In the early spring of 1869, the Alexander Garrett family brought their covered wagon to a stop on the bank of Spring Creek after a long journey from Ohio. They took out a claim and later built a sod house, and that’s where the city known today as Derby began.
The city was formally by Hart Minnich and John Hufbauer when they filed a plat on July 11, 1871. Hufbauer was originally from an area near El Paso, Illinois and decided the new city should bear the name El Paso.
By 1880, the railroad had pushed farther south, and the mail for El Paso, Kan. and El Paso, Texas was constantly mixed up. To ease this problem, the railroad depot was named Derby, after one of the railroad officials, C.F. Derby. Gradually, residents began to call the town Derby. When the town of about 300 was formally incorporated on June 1, 1903 as a city of the third class with a mayor-council form of government by the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, it was still named El Paso. It was not until 1956 that the name was officially changed from El Paso to Derby.
Until Derby became a city of the second class around 1955, it was under the administration of a mayor and five council members who were elected at large. When redistricting became mandatory in 1957, four wards were established with two council members elected from each ward. The mayor made all appointments for city offices other than judge and council members. By 1959, the governing body appointed a city clerk who functioned as the city's highest official on staff. The first city manager was appointed in 1981.
The first city building in Derby was constructed in the 1880s. When a new building was built in 1966 on Baltimore Ave., the original structure was moved to Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita for historic preservation. In 1990, new city hall and library building opened on east Madison Avenue at Mulberry Street. In 2001, a new city hall opened north of the library, and the old city hall was converted into a senior center.
Derby seniors originally met in the First Baptist Church in the 1970s, calling themselves the Golden Agers. Later, they gathered at the first Recreation Commission building and then used a room in the new Derby Recreation Center. When the city library moved to the facility on Mulberry Street, the seniors began using the old library building on Derby Street. When the city outgrew the office building on Mulberry, the facility was renovated to serve as the new senior center in May 2002, and expanded in 2010 after a new library was built on Walnut Grove.
The Derby Senior Center is presently the largest in Sedgwick County, with innovative programs, separate facilities for music, health programs, technology, exercise, crafts, relaxation, games and more. Derby boasts one of the most modern senior facilities in the state, serving more than 2,000 seniors in the area. It became nationally accredited in 2011.
Although earlier attempts to organize a library had been made, the first official Derby Public Library was established in the Derby City building in 1957 with donated books. The Derby City Council was empowered to levy two mills to maintain the library, hire a librarian and purchase books and supplies. The library moved to its own building at Walnut and Derby Streets when land was donated to the city in 1968. Due to an increase in the number of books and population to serve, the library expanded in 1990 and became a joint tenant in the new City Hall. In October 2007, Derby voters approved a half-cent sales tax to finance construction of a new library. The new state-of-the-art Derby Public Library opened in November 2009 at 1600 E. Walnut Grove.
In January 2011, the City opened a new facility in the space formerly occupied by the library. The Derby Welcome Center serves as the “front door” to the community for visitors, newcomers, residents and businesses. The Derby Chamber of Commerce operates the front desk to greet those who need information, maps or brochures. The Welcome Center also showcases the city’s amenities and history. There is a meeting room in the Welcome Center which was named the Austin Room in honor of Sam & Phyllis Austin, long-time Derby residents. Sam Austin was very active with the Derby Volunteer Fire Department, serving as Fire Chief.
A city-owned and operated sewage treatment plant was built in 1952, and enlarged in 1961 to serve a population of up to 10,000. In 1992, a new interceptor line was built in the Spring Creek development east of Rock Road. In 1996, the entire wastewater plant was upgraded and additions were made. Those additions included a new biological process basin, a 90-foot clarifier, an operations building, an ultraviolet disinfection building and a bio-solids handling facility.
In 1998, the southeast interceptor was installed through the Oakwood Valley and Tiara Pines developments. Additional improvements were made in 2010 and 2011 to construct the next phase of the southeast interceptor to provide sewer service for development east of Rock Road and south of Madison Avenue.
In 2010, the City moved Public Works to a new facility, located off 55th St. South between Buckner Street and Woodlawn Blvd. The former public works site at 332 W. Market is being redeveloped as the future Warren Riverview Park. Public Works provides streets maintenance, parks, code enforcement, fleet maintenance, water, wastewater and stormwater services.
