A Kansas Roadtrip to Old Cowtown Museum

October 26, 2015  •  2 Comments

We hadn't been on the road since last Spring, so Kathy and I were aching for a least a little roadtrip. Our last adventure of two months in the Southwest wound up doing in our 2005 Toyota Highlander, so this was a our first trip with our 2013 Ford F-150XLT, which we have dubbed "Big Red". After getting past the usual "Oh, you want to go on a trip? Gotta fix this first" routine, we loaded up the trailer and headed out for a quick four day excursion in Kansas, with our primary destination being Wichita's Old Cowtown Museum. 

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown MuseumWichita, KS - Old Cowtown Museum

This accredited open-air history museum is one of the oldest in the Midwest, established in 1952.  One of the workers there told us about a third of the 54 historic buildings are original, with another third rebuilt, and the rest brought in from other locations. It was a great experience, and something we didn't expect in the middle of the bustling city of Wichita.  Situated along the Arkansas River (while in Kansas you must pronounce this "Ar - Kansas River"), the museum tells the story of Wichita's transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town, then to an Ag and Manufacturing area. 

Just looking at the "modern" visitors center from the parking lot, one would have no idea that the 23 acres just off the Chisholm Trail behind it would be so educational and entertaining. After paying the admission, which was well worth the price, you enter the Old West Kansas style with one of the newer additions to the museum, the Heller Cabin, which was introduced in 2009.  Originally located in Elmo, Kansas, the cabin is considered as one of the top 10 intact structures in the United States from the settlement period.  It was heavily documented and all parts numbered before being dismantled and brought to Old Cowtown.  

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller CabinWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller Cabin

The cabin was built in the 1870's by Civil War veteran Leonhard Hoffman, and was donated by the estate of Wichita resident Donna B. Heller.  As part of the restoration, some logs were replaced and the interior was restored with historically accurate features.  It was a great way to start our tour. 

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller Cabin Interior - 2Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller Cabin Interior - 2 Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller Cabin InteriorWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Heller Cabin InteriorPhoto by Dave Alexander, 2015.

After the Heller Cabin, and past an old broken down wagon, the the Buffalo Hunter's camp with Chuckwagon, we made a pit stop at the Orientation building for a bit of history and a well produced video on the beginnings of Wichita.  The 49th largest city in the U.S. got its start as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860's, before becoming incorporated in 1870. 

Wichita, KS - 1870Wichita, KS - 1870

Its position on the trail, and by the Arkansas River, made it a destination for cattle drives coming from Texas, on their way to the railroad towns already established to the north.  However, it would only be a couple of years before the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached the town in 1872. 

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Depot Interior - 2Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Depot Interior - 2 You really get a great feel of how it used to be as soon as you enter town after the Orientation building. Many movies have had scenes filmed here, and we could immediately see why. 

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Main StreetWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Main StreetPhoto by Dave Alexander, 2015. Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Main Street - 3Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Main Street - 3Photo by Dave Alexander, 2015. We made it just in time for a "Dime Novel" play in the middle of town.  It was a fun and quirky skit with gun fight that is performed through most of the season at least a couple times a day.  

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Shoot Out Cowboy ShotWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Shoot Out Cowboy Shot There is a lot to see here in Old Cowtown.  We could have stayed longer, but as it was we spent 4 hours roaming the town, exploring the insides of businesses, and enjoying the historical actors in period dress who occupied several of the buildings. Including a Sheriff, Dress Maker, Blacksmith and more. Here are a few more of the scenes from our visit. 

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - School InteriorWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - School Interior Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Wichita City Eagle Interior - 2Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Wichita City Eagle Interior - 2 Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Carpenter Shop InteriorWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Carpenter Shop Interior

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Ohara's Barber ShopWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Ohara's Barber ShopPhoto by Dave Alexander, 2015. Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Meat Market Interior - 2Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Meat Market Interior - 2
Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Drug Store Products - 2Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Drug Store Products - 2 Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Wichita City EagleWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Wichita City Eagle

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - General Store Interior - 5Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - General Store Interior - 5Photo by Dave Alexander, 2015. Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - General Store Interior - 3Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - General Store Interior - 3

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Grain ElevatorWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Grain ElevatorPhoto by Dave Alexander, 2015. Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Southern HotelWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Southern Hotel
Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Jail PadlockWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Jail PadlockPhoto by Dave Alexander, 2015. Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - LaundryWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Laundry

Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - DeVore Farm GoatWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - DeVore Farm Goat Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - DeVore Farm KitchenWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - DeVore Farm Kitchen Wichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Bank InteriorWichita, KS - Old Cowtown - Bank Interior It was a great way to spend a lovely October Afternoon, and we would highly recommend paying a visit to the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas. Its collection of artifacts is now over 12,000, and is good way to experience what it was like to live in the city's early years. Be sure to see all our images in the growing Wichita Gallery Here

For more information, pricing, directions, events and more, visit the Old Cowtown Museum Official Website Here.

We'll share some of our favorite Kansas ghost town images from our trip in the next blog, along with a visit to the childhood home of Laura Ingalls just outside Independence Kansas. 

About the RV Park we stayed at during this portion of our Journey: 

Santa Fe Lake - While visiting Cowtown, we stayed about 20 miles away just outside Augusta, Kansas. Within 10 minutes driving distance to Wichita, this was an ideal location, and a great time of year to stay, as we had our pick of campsites right by this small lake.  The area includes picnic tables, electric hookups, and plenty of outdoor recreation.  It appears to be privately owned, and during our stay we did note that the electric box for the campsite next to us was out of service, and our own electric hookup (30amp) was damaged where we had to hold our tongue just right to get the plug to stay in. No water hookup on site, but a convenient and long hose for fill up is provided as you come in, which is right by the dump station on the way out. 


Comments

2.Debi Edmiston(non-registered)
Thank you for your kind words about Wichitas Cowtown . I worked there for 5 years , decades ago and enjoyed every minute of it . The best times were when we got to clean out attics . We played a lot with the things we found . I also spent many summers there as a Girl Scout giving tours to visitors . As an adult Girl Scout Leader I took my Troop there to volunteer also . It is a wonderful and lively place to visit , with seasonal activites through out the year !
1.Linda(non-registered)
Just wanted to tell you how much my husband and I enjoy your blog, and traveling vicariously through your site. We're both still working full time, and travel when we can, but your photos satisfy the itch we get often. Thanks so much for the great photos.
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