I had to make a quick stop in Wichita for my annual medical check ups, but got to do some sightseeing. As many times as I have been to Wichita, plus the fact I used to live there, I had never been to the Kansas Air Museum. Built on the site of the former Wichita Municipal Airport, the museum not only has an impressive list of aircraft on site, but details the early history of aviation manufacture.
I knew many small, private airplanes were made in Wichita, as well as many of the Boeing aircraft, both military and commercial, but I did not know this:
This is one of only three prototype Stearman cars made here in Wichita at the Stearman Aircraft plant. It was a 2 cyl., 20 hp Kohler engine, which held only 4 gal. of gas and got 40mpg. It could top out at 60mph and cruise at 40. The design was for in-town driving, but the project was discontinued in 1973. (Maybe this was the forerunner of the Smart Car)
Every red dot on the map below is an aircraft manufacturing facility which has operated at some point in Wichita. I was surprised at how many are still in operation. Just some of the more commonly known are Lear, Beech, Raytheon, Cessna and Stearman and Boeing.
But aircraft isn't the only thing Wichita is known for. The Coleman Company got its start here in the early 1900s with the idea to manufacture a gas-powered lamp. Coleman is still headquartered in Wichita, but much of its manufacturing is now done overseas.
Just a few other things of interest which were invented or came from Wichita:
1890s-Mentholatum; the birthplace of White Castle Hamburger; Pizza Hut; and Rent-a-Center.
Finally, we are ready to start east. The next stop is Fort Scott, KS. The fort was established in 1843 as a military outpost to guard the military road from Fort Leavenworth down to Oklahoma Indian Lands. Missouri had just become a state and everything west of Missouri was still wild frontier.
The outpost was abandonded in 1853 when it was no longer needed. In 1855, the government auctioned the land and property to the local settlers. Barricks such as those below were sold for $200-$500 to the highest bidder to become hotels. The parade grounds became a city park and the town flourished. In 1854, Kansas had become a territory and opened for settlement.
Fort Scott did see a resurrection when the Army took over during the civil war. But by 1869, the town was at the hub of the new railroads. At one time over 100 trains went through this town every day. People came out west to Kansas to open banks and stores to support the growth and along with that growth was wealth. At one time, Fort Scott rivaled Kansas City as the hub of railroads, but Kansas City won out and now the town has only a population of about 8,000. But in its heydey, some elegant mansions were built out here on the dirt prairies.
In 1868, business partners from New York City came to Fort Scott to open a bank. They built twin homes (identical floor plans, although the exteriors are slightly different) next to each other. These homes were completed in 1878 at a cost of $10,000 each. But shortly after their completion, the bank folded and the they were seized by the courts and sold. One sold for $5,000 and the other $6,500. Today, they are again owned by the same person and are operated as a bed and breakfast, with a restaurant as well. We had lunch there and were allowed to wander through the house and into one of the rooms which wasn't rented out at the time. They have both been furnished in period style furnishing from the mid to late 1800s.
This is the twin next door.
The visitor center offers a guided bus tour for $5. I was glad we did it. Found out lots of interesting facts about the town and its history. Below is another bed and breakfast.
I imagine there were 30+ restored homes in a 3 block square area. Another industry which brought money into this town was gravel and concrete. Although the gravel pits have dried up, they supplied the gravel and concrete for the building of the Panama Canal. And today, they might have eight trains go through instead of the 100+ as in the past.
For such a small town, they had the most impressive numbers of restored and maintained mansions built in the mid to late 1800s that I have seen.