History of Wichita
The city was named after the Wichita tribe, who inhabited the area on the banks of the Arkansas River during the Civil War. A trading post was established near the Indian village and later, when the Wichita relocated to Oklahoma, the trading post became a commercial center. The post was located on a cattle trail from Texas and the cowboys often used it as a stopover. Wichita was incorporated in 1871 and the railroad arrived in 1872. It was around that time that Wichita became the “cow capital” of Kansas, especially the eastern portion of the state. Cattle boom lasted until 1880, when it became illegal to graze the cattle on the land planted with wheat. Wichita then switched to wheat and soon became a trade and milling center. Wichita was no longer a rough, gambling cowboy town and instead became a more civilized place, with many new schools and churches.
In 1915, a major oil deposit was found just outside the city limits. Wichita’s first airplane, the Cessna Comet, was manufactured in 1917 and the city was well on its way to become the “Air Capital of America.” By the early 1930, half of all aircrafts produced in America came from Wichita. During and after the World War II aviation became even more important for the economy of the city. McConnell Air Force Base opened in 1951. Beech Aircraft Corp. and Learjet, Inc. were founded in Wichita and the city soon got manufacturing facilities for companies such as Boeing, Cessna and Raytheon. Aircraft industry contributed to a major growth in population and attracted other types of companies as well. Today, Wichita is a place with a small-town charm but with all the modern amenities and a stable economy.
Geography and Climate
Wichita is located in south-central Kansas, on the Arkansas River. It lies near the Flint Hills, which geographically belong to the Great Plains. The topography is characterized by a broad alluvial plain and very gentle slopes.
The Arkansas River practically dissects Wichita, joined by several smaller tributaries that also flow through some parts of the city. There are also two flood-control canals.
The climate in Wichita is somewhere between humid subtropical and humid continental. The city has hot, humid summers and cold and dry winters. It gets approximately ten days of measurable snow per year. Wichita is prone to severe weather, especially thunderstorms, with occasional hail and tornadoes. The worst tornado outbreaks occurred in 1991 and 1999.
Cityscape of Wichita
Wichita has several official neighborhoods. Downtown Wichita is the business, commercial and civic center of the city and contains smaller neighborhoods such as Century II, Garvey Center, Epic Center and Old Town. There are also a number of residential areas, among which the most notable ones are Riverside and College Hill.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wichita has 382,368 inhabitants. The racial makeup is 64.5% non-Hispanic White, 15.3% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 11.5% African American, 4.8% Asian, 1.2% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.2% some other race and 4.3% two or more races.
In 2010, the median household income was $44,477 and the per capita income was $24,517.
The largest economy sector in Wichita is manufacturing. Aircraft manufacturing is particularly important and this sector alone manages to keep the local economy in healthy conditions. However, since the early 2000s, due to the recession and the impact of the 9/11 attacks, this sector has been experiencing some problems and there have been significant job losses. Fire largest aircraft corporations in Wichita are currently Boeing, Co., Cessna Aircraft Co., Bombardier Learjet, Inc., Hawker Beechcraft and Raytheon Aircraft Co.
The second-largest industry in Wichita is healthcare, which employs some 28,000 people in the city.
Some of the major companies with headquarters in Wichita include Bombardier Learjet, Inc., Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna, Koch Industries, Dean and Deluca, Chance Morgan, Alternative Energy Solutions and Coleman Company.
Culture and Attractions
Wichita is the cultural and artistic center of Kansas. It is home of the Music Theatre of Wichita, Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Wichita Art Museum, Orpheum Theatre, Old Cowtown Museum, Botanica, Exploration Place, the Sedgwick County Zoo and other attractions.
The city is home to the world’s second-largest IMAX cinema, located at the Warren Theatres. The largest multi-purpose venue in Wichita is Intrust Bank Arena.
Old Town used to be a warehouse district but it has since been transformed into a mix of residential space and nightclubs, galleries, cafes, restaurants and museums, such as Museum of World Treasures and Great Plains Transportation Museum.
The most popular annual event in the city is the Wichita River Festival with concerts, shows, exhibits, plays, interactive events, a flea market, a food court, block parties and a parade. Wichita also hosts the Tallgrass Film Festival.
Education in Wichita
The largest university in the city is Wichita State University. Newman University and Friends University also have their main campuses in the city. Other institutions of higher education in the city include the Wichita Area Technical College, as well as satellite campuses of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Cowley College, Southwestern College and several others.
Major highways in and around Wichita include I-35, I-135, I-235, U.S. Routes 54, 81 and 400 and a number of state highways.
The city’s primary airport and the largest airport in Kansas is Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Wichita Transit operates mass transit buses in and around the city. Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service and as for the passenger rail service, Wichita currently has none.