The Eagle’s move to Old Town Square is not the first time it has relocated in Wichita.
During the 36 years that he was a commanding force at The Eagle, founder Marshall Murdock moved the company three times in downtown Wichita.
Murdock was a man who liked his news company to go big, promising his readers it was not only the largest paper in Kansas but in the entire southwestern United States.
And while it may no longer be the biggest paper in the Southwest, The Eagle is still the largest newspaper in Kansas, and Kansas.com draws digital readers from around the world.
The Eagle averages more than 1.8 million visitors to Kansas.com each month, far more readers than it ever had in its largest print days. The print edition of The Eagle still reaches tens of thousands of subscribers a day.
The Eagle’s new headquarters is at 330 N. Mead, less than an eighth of a mile from where the paper first began in 1872.
The Eagle’s new home is at 330 N. Mead, less than an eighth of a mile from where the paper first began in 1872 and one-third of a mile north of its current location at 825 E. Douglas. The company is scheduled to begin operating out of its Old Town location on May 1.
Roy Heatherly, president and publisher of The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, said he is fascinated by the similarities among each generation of The Eagle.
“Like the Murdock family, we face challenges and opportunities,” he said. “Like the Murdock family, we are adapting to changes in our industry and changes to the market. Like the Murdock family, we are on the move.
“And like the Murdock family, we maintain a large readership base and are growing into the future with our expanded digital opportunities.”
Establishing a legacy
The Eagle’s first home was a wood building at Main and Third. It was constructed to serve and house the county’s poor, according to the April 26, 1931, edition of The Eagle.
But the building was empty when Murdock came to town in April 1872, so arrangements were made to make it The Eagle’s first home.
The Eagle used the building for two years before Murdock decided larger quarters were needed. Its next location was in the Eagle Block, on the southwest corner of Main and Douglas. It would remain there until 1884.
Nearly eight decades later, when the Murdock family was helping establish and promote Old Cowtown Museum, The Eagle’s first building would be re-created there. An old grocery store built in 1890 was moved from Ninth and Main to the Cowtown site in 1959 and painted to look like the first Eagle building.
An 1870 Washington Press, thought to have been Murdock’s, is in the building to showcase The Eagle’s early years.
From 1884 to 1908, The Eagle was at 111 E. Douglas, near the current pop-up park.
And although The Eagle was one of the first users of telephone and gas service in Wichita, times were tough in the city. A land boom, followed by a severe bust, bankrupted businesses and residents, many of whom left town.
Despite the financial uncertainty, The Eagle continued to upgrade its technology and persevere.
“During the (1890s) nineties, during the very worst time the country had ever seen, The Eagle installed type setting machines, subscribed to the full report of the Associated Press and with a courage that was desperate, faced adversity,” The Eagle reported in 1920.
The economy eventually began to turn around as the next generation of Wichitans began to re-invent the businesses and industries that would cause the city to thrive.
A move to Market
A dream of Murdock’s was to see The Eagle’s next move into a four-story building at 201 S. Market, the southwest corner of Market and William. It would be there for the next 53 years.
“Col. Murdock, the founder, recognized the necessity of keeping pace in facilities of newspaper production,” Murdock’s son Marcellus would write in 1920.
“Col. Murdock wistfully watched the progress of the new building as it neared completion day by day, but he never entered the building.”
Murdock died in 1908, before the building was completed later that year. The new building contained two mammoth presses, typesetters, reporters, editors, circulation workers and the Missouri and Kansas telegraph service and Associated Press service.
During that time, people would flock to the doors of The Eagle when important news of the day was breaking. The Eagle ran a story and a photo in the 1920s of how a crowd had gathered for news of the World Series.
At Murdock’s death, his wife, Victoria, became the proprietor of The Eagle for the next seven years until her death. Her philosophy was to carry on as her husband would have.
The Murdocks’ son Victor served as a state representative, was a war correspondent in 1916, was a member of the Federal Trade Commission from 1917 to 1924 and then edited The Eagle until his death in Wichita on July 8, 1945.
Marcellus Murdock became The Eagle’s managing editor in 1903 and, after his father died, the paper’s publisher. He died in 1970.
As early as the 1920s, The Eagle embraced the image of Wichita as the air capital. The newspaper owned a plane, and Marcellus Murdock became one of the first newspaper publishers to fly one.
In 1910, The Eagle took on City Hall and said local officials were corrupt. It would eventually bring the city manager form of government to Wichita in 1917.
In 1910, The Eagle took on City Hall and reported that local officials were corrupt. The Eagle’s coverage told of a secret room discovered in the basement of Wichita’s old City Hall, with a bedroom and empty liquor bottles, syringes and pornography.
It would eventually bring the city manager form of government to Wichita in 1917, which the city still has today.
The Eagle moved to its current location at 825 E. Douglas in 1961, which would become its longest-occupied home.
The move came after The Eagle bought the rival Beacon newspaper. An addition was added to the building, which was owned by The Beacon, and Eagle employees moved in.
In its time on East Douglas, The Eagle was sold by the Murdock family to Ridder Publications, which eventually merged into Knight Ridder. The Eagle was bought by McClatchy Corp. in 2006. The Beacon had folded in 1980.
The additions to The Eagle building were made by Wichitan Charles McAfee, one of the most noted African-American architects in the nation. One of the additions, in the early 1970s, involved the installation of electrical wiring for computers.
Through the years, The Eagle has reported on grasshopper invasions, land runs, cattle drives and the Dust Bowl. It has reported on the Great Depression, two world wars, an Eisenhower presidency, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Gulf Wars and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It remains the information source that reports, as Murdock believed, on the “people who do extraordinary things in extraordinary ways.”
The mechanics and methods of news gathering have changed through the years, but the legacy and principle – “Favor no class or clan or caste” – that Murdock demanded remains the same.
“The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com remain committed to the principles Col. Murdock established and to the First Amendment,” said Heatherly, The Eagle’s publisher. “Like Col. Murdock, we believe in The Wichita Eagle and in Wichita, and we believe in a very bright future.”
Locations of The Wichita Eagle
1872-74: Main and Third; building was destroyed by fire but has been re-created at Old Cowtown Museum.
1874-84: The newspaper office was located in the Eagle Block, on the southwest corner of Main and Douglas.
1884-1908: The offices were moved next door. The location was still at Main and Douglas, but the address was 111 E. Douglas.
1908-61: The next location of The Eagle was at the southwest corner of Market and William, 201 S. Market.
1961-present: The Eagle has been at 825 E. Douglas for 56 years.
May 1: The Eagle moves to Old Town, 330 N. Mead.