Yates Center, population 1,417, is located in Woodson County in southeast Kansas.  It's 83 miles south of Topeka.


Every town has their story.  This is one of the best, though told in brief below:

In the year 1875 there was a hot campaign to decide the county seat location for Woodson County.  The contest was between Neosho Falls, Kalida, Defiance, and an area that Abner Yates owned.  Yates selected this plot of land because of its geographical location in the county but even moreso because it had water.  Though Yates Center didn't have one inhabitant, Yates gave a good pitch for why his area should be the county seat.  Voters agreed and Yates Center became the county seat before it even had one house!

In addition to giving the county an entire block of ground for the courthouse, Yates gave the city a park, each church a building location and the first two children born in the town a lot each.



Abner Yates died a poor man in 1904.  Citizens of Yates Center knew him as an honest and good man so they pooled their money to give Abner and his wife Mary a proper gravestone.  It's located in the Yates Center Cemetery on 120th road at the north end of Main.  The Yates stone is in Section 7 east of the driveway.

As the town grew, the downtown was built around the courthouse. Between 1883 and 1928 many of the two-story buildings were made out of sandstone or brick and of Italianate design.   

Even though not all business are filled right now, the courthouse square still has a rich aura.  The Yates Center Courthouse Square Historic District includes 43 structures built between 1883 and 1928. 













A well on the square is where many people get (free) water for everything from gardens to livestock. The well dates back to the early years of the town.

In front of the courthouse, WenDee found a drinking fountain hidden in a lion! The fountain is courtesy of the LIONS Club and gets brought out every spring.



Red bricks with white trim make this Romanesque Revival courthouse a stunning anchor of the downtown.  Designed by George Washburn, it was completed in 1900.  It's open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.















Inlaid into the red brick on the south entrance, these words are a perfect reminder before stepping into a courthouse.  The signs for elected officials add a regal touch.



You can just imagine all the hub bub around this bandstand back in the day.  Model T's parked around the courthouse, a band playing, picnics on the lawn...  What a grand site it must have been.  Dedicated in 1928, the bandstand is a tribute to Woodson County soldiers and sailors of the World War and veterans of all wars.



A modern Veterans Memorial is found on the southwest corner of the courthouse square. 
















You gotta love the name of this popular local cafe.  The Feedbunk!  Located at 112 W. Rutledge on the square, it is open Sunday 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 

The decor is barn wood with cattle brands, corrugated tin wainscoting, and license plates.  Most of the food is made from scratch.  Hey, if the locals love it, and they do, you will, too! 








For years this beautiful 1887 stone hotel sat in disrepair.  No more!  Restored into apartments, this architectural icon once again graces the northwest corner of the square.

Still used as a library (218 N. Main), this Carnegie Library was built in 1912. 



























The Woodson County Museum, 204 W. Mary (Mary Street was named after the founder's wife, Mary Yates), was originally a church in 1878 and later a chicken hatchery.

Thanks to volunteers like Geri, museums like this are available to the public.

It's filled with artifacts, like this 1926 fuel truck and church sign on top of an early jail cell, that portray the local story.











This is also the place to go for information about Kalida, the Woodson State Fishing Lake (built by Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930), and information about the founder, Abner Yates.

A mounting stone plus the horse rings stand by the 1868 cabin.

The museum is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.  Closed Thursday.


























Set against the background of red-bricked streets and historic buildings (like this stone stadium, home of Mardi Grass), Yates Center is a delight to explore.


From chamber director, Carla Green, to many others, it takes a lot of effort to sustain a rural community.  Thanks to all who love Yates Center and give your best for this town, just like Abner Yates did in the beginning.

See you down the road, Marci

Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.