Saturday, March 26, 2016

C.P. Dewey: Eureka Lake

                                                       By Josephine Grammer Munson

Geary County Historical Society

EDITORIAL NOTE:  Today’s article is the second in a four-part series researched and written by long-time Geary County resident Josephine Munson on the millionaire Chicago industrialist C.P. Dewey, and his family, who in the early years of the 20th century made quite a mark in this part of Kansas.  Mrs. Munson’s interest in the Dewey’s stems from her early recollections of family members who lived in Junction City.  
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            In 1899 C.P. Dewey started planning a resort at Eureka Lake, the small body of water that once occupied the area where the Manhattan Airport is located today.  He had been fascinated by the beauty of area since coming to Manhattan, and wanted a special summer resort as a suitable place to entertain his business friends and local members of the community as well.
            An article printed in the Kansas City Journal in September of 1904 had much to say about this Dewey venture.  “ A summer resort in Kansas?  The very thought of such a thing seems preposterous.  To go to central Kansas, where the heat is so great that the ground warps in the summer time, and only cool places are in the cyclone cellars—what an anomaly!
            “Further, a summer resort run not for money-making, but for pleasure; a summer resort operated at an actual loss—whoever heard of such a thing?
            “Yes, Kansas has a summer resort; one that is unequaled between the seacoast and the mountains.  It is beautiful as a dream, as delightful as a mirage, and as cheap as staying at home.  It has all the comforts that one can imagine.  It is run for the pleasure of the proprietor, and he doesn’t care a rap whether he ever has a resorter, or not, except that he hates to know that people are missing a good thing.  Apparently, the sole idea of the owner is to make the place the very best and most delightful in the United States.
            “And yet all of this out on the plains of Kansas, with no reason for its existence, save a fancy on the part of the man who made it, and his delight in his own creation!

