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John A. Stevens

Windsor Hotel and Stevens Opera House, Garden CityA founding father of Garden City, John A. Stevens was born December 22, 1850, in Warren County, Illinois. Coincidentally, Stevens was born not far from Hopper's Mill, operated in the late 1860s and early 1870s by William D. Fulton, another Garden City founding father.

In the early 1870s, Stevens arrived in Sterling by the way of Iowa and Republic counties. He earned a name for himself by hunting buffalo and rounding up wild horses that roamed the western prairies. When William D. and James Fulton arrived in Sterling and began hunting and horse rounding, Stevens joined them. He wed William Fulton's daughter, Ciddie (Sadie) Fulton, on February 10, 1879, the first marriage ceremony performed in Finney County. They had two sons, Orville and Glenn.

Stevens left buffalo hunting and turned to real estate, then later to construction. When fellow Garden City founder and business rival Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones built a hotel, Stevens built the Windsor Hotel on the property he had homesteaded. The hotel, with more than 120 rooms, was built from native material for $100,000 ($2,594,950 in 2014 when adjusted for inflation.) Construction took a year, and the hotel opened in spring 1888. According to the local community, the hotel was the largest between Denver and Kansas City and was used for banquets, balls, and social gatherings. Stevens also built the Stevens Opera House, conjoined to the Windsor on its south end by an entrance through the Windsor Court.

Stevens owned both establishments until 1893 when national economic difficulties brought ruin to many self-made businessmen throughout western Kansas. Ownership of the Windsor Hotel was passed to John E. Baker and Mr. Inge. Stevens then briefly engaged in retail business, owning the Colter, Stevens & Co. store. He also farmed for a time, growing alfalfa. He donated land to the county to build a courthouse, but a park was built instead, later named Stevens Park. He passed away in spring 1902 and was buried in Valley View Cemetery.

The Windsor Hotel was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972; the Stevens Opera House was dismantled in 1959.

Entry: Stevens, John A.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2015

Date Modified: July 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.