Road Trip: Argonia, Danville, Freeport, Harper, Kingman and Pratt

Nothing like a hot August day to make you want to take a road trip.  With time on our side, we decided to check out a few spots in western southcentral Kansas. In full transparency, some of these stops were from 2019. I just thought they worked well in the narrative.

Argonia, KS

For those of you that know me, it will come as no surprise that most of the places I visited were closed, or no longer existed. I started by checking out the (closed today) Susan Salter Museum.

She was the very first elected female mayor in the United States. This was 1887, 33 years before women could vote. She was head of Argonia’s Temperance committee. Two drunks nominated her as a joke, she won the election with 2/3 of the vote.

One of the first things she did was outlaw alcohol and closed the town’s two bars.

Argonia City Park. I now know where all of those favorite playground pieces (deemed too dangerous) ended up… in small-town Kansas.

I can almost imagine the burns on the back of my legs from these fun slides.

Not really playground equipment, especially since the signs say, “Keep off tank”

Freeport, KS

Population of six people. It is the smallest incorporated town in Kansas. One resident is the mayor, the other five make up the city council.

My guide books might be a little outdated. They listed Freeport as the smallest incorporated city in the U.S. that maintains a bank. I found the bank and city hall. The bank appears to be closed. Weirdly, the door was propped open, but if I have learned anything from Scooby Doo, you do not enter an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere.

I also drove by the local church. It is on the Presbyterian and Reformed Historical Sites Registry.

Registered site Number 287: From their website: “The First Presbyterian Church in Freeport began as a Sunday school mission in 1884. The town of Freeport, located in eastern Harper County, was chartered the following year. The wood frame church was built in 1886, partially funded by the Board of Church Erection. It was the first and is now the only church in town. The unique building, an eclectic mix of local carpenter styles, has seen a series of improvements, including the addition of heat in 1927, running water and electricity in 1952, a kitchen in 1957, and indoor bathrooms in 1983. The sanctuary was carpeted and new pews installed in 1967.”

Danville, KS

Population 58. It’s claim to fame is its the only Post Office in Kansas… set in a former gas station. The building dates back to 1961.

Harper, KS

This is the town’s fountain, built in 1909 and featured troughs for watering horses. After 60 years the fountain was in ruins.  It was refurbished in 1983, without the water feature.

The Harper water tower, built in 1886. At the top is a fish, that is used as a weather vane. In 1892, a tornado hit the city and damaged the fish. 

But they loved their fish and restored it, as you can see it is still a town symbol

This little house was built by a high school student for his family. The kid was Lloyd Stearman, who would become an aviation pioneer and a major player in Boeing.

This church is all that remains of the Runnymede Village. It was developed in the late 1880’s to attract Englishmen to learn about American Farming. It failed within five years.

I had to visit the Harper city park, built in 1932 by the Harper Social and Study Club along with money from the WPA. I love this pic of the old school jungle gym with a modern gym in the background. I would still rather play on the fire engine

And I loved these slides.. ah, yes.. the burning stainless steel. Good times.  We had one of those big slides at my elementary school… they used to seem so tall.

Kingman, KS

Our next stop was Kingman, we started by getting pictures of the city’s Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Statue.  I won’t spend much time on it here.  This is one in a series, check out the lady liberty main page.

Kingman County Historical Museum & Cessna Mural- We were too late to see the museum.  It is housed in one of the few fire stations in the country with a tower for drying fire hoses.  We will catch it next time. 

On the back of the building is a mural paying homage to the first flight of Clyde Cessna.  Cessna was born in Iowa, but he spent many years at his family’s farm in Rago which is about 15 minutes north of Kingman. Cessna would, of course, go on to make aviation history.  In 1927, Cessna and Victor Roos formed Cessna-Roos Aircraft. Roos, after just one month, sold his half of the business to Cessna.  Clyde Cessna renamed the company; Cessna Aircraft Corporation and the business took off. 

This is the 1911 Kingman Train station, its still standing and it has one of the most unique parks in Kansas… 

Glenn Stark Statues – Glenn Stark was an artist who built concrete sculptures. Stark also worked as a Baptist minister, a carpenter, bricklayer, and stonemason. He was also a survivor of Pearl Harbor. For years he displayed his work at his home in Kingman.  Stark passed away in 2014 and much of the art was moved to Depot Park, now known as Glenn Stark Park. 

When Jeremy and I stopped at the old Depot, we were surprised to see all the statues are gone.  The park is being remodeled and we hope the statues will return.  The pics are from the 2019 visit.

Finally, another place I wanted to stop at again, Riverside Park.  It’s a beautiful park with plenty to do.  But I wanted to see the playground. 

Check out these old school swings. They look like some kind of torture device.

This is cool.. it’s a cowboy, check out the yellow guns on his side.. cool until you see what he’s looking at… a Native American swing set. Is he holding his arms in the air to surrender? 

A horse jungle gym? Oh to be young again.

Several pieces of equipment are so cool, but they could use a little love.  The city’s long-term plan for the park includes getting rid of all the equipment and building one big playground with two parts, one for the little kids, and one for the older kids.  I hate to see these classics disappear.  I ran into a gentleman in the park.  He said, “I used to play on those as a kid, and after 30 years, those are the only pieces that still exist from that time.”  They pay homage to the city’s early days and the state’s western heritage.

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