Monday, July 20, 2015

Exploring Eastern Kansas – Part IV

Rolling southwest from Lebo Kansas, my next goal was to check out the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge near Hartford Kansas. 

There were 2 issues with my goal to visit the wildlife refuge… One is that there isn’t much to see unless you get out and hike or boat through the refuge.  The second problem was that this area had been deluged with heavy rain and the Neosho River was way over its banks! (To learn about the Refuge, go to

Consequently, we continued on into the town of Hartford in Lyon County Kansas.  This town was founded back in 1857 and it currently has a population of around 370.  Some of the founders were from Hartford Connecticut, hence the town’s name.  While the City Hall shown above isn’t listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1889 and it was originally called the “Union Hall”.

Our planned next stop was the city of Emporia Kansas.  As we headed north on KS Hwy. 99 we passed the Emporia Municipal Airport.  I had to stop to take a picture of this F-4 Phantom on static display at the entrance.  It seems like an eternity ago but I once worked for McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis Missouri and I love planes!

In any case, this was about as close to Emporia as we got!  The overflowing Neosho River blocked our way and we were forced to detour around the mess.  The detour we had to take was mostly dirt and mud…and it was narrow and very slow.  Consequently, we ran short on time and decided to skip Emporia.  It was too bad as I had listed a possible 16 historical sites in town for us to search out… Maybe next time! 

So the next stop in our exploratory tour of east central Kansas was the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway depot at 102 West Topeka Street in Strong City.  This depot has been nicely maintained.  As a matter of fact, it was undergoing a restoration project during the time we stopped by and it will be finished by year’s end.   

 The original depot was a wooden building built in 1872, then burned in 1902 and replaced in 1903 by another wooden building.  From 1887 to 1938, a six stall engine roundhouse in town employed many workers. The depot closed in 1938 and for the last 70 years has served as Santa Fe offices and railroad storage.  After several years of negotiation the new owner, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, donated the building to Strong City in 2006.

Strong City is named after William Barstow Strong, the Vice President and General Manager of the Santa Fe Railway System in 1881.  The town was originally named Cottonwood City.  It thrived due to the railroad.  Strong City’s population is roughly 450.  In 1913 this one-story, pressed brick depot was built in the mission style, trimmed in native limestone and decorative brick with a tile roof.

The restoration plan called for repairing the roof and replacing the clay tile roofing material as well as replacing the flat roofs at the east and west ends of the building.   The exterior of the depot was also scheduled to undergo repairs to windows, doors, gutters, downspouts and the brick masonry.  The interior of the building is to be restored to the original rooms that were in the original depot’s floor plan. 

Can you see what's coming down the tracks?

BNSF diesel locomotive #4748 was flying when it blew by me at the head of a fast freight!   This locomotive, model GE C44-9W, is a 4,400 HP diesel-electric locomotive built by GE Transportation Systems of Erie, Pennsylvania.  Over 2,200 of these locomotives were built with the last one being produced in 2004.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, (BNSF), is the second-largest freight railroad network in North America, second only to the Union Pacific Railroad (UP).  Burlington Northern has 48,000 employees, 32,500 miles of track in 28 states, and over 8,000 locomotives.  The railroad has 3 transcontinental routes that provide high-speed links between the western and eastern United States.  BNSF trains traveled over 169 million miles in 2010, more than any other North American railroad.

This is Broadway Avenue in Cottonwood Falls… Love the wide old brick street!  In my mind I can see cattle being driven through the center of town… Cottonwood Falls is just a little south of Strong City.  With a population of about 900 residents, it’s the largest city as well as the County Seat for Chase County Kansas.

The first non-Native American settlement in the area of Cottonwood Falls was in 1854 when an Indian trader founded a cattle ranch on the Cottonwood River close to the mouth of Diamond Spring Creek. 

The eye-catching and impressive Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas was built in 1873.  It is the oldest operating courthouse in Kansas and the 2nd oldest still in operation west of the Mississippi River.  This 142 year old courthouse was constructed from local limestone.  Its interior 3-story winding staircase was constructed from local walnut trees.  The architectural style has been described as Second Empire or Italian Renaissance Revival and Italianate.  The good news is that this building has recently undergone a $2.4 million renovation and restoration…


·       In 1931, Transcontinental and Western Air Flight 599 crashed 10 miles south of Cottonwood Falls near the community of Bazaar.  All 8 passengers were killed, including legendary Notre Dame University football coach Knute Rockne.

This photo captures 2 of Cottonwood Falls’ buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Cartter Building at 303 Broadway is at the left with the unattractive wooden storefront.  The old Chase County National Bank (301 Broadway) is on the corner.  As you can see, the latter is now the home of the Chase County Historical Society.

The Cartter Building was constructed in 1888 for Dr. William H. Cartter, a rancher, stockman and investor.  It was designed to house Smith and Cartter’s Grocery Store.  The second floor was leased to the Mason’s and Odd Fellow’s as a lodge room.  Over 500 people flocked to Cottonwood Falls for the opening of the building and there was a huge party!

The Chase County National Bank was built in 1882.  The 2 rooms in the front of the first floor were used by the bank with a room to the rear being used by an insurance company.  Professional offices were located on the second floor and there was a barber shop in the basement.  The bank failed and went into receivership in 1928.  The shareholders took a financial bath!  They had to pay out $250 for every $100 share they owned…

The Chase County Historical Society and museum occupies both of the buildings at 301 – 303 Broadway.  One recent addition to their collection is a 1932 Rockne Studebaker, which was donated by the Wayne Rockne family.  This historical society appears to be very active.  To learn more, just go to  

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and joining us on our tour of East Central Kansas!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

1 comment:

  1. I like the shot of Cottonwood Falls with the courthouse at the end of the street.