Ring! Ring! Who’s there?
On the corner of 10th and Main Street sits a building that once was the center of communication and is now a storage facility for the County. During the 1930’s through the 1970’s, the Telephone Building was a vital part of Goodland life and now serves as a reminder of beautiful architecture and the history of the telephone in Goodland.
In November of 1902, J.M. Jewell, a Rock Island Railroad employee, bought the first phone system in Goodland. Later a permit was approved and the City Council granted a franchise to the Goodland Telephone Company. William Ennis, C.E. Swartz and J.M. Jewell made up the Goodland Telephone Company and chose a Central System which would require an operator to connect each call manually. The first system had one hundred lines and eighty-five phones, and the first operator was William Know. The Company was located above the Ennis Drug Store where it cost the resident $1 per month and business $2 per month.
Ennis sold his share to Jewell and Swartz in 1905 and the company was moved to 1112 Main Street where Beulah Grant was the operator. In 1910 Dr. Gulick and R.A. Kent bought the Goodland Telephone Company and during 1922 became the United
Telephone Company. The company continued to grow with roughly 1,000 phones in use in the City of Goodland. The photograph to the left shows the wires used by the telephone company. Imagine trying to fix a problem with this amount of wires! As the United Telephone Company grew, the need for a new building arose and in 1931 new equipment was moved to the new building on Main Street on the corner of 10th and Main.
The exterior and interior of the building were designed and decorated using Art Deco and Native American symbols. Colby Hamilton researched extensively Native American symbols to be used on and in the building and oversaw the design and decoration of the project. Inside the building were telephone poles, carved to look like totem poles that were used as beams in the ceiling. The service desk was carved with symbols and was seen not as a desk but a piece of art. Tables, chairs and a settee were placed in the lobby to be used by customers.
In 1937 the United Telephone Company merged with Southwestern Bell and continued to operate in the building on 10thand Main until 1957 when the machines were removed. With new technology available the old operator system became obsolete and soon the building became vacant. The chairs and settee were donated to the High Plains Museum
in the 1980’s and the chairs can currently be seen in the exhibit Goodland Treasures at the High Plains Museum. These chairs have symbols important to Native Americans that include the Thunderbird and Swastika which both mean luck and long life to Native Americans.
If you drive down Main Street today and look at the United Telephone Building one can see a glimpse of Goodland history. This was the building that connected the residents and businesses of Goodland through the telephone. Today we do not have to wait for an operator to manually connect us, we just dial the number and reach our party. Come into the High Plains Museum to learn more about this Goodland Treasure and see the chairs that once used to sit in the lobby.