8 Wonders of Kansas

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8 Wonders of Decatur County

The bed-and-breakfast incorporates the original Bank of Oberlin, built in 1886. Located at 189 S. Penn Ave., in downtown Oberlin, four guest rooms are found upstairs in the original building with spacious suites in the new addition to the west. The building, on the corner of Hall and Penn, was purchased in 1990 by Gary Anderson. The kitchen was built in the bank’s former safe and a gift store, called Oberlin Mercantile was established as part of the original brick structure that served first as a bank and later as the county courthouse.  Make the connection at landmarkinn.com.
The Last Indian Raid Museum features the Northern Cheyenne Indian Raid of 1878 but in its 50 years of operation it brings a compilation of the history of the pioneers who settled here and the communities that were born when immigrants from Czechoslovakia, German and Sweden came to the open prairie and learned how to prosper against all elements. The main office houses genealogy files, with numerous period rooms and fourteen buildings celebrating the history and development of the untamed land and the prairie family lifestyle that ensued. The museum complex includes a 1886 depot and jail, grocery store, sod house, one room country school, doctor’s office, land office, livery, Paul’s gas station, Bohemian Hall and St. Mark’s Church. All are located at 258 S. Penn Avenue. lastindianraidmuseum.org.
The longest running home-owned carnival in the Midwest is located on the Decatur County Fairground just west of the intersection of U.S. 36 and 83. It is operated the first full week of August during the annual county fair. Rides, games and concessions are all run by community volunteers from 7-11 p.m. each evening starting on Tuesday and running through Saturday.

The home-owned carnival started in 1973 with only two rides but after several years of profits from carnival proceeds and local donations more rides were purchased. Today the carnival boasts the ferris wheel, merry-go-round, swings, tilt-a-whirl, octopus, small scale-train on half-mile track, kiddie cars and swings and numerous games of skill. Great carnival food flavors include pork burgers, funnel cakes, sno-cones and cotton candy.
The metal canopies that cover the sidewalks in the downtown business district were constructed in the spring of 1971 by contractor H. Ernest Nichols of Nichols Building Supply Inc. The winning bid of $42,000 appears to have been a frugal investment as the block long feature is still revered by visitors after standing 40 years. A group of community leaders along with the editor of The Oberlin Herald sought the help of graduate students in the school of architecture at Kansas State University to come up with a design that brings a cohesiveness to the downtown businesses along Penn Avenue. The canopies have large globe lights that shine on the brick streets at nightfall and are inviting to visitors and locals alike who want to take a quiet stroll on a warm summer’s night.
Pete Felten, Jr., well-known Kansas sculptor, carved a Pioneer Family Statue out of native limestone depicting a father, mother and children as they arrived in the late 1800s to make their home and begin a new life. The structure sits on north Penn Ave., also known as main street, and just a few blocks south of the well traveled U.S. 36 shortest route from Indianapolis to Denver. Overlooking the central business district, the statue welcomes you to the historic town’s pleasing architecture, connecting canopies and globe lights and appealing store fronts that create a unique shopping experience. oberlinks.com.
6.  SAPPA PARK & WETLANDS, near Oberlin
Recently revitalized Sappa Park and wetlands is located two miles east of the U.S. 36 and 83 intersection in Oberlin. A short, winding drive north off U.S. 36 will take the visitor past seasonal crops, a couple of houses and then reveal a canopy of trees shading the mile-long drive that ends at the native rock shelter house and bath with two huge fireplaces. Actual construction of the park and two dams started in 1935 under supervision of the Works Progress Administration and was not completed until 1938. Landscaping and improvement of the park area was handled under the direction of the National Park Service with the Civilian Conservation Crops assigned to arrive in February of the following year. Once operated as a state park it was turned over to the City of Oberlin in the late 1960s when much of the needed upkeep and maintenance went undone. Now the area has been reborn with input from Pheasants Forever and local volunteers. There are currently eight walking, hiking, and biking trails, hundreds of new tree plantings, an orchard, food plots for wildlife, camp fire rings, picnic tables, disc golf and fishing in the newly constructed eight-acre wetlands pond now filling the dry former lake bottom and near the Shelter House.
7.  BRICK STREETS, Oberlin
“Where Friends Meet on Brick Streets,” is a popular theme for Oberlin promotions groups. The first red brick streets were put in the city beginning in 1922 when Oberlin’s city governing board let a contract for seven blocks of improvements to enhance shopping for downtown business owners and residents who were buying the latest modes of transportation. Included in the brick paving were Penn Avenue, two blocks on Hall and Commercial Streets. The cost with curbs, gutters and storm system was $125,526. In December of that year more of the residential streets were paved with brick. Again the dollar value of the historic brick streets can not be measured when compared to maintenance needs for streets built using current paving methods.
8.  CZECH MUSEUM, Jennings
The Jennings Czech Museum is located in southeast Decatur County just off K-383 in the downtown business district. The museum was first started in 1964 by residents wanting to honor the early settlers who immigrated from the old country. The Heritage Associates of Jennings, Inc., put together the museum in 1970 starting with the donation of the former Methodist Church by the Hays Conference. It was moved by volunteer labor to the present site then gutted with the south addition and vestibule removed as interior restoration began. Later, a building donated by the Royal Neighbors was available for additional displays so a connecting hallway was constructed. Inside the museum are over 1,000 catalogued and labeled items including extensive Jennings School memorabilia, WW I and WWII relics, uniforms, cemetery records, farming equipment, antiques and genealogy files.