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The Biggest Thing in the Ottawa County Museum

Minneapolis, Kansas
You never know what you'll find when you enter a museum in a small town.  To be sure you'll see the usual sad irons, doctor and dentist equipment, and dishes but there is almost always something particular to the community.
You also don't know what you can't see, the challenges like budget, staff, and the heart of the director, which might be the biggest thing in the building.  In the case of the Ottawa County Museum (110 S. Concord, Minneapolis; 785.392.3621), that's the case.  The director is Jettie Condray.
There is also no bigger fan in the state for George Washington Carver than  Jettie.  Jettie made Carver eligible for the 8 Wonders of Kansas People contest because of the permanent display honoring him.  In the end, the public voted Carver one of the top 8!
Carver was an agri-scientist, botanist, educator, humanitarian, and inventor, best known for discovering hundreds of uses for peanuts, soybean, sweet potatoes, and pecans and for developing crop rotation method.
Carver went to school in Minneapolis from 1880-1884.
You can also see Bennington native Bobby Dale's trumpet.  Dale played in the John Philip Sousa band from 1917-1919.
From fossils to Native American history, the museum is full of interesting treasures but I loved going through the museum with Jettie as he told us about how certain displays came to be.  He's a humble man but I can tell you that the county is so fortunate to have Jettie preserving their story.
October 07, 2013
Leslie & Dick Ward, Wichita

Visual surprises are everywhere in Hoisington

Hoisington, Kansas
From cemetery and post office art to architectural specialties in the form of a liquor store and Chevrolet dealership, Hoisington is an Explorer town full of visual surprises.

First, props to Stacey at the Chamber.  Without her knowledge and direction we would've never come across some of our favorite art finds -- African American folk art gravestones.  You can see them, too, at the Hoisington Cemetery, 109 E. First. 

When you find something not seen elsewhere in the state, it feels like real treasure.  There were at least a dozen of these gravestones, each a little different.  We'll keep hunting for the facts behind these gravestones.

The folk art stones were in rows 21 and 1-3 on the north and east parts of the cemetery.

You won't need anyone to tell you about the iron art work around town.  You can see it everywhere -- most evident are the street banners.  You'll also see it on flag pole holders...

...park benches, park gates, and many other places.  Just keep your eyes open.  This artwork is prolific here because Hoisington is home to the brothers, Bruce and Brent Bitner, who have this artistic ability.  Learn more about them at B&B Metal Arts.  It adds so much to the town!

One of the best visual surprises of the area can be reached just outside of Hoisington at Cheyenne Bottoms on the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway.  Important as a migratory stop, Cheyenne Bottoms was voted one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas.  Information about the wildlife and shore birds that you can see at this wetlands is found on an attractive sign in the park on Main Street by First National Bank.

There are only 22 post offices in the state that are lucky enough to have a Section Art mural.  Hoisington is one of them.  Dorothea Tomlinson painted the Wheat Center in 1938.  One great aspect of these murals is that they so beautifully depict something iconic about the area in that time period.

Even if you're not in need of purchasing a Chevrolet, a stop at the fourth-generation Manweiler dealership should be made just to appreciate the curved showroom and neon Chevrolet sign.  Recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a "rare World War II example of a Streamline Art Moderne building pre-dating the more common modern dealerships of the post-war era."  In other words, not many Chevrolet dealerships were built during World War II and fewer still are standing.

Even one of Hoisington's liqour store offers a unique dimension.  Ever heard of a Valentine diner?  Well, Valentine manufacturing of Wichita also made a few portable, steel, square-sided liquor stores after Kansas repealed Prohibition in 1949 -- and Hoisington has one at 168 W. 2nd! 

It's just so appropriate that one of the cities in Barton County has a hospital named after its namesake, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.  Hoisington's hospital is at 250 W. 9th.

We were hoping to find a Clara Barton display in the lobby and we did!

Look closely.  This is a sun dial on both sides of a big upright wall on top of the 1939 WPA city building at 109 E. First.  It appears that the time is right! 

Hoisington High School was finished in 1940 through the Public Works Administration (PWA). The three-story blond brick building features Art Deco-style stone ornamentation and carved detailing. The 1937 native stone stadium on the north side of the high school was built by the WPA.

At the end of the day, it still is the people whom you meet that make exploring such an outstanding activity.  From Rob and Linda Penner and Curtis Wolf out at the Cheyenne Bottoms Education Center to the maintenance guy at city hall, Gene Manweiler, Stacey Bressler, and the young man who works at Kindscher's Mule Barn to Randy and the guys at the Tap Room and these guys above who took time out of their busy after-work schedule to visit with us, it was an outstanding "people" day in Hoisington. 

And, now we're down the road...  KE #2 Marci Penner

What are we doing?  ERVing to every city in Kansas to research for the next Kansas guidebook. 

October 04, 2013
Murray & Nadine Reimer Penner

What happens in Modoc...gets in a guidebook!

What happened in Modoc is a grand example of what exploring is all about and, also an example of why it would be easy for the next guidebook to be 800 pages long.

Modoc is an unincorporated town in Scott County and, therefore, not a town that we're obligated to research.  But something drew us in.

It all started with this sign by the railroad tracks, on the property of the Scott Co-op Association.  I guess it does look kind of out of the ordinary when the ERV car, all wrapped in colors and words, stops in a town that rarely sees anything but grain trucks.  I got out with the camera, WenDee with her cell phone.

