Cows and hogs: Road most likely named after livestock business

Vern Koch stands in the 540-seat indoor arena that was part of Cow Palace. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series in Harvey County Now about streets in Newton and who or what they were named after.

By Wendy Nugent, HC Now

NEWTON—Cow Palace Road was a lifeline back in the day to Cow Palace, as the initials of the name—CPR—imply.

Sellers with their livestock used to line up in the road, all the way to Cow Palace, where cattle and hogs were auctioned off and where Cow Palace owners, Vern and Dorothy Koch, made their livelihood for decades.

The place was built around 1957-58, Vern Koch said, and buyers sat in the indoor arena.

“That’s about 540 seats in here,” said Koch, standing in the arena.

It was standing room only when they had horse sales.

Now, the empty building only hints at past days, where the interior air of the building matches the temperature outside. Things are shut down, except for the few animals outside that Vern allows a renter to keep there.

Cow Palace even had a restaurant and Koch gave a tour of that facility, showing where things were, like the seating area, walk-in cooler, kitchen and ladies restroom.

“There used to be windows here, so you could look out onto the arena,” Koch said, indicating a wall. “The whole area here is called Cow Palace.”

The Kochs weren’t the original owners. After it was built, it ran for a few years and then a tornado hit it, so some other people from northern Kansas purchased it, and then the Kochs bought it in 1967 and have owned it ever since.

They used to have cattle auctions at first and then they turned it into a hog-buying station.

When it was built, Koch said, it was the finest livestock auction place in Kansas.

In the building, there was also a men’s shower and lounge area, as well as an office area with three private offices leading off the big office.

To the east of the building were 200 cattle pens.

“It was something else,” Koch said, adding when it was running in the ‘80s, they had 800 hog producers.

A window overlooks the hog pens.

Koch said he thinks Full Vision and other buildings to the north on Cow Palace Road were there before Cow Palace was and he’s guessing Cow Palace Road was named after Cow Palace in the 1950s. Koch said they handled hogs for 45 years and that in one day, they could sell 1,200-1,500 hogs. They started buying one time a week and then it was four times a week.

During the years, they saw three to four generations of families come through their doors.

Koch said he’s still doing auctions with Auction Specialists.

When Cow Palace was up and running, Dorothy ran the office. Koch said she was great at multi-tasking. She could answer the phone, weigh hogs, write checks and recall people’s addresses and phone numbers.

“We raised four daughters, here,” Koch said.

They had nice times there, where they made a living.

“It was good to us,” Koch said. “A lot of work, but it was good to us.”