The El Paso Water Company started its service to the community in 1953 with a 100,000 gallon elevated tank. Installation of a water system did more than any other service to promote Derby to the status of a city. Automatic pump controls and a 500,000-gallon tank were brought into service by 1958. Extra lines from pumps to storage were put in on the bridge of the Arkansas River in 1963. In 1988, there were two ground-level storage tanks and two pressure towers in place to serve the residents in Derby. In the late 1990s, Derby realized that its growing population would require additional water rights for the future. After requests for additional water rights were denied by the state, Derby chose to buy out El Paso Water Company and purchase water from the city of Wichita. The entire city began receiving Wichita water in 2004. The City of Derby (through El Paso Water Company) continues to maintain water distribution throughout the city and provide service to more than 8,500 residential and business customers.
Fire & Rescue
In 2004, the City took its first step towards a combination career-volunteer fire department. The Derby Volunteer Fire Department had been a volunteer department since its beginning in 1953. In December 2004, Fire Chief Brad Smith was hired to mold the newly designed department. In July 2005, eight full-time firefighters started working at Fire Station #82 on Rock Road near Meadowlark. The City’s other station, Fire Station #81, is located near Baltimore and Market.
Fire Station #82 opened in July 2002 and houses Sedgwick County EMS Post 11, which provides service to the city of Derby and southeast Sedgwick County. In October 2013, citizens passed the Derby Difference Sales Tax to begin in January 2015.The tax provides additional staff and equipment to the fire and rescue department as well as funding for parks and the library.
The Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief lead a staff of 21 full-time firefighters and 13 part-time firefighters as well as a number of volunteers. In 2018, the City plans to construct a new Fire Station #81 at the corner of Madison Ave. and Woodlawn Blvd. The new location provides easy access to homes, businesses and schools and will provide needed space for both firefighters and administrative offices.
The first chief of police was hired by the City of Derby in 1955, and a Justice of the Peace was installed in 1958. Today, the police department has three divisions and employs nearly 60 people. The new police and courts building on Baltimore Avenue opened in June 2002. The department is known for its community policing, including most notably its beat teams, school resource officers and other cooperative projects with Derby Public Schools.
The department also features detectives, a SOT (Special Operations Team), records clerks and chaplains. They hold an annual Youth Citizen Police Academy in the summer and a biennial Citizen Police Academy (Feb.-May) for those 18 years and older.
Many schools have been built since the first school district was organized in 1872, with a bond issue of $1,500. The Derby Public School District is known for its award-winning teachers who help children reach their full potential. The school district is also the largest employer in Derby. A new high school opened in January 1994 on Rock Road between Madison Ave. and James St.. The former high school, built in 1959, is Derby Middle School (6th-8th grades). A new middle school, Derby North, opened in 2015. Derby has nine elementary schools.
Along with an excellent school district, the city has many recreational activities. The Derby Recreation Commission, established in 1980, serves more than 3,000 Derby area residents each year. Phase I of the DRC opened in 1986, and Phase II opened in 1994. Phase II included an indoor pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor track, three racquetball courts and three basketball courts. In 2013, the DRC completed another renovation. Learn more about the DRC at www.derbyrec.com.
Quality of Life
As Derby grows, its amenities increase as well. In November 2002, residents passed a half-cent sales tax to fund a regional aquatic park. Rock River Rapids is located at James St. and Rock Road and opened July 2004. This park serves not only Derby residents but visitors from central Kansas and beyond.
A private 18-hole golf course opened in 2004. The Derby Golf and Country Club, built by Lindsay Communities, is located in north Derby between Patriot Avenue and Meadowlark Boulevard. The golf course development is surrounded by The Oaks, an upscale neighborhood of homes in several price ranges, as well as two apartment communities with approximately 1,000 total apartment units, three clubhouses, tennis courts and swimming pools.
Recent retail growth includes Derby Marketplace at Rock Road and Meadowlark, which includes Olive Garden, Starbucks, Target, and many other retailers and restaurants. Walmart Neighborhood Market and Braum's are the two newest additions to Derby. Lowe’s and Kohls are located near K-15 and Patriot Avenue. In addition to national retailers, Derby also has a good mix of independent, small businesses throughout the City.
The Rock Road corridor is growing each day, including a $40 million hospital, a dinosaur park (set to open in 2018) and various medical offices and service-oriented businesses, it's an ever-changing scene.