Scott, the co-op manager, was a little suspicious so he came out to check on us.  Within minutes we had passed the suspicion test and he went on to tell us to go see the restored township hall north of the tracks.  In fact, he tried to call Matt, the young man that restored it, on his cell phone but remembered Matt was likely planting wheat today.  After giving WenDee a cup of coffee from the co-op coffee maker, we were off to explore.

On our way to find the restored building, we found this median.  Pretty fancy for a small town with gravel roads.  Turns out it was a method to help with drainage. 

Then we came upon this 1921 bank. 

We tried the drive-through window but no one was there to help us.

No money inside, just chickens!

Why was stucco used so often in this area?  Why did they build structures around their water tanks?

Finally we put our attention on this restored township hall.  It was great.  But you have to wonder why someone, especially a young person, would do this.  Fantastic!

As chance would have it, we met Matt later in the day at the Leoti Farmers Market.  We just chattered and chattered.  It was so great to meet this "rural by choice" young man with a vision.

About 45 minutes later, we went back to the co-op office to ask Scott some questions.  He was there along with Marvin and some guy in a cowboy hat and boots.

We asked why the grain bin said Grub on it.  Found out it's the owner's nickname!

We found the co-op refrigerator stocked with cold pop and candy bars and asked if we could put it in the guidebook as an excuse to stop at the co-op. 

You just take whatever you want out of the frig and put your money in this box that sits on top of the refrigerator.  Now that's explorer-y!  The cold Hershey's chocolate bar was so good.

The cowboy indulged us and lent us his foot for this shot on the horseshoe boot scraper just outside the door.

That was our ERV research in Modoc.  We loved every minute and want to thank the boys at the co-op for helping us see Modoc with new eyes!

See you down the road, KE #2 Marci Penner

We're gradually blogging about all the adventures we have as we go to every city in Kansas to research for the next Kansas guidebook.  What a great time it is!


Circleville - an urban boundary

Circleville, Kansas

What does it mean?  No "urban" allowed here?  Circleville has a population of 169 in Jackson County.

You can't find a hitching rail this long just anywhere.  In fact, in Kansas, you can't find it anywhere but here--the Circleville Cemetery!  It's the longest remaining hitching rail at a cemetery in Kansas and it's this long on both sides of the driveway.

Find the cemetery west of town.  Follow K-79 (becomes 254 Road) to the first intersection west of town, then go 1 1/4 miles south on J Road.

There were many things I liked about this gravestone in the Circleville Cemetery.  One, the words "A Circleville Family."  Two, the birth and death dates of all the family on one stone.  Lastly, at the end it says, "The light that shines the farthest shines the brightest nearest home."

A sweet, heartfelt marker found in the cemetery.

Back in town, a Rainbow Bread door leads you into the Circleville Marketplace.

A grocery store in a town of under 200.  Awesome--and not easy to accomplish.  You know the owners do a lot to make this happen.  Check out the iconic features: wooden floors, three aisles, meat counter in the back. 

Melvin and Allen are iconic features, too.  They are in the grocery store every day to drink coffee and see what errands they can run for owners Heath and TeriAnn. 

It was also good to see that the Country Cafe is still open, though a new owner.  Another business in town and another screen door entrance.

They serve breakfast every day, all day.  The homemade pies are good, too.  Open daily 6 a.m.-2 p.m. If you fill the seats, they'll fill your stomachs!

Circleville.  You're welcome to come and visit at the urban boundary!

From bridges to cinnamon rolls in Jewell County

Mankato, Kansas -Burr Oak, Kansas -Jewell, Kansas
Jewell County was full of delights and visual plus's.  Here are a few:

It's the look, the rarity, and the remote location of these iron truss bridges that make a crossing feel like an adventure.  We're in northeast Jewell County but what road?!  I'll find it somewhere.

If you love cinnamon rolls, just tromp over the prairie to get to the Buffalo Roam Steakhouse in Mankato for some of Carl's best.  Located on U.S. 36 and open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Monday-Saturday 5-9 p.m.

Don't you love to find "only's"?  The Jewell County Courthouse in Mankato is the only one in the state built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) boys.  Finished in 1936, it has many art deco features, including these designs on the front wall.

Just as the storm was coming, we rolled in to the mighty Burr Oak via backroads from Webber. 

One reason we came to Burr Oak was to see the Queen Anne just north of town.  The stormy sky just made it all the more picturesque.  Good job Susan and family.  What a beautiful restoration!

Lovewell Dam and Reservoir, a project of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, was completed in 1957.  It's used for recreational and irrigation purposes.  On the southeast side of the lake you'll find a scenic overlook and a plaque about the dam.  It's a great place for a photo and, as we heard, for a marriage proposal!

The Bostwick Division of the lake is part of an effort to serve 104,240 irrigable acres with canals, laterals, pumping plants, and drains. 

If you drive to the lake north from the ghost town of Lovewell you'll see irrigation ditches that flow from the reservoir.  This is one canal located just below the dam.

Get the outside-inside view.  Step out of your car.  Go inside.  Here you have the outside view of the Methodist Episcopal church windows and the inside view. Aren't they lovely along with the semi circular pews?

The city park in the middle of the downtown square gets more beautiful every visit.  A town wouldn't do this unless the people got along.  Good job, Jewell!