Alfred Bitting home

THEN:  Photo is from the Wichita Public Library collection.

In honor of the new HPA T-shirts, which first went on sale during the River Festival, this issue's Then and Now features a ghost pictured on the shirt.

The Bitting house, at 1157 N. Topeka, was built by Alfred Bitting, who, with his brother Charles, also built the Bitting clothing store on the northwest corner of Douglas and Market in the 1870s. That area is still known as the Bitting Block.

The two brothers were successful business men, making a name for themselves for both quality and selection and gaining a contract to provide uniforms for the Wichita Police Department. The first building they constructed was a two story frame structure, built shortly after their arrival from Pennsylvania in 1877. After that building burned on Jan. 2, 1911, the brothers immediately rebuilt, this time with a four storey brick structure. That building, which was increased to 11 stories in 1919, is still standing. 

Not so lasting were the grand homes built by the two brothers. Charles built a home at 715 N. Lawrence, now known as Broadway. Both it and Alfred's 1157 N. Topeka home have been razed.

Typical of the Queen Anne Victorian style popular during the housing construction boom of 1887, the three-storey Alfred Bitting house featured large porches, multiple bay windows, pediments and medieval towers arranged in an asymmetrical composition.

All those intricacies were replaced by a 1950s style Safeway store featuring a winglike roof over a large, plain one-storey expanse. While the structure is not in any way fitting for its location in the historic Mid-Town district where it sits, it does provide a useful purpose for that neighborhood. The building is now owned by Mid-Town and is the Wichita Community Resource Center.