.
79. 1997: The “Wichita Public Market” opened, providing a venue for local farmers and artisans.
80. 1999: “The Orpheum Theatre” celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special series of performances and events.
81. 1957: Wichita’s first planetarium opened to the public, offering educational sky shows.
82. 1961: The “All Indian Pueblo Council” held its meeting in Wichita, symbolizing the city’s importance to Native American culture.
83. 1968: Wichita State University’s Rhatigan Student Center was inaugurated, becoming a hub for student activities.
84. 1970: The “Wichita Massacre” occurred, a tragic event shaping the city’s law enforcement policies.
85. 1973: Wichita introduced its first bicycle lanes, promoting alternative transportation.
86. 1972: The “Wichita-Sedgwick County Expressway” (I-235) was completed, improving the city’s transportation network.
87. 1975: “The Wichita Eagle” newspaper merged with “The Wichita Beacon,” consolidating the city’s primary news sources.
88. 1978: Wichita’s “Delano District” underwent significant redevelopment, enhancing its historic charm and appeal.
89. 1982: The “Wichita Area Technical College” was established, offering vocational and technical education to the community.
90. 1984: The “Great Wichita Flood” caused significant damage, leading to improved flood control measures.
91. 1986: The “Wichita Public Library” launched its first computerized catalog system, modernizing its services.
92. 1987: “The Museum of World Treasures” was founded, initially as a private collection open to the public.
93. 1988: Wichita’s “Veterans Memorial Park” was dedicated, honoring the service of military veterans.
94. 1991: “The Wichita Firefighters Memorial” was unveiled, commemorating firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.
95. 1993: Wichita State University’s “Hughes Metropolitan Complex” opened, serving as a venue for conferences and community events.
96. 1994: The “Wichita Community Foundation” was established to support local philanthropic efforts.
97. 1996: The “Wichita Riverfront Park” project began, aimed at enhancing the riverfront area for public enjoyment.
98. 1997: “The Tallgrass Film Festival” was founded, celebrating independent film in the heart of the country.
99. 1998: Wichita’s “Old Mill Tasty Shop” was recognized as a historic local eatery, known for its soda fountain and classic American fare.
100. 1999: The “Ulrich Museum of Art” at Wichita State University acquired a significant collection of modern and contemporary art, boosting its status as a leading art institution in the Midwest.
101. 1956: Wichita introduced its first sister city relationship with Cancún, Mexico, promoting international friendship and cultural exchange.
102. 1959: The first “Wichita Historical Marker” was placed, beginning a citywide effort to commemorate local sites.
103. 1960: The “Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center” was conceptualized, marking a significant development in the city’s cultural infrastructure.
104. 1963: The “Wichita Art Association” was renamed “The Wichita Center for the Arts,” expanding its mission and programs.
105. 1967: Wichita’s first “Urban Renewal Project” was initiated, aiming to revitalize the city’s core.

Cultural Flourish

The 1950s to 1990s there were technological advancements and also cultural enrichment in Wichita. The establishment of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, the Music Theatre of Wichita, and the Wichita Art Museum’s expansion brought a diverse array of arts to the city’s residents.

These institutions became cornerstones of Wichita’s cultural scene, providing platforms for local artists and performers, and enriching the community’s cultural life.


Transforming the Urban Landscape

The latter half of the 20th century was a time of significant urban development in Wichita. The construction of landmarks such as the Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center and the exploration of urban renewal projects reshaped the city’s skyline and infrastructure.  These developments reflected Wichita’s growth and its ambition to become a modern urban center, balancing its historical roots with a vision for the future.

Wichita's Legacy and Look to the Future

Reflecting on Wichita’s journey from 1950 to 1999 offers insights into a city continually evolving while maintaining its core values. This period laid the groundwork for the Wichita of today.  It developed a proud history, from its aviation heritage to its cultural contributions, while looking forward to a continued growth and innovation.

As we explore Wichita through these decades, we uncover a narrative of progress and resilience. Each fact and story from this era not only adds to our understanding of Wichita’s identity but also inspires us to explore more about this dynamic city.


As we all know, Wichita is an exciting city.  To list the city highlights of decades to a small list is really an injustice.  Space is limited. However, if you think we left an important date out of our list, please click the contact button below and share your information. Thank you.

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