Friday, July 31, 2015

Finally – We Visit Manhattan! (Kansas)

I told Laurie that some day I’d take her to spend a night on the town in Manhattan… This was it! (I think that she might have been expecting something a bit larger and more glamorous…)

We headed north from Council Grove on Kansas Hwy. 177 toward Manhattan Kansas, where we had a hotel reservation for the night.

Along the way we passed these very classy and impressive signs announcing and guiding passing motorists to the 128 year old town of Alta Vista.  Our reaction was Wow!  This town must have something going on…

As it turned out, the signs worked and we drove through the town… It’s off the main highway and it has a population of around 430 residents.  Alta Vista was founded in 1887 and it was incorporated as a city in 1905.  Alta Vista is derived from the Spanish word for "high view".  The town was given its name based on its lofty elevation.  Alta Vista sits ‘high’ on the plains at 1,497 feet above sea level.  By contrast, Council Grove is only 1,234 feet above sea level and Manhattan is down at 1,019.  Hills are duly noted when in Kansas!

The main attraction Alta Vista has is the Ag Heritage Park at 103 South Main Street.  It’s not really a museum, but rather a personal collection of agricultural equipment, household goods and appliances gone amok!  Call ahead…$5.00 donations suggested.  Website:

From Alta Vista we headed north on Kansas Hwy. 177 for our overnight stay in Manhattan.  Talk about ‘big sky country’!  It was 24 miles from Alta Vista to Manhattan and with the exception of where we bisected I-70 this was the scenery…stark beauty.


·       Rural flight to larger cities has resulted in the fact that in Kansas there are more than 6,000 ghost towns and dwindling communities. 

The 1880 Damon Runyon House is an American Folk Style House located at 400 Osage Street in Manhattan Kansas.  Alfred Damon Runyon was born on October 4, 1880 in the little front parlor room of the house.  If the name sounds at all familiar, it’s because he is a prominent newspaper columnist, sportswriter, novelist, playwright and screenwriter in the first half of the twentieth century.  He was the author of “Guys and Dolls” and many regard him as the father of "Broadway" in New York City.  To learn more about him, go to


·       Runyon died in New York City from throat cancer in late 1946, at age 66.  His body was cremated and his ashes were illegally scattered from a DC-3 airplane over Broadway in Manhattan New York by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker on December 18, 1946.

·       After Runyon's death, his friend and fellow journalist, Walter Winchell, went on his radio program and appealed for contributions to help fight cancer, eventually establishing the Damon Runyon Cancer Memorial Fund to support scientific research into causes of, and prevention of cancer.  That organization is still functioning today.  Website:

This is another one of those houses that Laurie and I just liked the looks of!  It isn’t listed in the National Register but it is a handsome and distinguished looking home that is old but very nicely maintained…

Manhattan Kansas was founded by settlers from the “New England Emigrant Aid Company” as a Free-State town in the 1850's during the Pre-Civil War “Bleeding Kansas” era.  Nicknamed "The Little Apple" as a play on New York City's "Big Apple", Manhattan is today best known as being the home of Kansas State University with its roughly 25,000 students.  Manhattan itself has a population of over 52,000 residents and it’s the county seat for Riley County.  The giant Fort Riley Military Reservation (US Army) is located just outside the city.

This handsome mission revival style depot was built by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1902.  The cost of construction: $10,000.  Theodore Roosevelt stopped here on his famous whistle stop campaign of the USA in 1903.  Passenger service continued here until 1971 and freight trains rumbled by until 1984.

The tracks are now long gone and the depot now sits by itself in the middle of a roadway interchange.   The building is managed by the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department.  It’s available for rent as a multi-use facility for exhibitions, conferences, receptions, parties, meetings, weddings, etc.

The Kansas Pacific Railroad began its existence in 1855 as the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad.  The name "Kansas Pacific" was actually not adopted until 1869.  It first arrived in Manhattan in 1866 and at that time, a wooden depot was constructed to serve its customers.  The Kansas Pacific railroad was consolidated with the Union Pacific in 1880.  Its mainline continues to be an integral part of the Union Pacific network today.

The railroad stimulated significant growth in the area and other railroads also came to town.  One was the Manhattan, Alma and Burlingame Railroad, which was built in 1880.  That line was abandoned in 1898.   Established in 1879, the Marysville Blue Valley Railroad followed the Blue River north from Manhattan.  Later, as part of the Union Pacific System, that line was abandoned in 1958 when a dam and reservoir planned was initiated which blocked the right of way.

The Seven Dolors Catholic Church, located at 731 Pierre in Manhattan, was completed in 1920.   The parish itself was established in 1880.  This Romanesque Revival limestone block and brick structure is topped with a green tile gable roof and it’s accented by those twin 85 foot tall towers.  The church was named after the ‘Seven Sorrows’ of the Virgin Mary.

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

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Very interesting architecture in Kansas. And also what an interesting history of Damon Runyon. I had no idea about the cancer research or even that he knew Rickenbacker.

  2. That's just way too many ghost towns, kind of sad. But the big sky country view driving had to be beautiful. Interesting with Damon Runyon, Rickenbacker and Winchell. I remember Winchell from the early 50's, his voice and unique delivery. The church is unique also with the tall twin towers, it looks very distinguished! Interesting post, thanks BDD!