“Why does Mr. Dewey do this?  Because he enjoys it.  With more money than he knew how to spend, he has picked out this little lake, built this elegant resort here, and here from May to November he entertains his friends.  He asks them down whenever they feel like coming; if he doesn’t happen to be there, it makes no difference, as far as hospitality is concerned.  Mrs. Holyoke has free rein, and she is an admirable substitute.  And all the time Mr. Dewey is wiring Manhattan, sending out the word by messenger from his stables there, or telephoning suggestions for the comfort of the people.  One message may be to see that the ponies are put at their disposal, or asking if they had tried the bathing and the launch.  Almost every day there are friends there, whether he is there or not.  The place is theirs.  If strangers come, they get the same treatment.  He tells the matron, ‘Here’s the place, run it.  It’s for my friends; others are welcome.  Don’t worry about the expense.  I don’t care if I lose.’
            “Everything is free for the whole town.  The boys and girls revel in it; the young people have dancing and swimming parties.  One fall Mr. Dewey gave a great farmers' picnic for three days.  He sent out 2,500 invitations.  No one could spend a cent, but they could enjoy all the comforts of home.
            The original improvements C.P. Dewey made to the site consisted of an immense three-story building, with a large dining room, fourteen sleeping rooms, a billiard room and a kitchen, surrounded on three sides with a double-decked veranda, occupied by hammocks and a variety of improved rockers and easy chairs.  Two beautiful private dining rooms were extravagantly furnished with china and cut glass; and walls and ceilings were illuminated with the richest wall paper and furnishing of all kinds in keeping with the entire decor.
            A covered driveway protected the guests in their entrance to the building.  A dancing pavilion boasting a 62 X 40-foot floor, not including the large orchestra platform, was a prominent feature.  A regulation bowling alley, a gravity hogback toboggan slide, and a number of rowboats furnished great amusement for all who visit the Beach.  The use of all things was open to the public.
            The residents of Manhattan and surrounding country were not alone in enjoying the use of this pleasant summer resort.  Topeka, Kansas City, Junction City, Fort Riley, and other places were represented during the season of 1902 at Manhattan Beach, the patronage that year, far-exceeded the table and lodging capacity of the original structure.
            Thus, at the close of the 1902 season Mr. Dewey decided to improve his property to meet the growing demands.  By the summer of 1903 these improvements were almost completed.  To the main building Mr. Dewey added an annex 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a 12-foot veranda 160 feet long.  The roof was supported by large round columns covering the entire front of the annex.  This annex was joined to the original building by an octagon tower. In the tower proper was an observation room about fifty feet from the ground, which gave a beautiful view of the entire surrounding country.  The tower had three rooms, one in each story, making a grand total of sixty rooms in the annex.
            The first floor of the annex contained seventeen sleeping rooms and two bathrooms.  The second floor had thirty sleeping rooms, while on the third floor eight rooms were fully lighted by handsome dormer windows.  The south wing in the annex held the most unique accommodations in Kansas.  Each room had a closet and the light and ventilation were simply perfect.  All rooms in the annex and those in the tower had sand finish, which was tinted with green, cream, and terra cotta.  The tower had a brick chimney 2 X 5 feet running from cellar to flag pole.  The ground floor room in the tower had a large old-fashioned wood fireplace.  The annex also featured a billiard room, and the dining room was enlarged to conform to the other additions.
            Along with the annex, a second story addition of large proportions was added to the original building.  The lower room then became the kitchen.  It was large and commodious, and almost solid glass on three sides.  The kitchen was fitted with a new double firebox and double oven Majestic Range.
            The dancing pavilion had been re-floored with 21-inch maple wood flooring and when rubbed down was touted as the smoothest floor to dance upon west of the Missouri River.
            At night the entire grounds and buildings were illuminated by hundreds of electric lights, the power being furnished by Mr. Dewey’s electric plant located in Manhattan.  Telephone connections with Manhattan and long distance circuits were completed via the Dewey-Wareham Telephone Company.
            In the absence of Mr. Dewey, this handsome and popular summer resort was under the management of John E. Peaslee and the matron, Mrs. Holyoke.  There was an efficient corps of domestic and imported help, whom Mr. Dewey organized to make his Manhattan Beach Hotel on Eureka Lake the most pleasant resort in the West.  People living adjacent to Manhattan, either upon the lines of the Union Pacific or Rock Island system, found it convenient and inexpensive during the summer season to spend a week or two at Manhattan Beach for everyone in the area was encouraged to take every opportunity to spend their leisure in social enjoyment at Manhattan Beach. 
            The Kansas City Journal of September 14, 1902 printed a detailed story on Dewey and his Kansas holdings, including a vivid description of the amenities to be found at Eureka Lake.
“Out on the Union Pacific railroad seven miles beyond Manhattan, one sees a signpost, on which is painted, ‘Eureka Lake’.  It stands stark beside the track; that is all, except that the cinder roadbed exists a few feet farther alongside than usual.  And when the train is flagged and stops there and one is dumped off, one is overcome by the sense of great desolation.  All around are flint hills and stone quarries, a few trees, and a field or two.  If you are expected, a prancing four-in-hand of Shetlands, harnessed in red, to a tiny tow-seated trap, soon pulls up and you are off over a dusty road.
            “This is Eureka Lake.  If it be night, a great blaze of light, away across the plains beckons.  Riding in the trap for a mile and a quarter you come to a stone water tower beautifully proportioned.  There are walls surrounding flowerbeds of hydrangeas, coliantheas, and other expensive flowers.  Above the flowerbeds stands the house with verandas and a porte cochere where a Negro in white livery takes the baggage and helps one out of the trap.
            “Inside is the cool, refreshing parlor where one is greeted and made welcome.  There are Navajo blankets on the floor, ice water to drink, snowy linens, easy chairs, iron or brass beds, and screens on the curtained windows.  A whirling electric fan cools the rooms, and electric lights illuminate every room.
            “In the great parlor there is woodwork of yellow pine and the floor is hard pine polished like a mirror.  Easy chairs are everywhere with magazines, books and newspapers available for reading.  A fine piano and pianola are available, a writing desk with necessary supplies, and bowls of beautiful flowers decorate the rooms.  A Chinese gong sounds and lunch is served in the dining rooms by dusky waiters.  The tables glisten with beautiful china, cut glass, and silver.
            “Outside there is a porch ten feet wide extending around on three sides.  There are countless chairs of cane and wicker upholstering, huge divans and swings with cool green cushions.  A walk around the Lake on built up terraces reveals the diving towers, water slides, boats, and swimming beaches.  At the stable are Shetland ponies with miniature carts and traps, as well as grown-up horses for riding, and inside bowling allies and ping pong tables give plenty of opportunity for recreation.
            “There are 500 lights on the place which flood the dance hall and bowling allies, as well as the walks and terraces, and make the place fairy-like at night.  A great sign ‘Eureka Lake’ across the tower particularly pleases Mr. Dewey.”
            Charles P. Dewey’s Manhattan Beach Resort at Eureka Lake should have stood for decades as a memorial to the remarkable man who had the vision to do wonderful things among the Flint Hills of Kansas.  But, alas, in a little more that a dozen years it was gone, the victim of a devastating fire in 1916. 
            Today, C.P. Dewey and his accomplishments are familiar to only a few in this area.  However, a century ago things were quite different as attested to by this note carried in a local newspaper in May of 1903:
            “We do not practice unwarranted commendation of any individual, but a fair recognition of the many and modern improvements made by Mr. Dewey in and around Manhattan, and the great amount of money he has and is paying for labor and materials, entitles him to the favorable and friendly consideration of every citizen of Riley County.  We trust that Mr. Dewey may live long to entertain his friends and the general public in his elegant and beautifully arranged summer home on the banks of Eureka Lake.”
            C.P. Dewey would have only a year to fulfill this wish; he died unexpectedly in June of 1904.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Memory