In Goodland’s early years, settlers, many of them Rock Island Railroad workers, flooded in. Housing was short in Goodland and the community needed to find a solution. Coffee mill houses were that solution.
The area lacked architects, so local carpenters built what they knew, simple four-room, 24-by-24-foot square houses with a chimney rising from the center of the roof. They were built with shiplap and/or sheathing, then covered with drop siding. That central chimney provided heat.
The local newspapers first mentioned Coffee Mill Row Sept. 20, 1901, when The Goodland Republic recorded (PDF) that Brakeman and Mrs. J.C. Dey had “gone to housekeeping” in the row.
Housing shortfall worsens
In 1903, the already-existing shortfall got worse. At a meeting in a private railroad car Sept. 27, 1903, two Rock Island Railroad Superintendents said the railroad would be bringing 300 workers into the city. The superintendents said the workers and their families would need at least 50 houses (PDF). Goodland’s Commercial Club financed (PDF) these homes so that the railroaders could bring their families instead of living in rooming houses. The need was so great that the Goodland Commercial Club even sought investors with an ad in The Kansas City Star.
How did the houses get their name?
How did coffee mill houses receive their nickname? People thought the houses resembled the coffee grinders of the time. Imagine a coffee grinder handle on top and the resemblance is easy to see. Because of the resemblance, people named the houses “Coffee Mill Houses”. So many of these houses were built on the southern end of Caldwell Avenue that people called the street Coffee Mill Row.
The houses still exist
Several of the houses still exist today, although many of them have additions that mask the original house’s coffee grinder-like design.
Coffee Mill Row’s best remaining examples are from 1602 Caldwell Street to 1401 Caldwell Street. 1526 Caldwell (left) still retains the original roof lines. Its south fence is unusual, a long piece of metal sheeting. 1534 Caldwell features Post Rocks along its boundaries. Two houses on the southwest corner of 13th and College are also good examples of coffee mill houses.