Museums, Culture and Attractions in Wamego.
The OZ Museum on Wamego's main street,
Lincoln Avenue, features one of the world's largest collections of OZ
memorabilia open to the public. Ranging from first edition books from
the early 1900s, through silent films of the 1920s, the famous MGM motion
picture of 1939, to the collectibles of today, the array of OZ artifacts
is astounding. Arranged in 4 galleries, the museum also features a little
theater and Aunt Em's gift shop.
The Columbian Theatre
J.C. Rogers, a local banker, opened the Columbian
Theatre to 900 visitors on New Years Eve of 1895. Though originally
called the Rogers Music Hall, the upstairs ballroom was renamed The
Columbian when the stage was added in 1898. It soon became one of the
foremost entertainment showcases in the Midwest and the cultural heart
Rogers adorned the building with a number of artifacts that he bought
at the close of the 1893 Columbian Exposition and World's Fair in Chicago.
Metal columns, ornamental windows, wood carvings, stone urns, and a
13' iron eagle originated from buildings at the fair. More notably,
Rogers obtained eight 13'x18' mural size paintings that were commissioned
by the U.S. Treasury Department for the Government Building at the exposition;
six of these became well-known features of The Columbian.
The Columbian was renovated in both 1915 and 1929. The 1929 renovation
completed its transition to a movie house, whereby fixed seating, a
stair-stepped balcony, a projection booth, and a large screen were added.
The Columbian operated almost exclusively as a movie theater during
the years of the Depression and World War II. On February 9, 1950, in
a time of National change, the Columbian's doors were shut for the next
A great volunteer effort began in 1989 to restore the theater with
the formation of the Columbian Theatre Foundation. In total, $1.8 million
was expended in order to bring The Columbian back to its original great
stature - a place to celebrate music, theatre, dance, and the visual
arts. It is now also home to a museum, gift shop, and art center and
often the host of special events. During the last renovation project
14 additional paintings from the Chicago Exposition were discovered
in storage under the stage, which establishes The Columbian as the largest
single repository of artwork from the 1893 event.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
the Schonhoff Mill was built by a Dutch immigrant in 1879. The Schonhoff
family found milling to be unprofitable in this area and abandoned the
enterprise within fifteen years. The mill was constructed from all local
materials - limestone and wood - except for the main shaft which was
hauled in by wagon from Leavenworth. The structure is 40 feet high with
a base diameter of 25 feet. In 1924 members of the city park board conceived
of moving the mill to the city park mound in Wamego. A volunteer group
of businessmen and farmers was organized to move the mill to the park
from its original site twelve miles to the north. The layers of stone
were numbered as were the stones in each layer. All parts were moved
to Wamego by horse drawn wagons and the mill was reconstructed.
A fine piece of architecture, the Ditto-Leach House was built
around 1890 by Louis B. Leach, a prominent early day businessman. The
house was fashioned from memory to appear like a villa in the suburbs
of Messina, on the Island of Sicily, where Mr. and Mrs. Leach had vacationed.
The house contains 14 gables, 15 outside doors, and 25 columns. The
restoration/reconstruction of the house was started in 1987 by Dr. Bill
and Rose Ditto.
Historic Wamego Village
Located in the eastern portion of the Wamego City Park is the historic
Wamego village complex, operated by the Wamego Historical Society. The
central attraction is the museum, housed in a building that replicates
the original City Hall from the late 1800s. Also located in the village
is White Chapel School, the Louisville Jail, a log cabin and the only
remaining reminder that Wamego was once the last stop on the main Union
Pacific cross country line - the machine shop that was originally attached
to the roundhouse. The museum is open from April to October and is also
available at other times of the year by special arrangements.
Located inside The Columbian Theatre, Museum and Art
Center is the Swogger Gallery. Called the most beautiful art gallery
in Northeast Kansas by the Topeka Capital Journal, the gallery houses
rotating art exhibits while providing a home to the Columbian Artists,
a group of regional artists who sell their work from the gallery.
Walter P. Chrysler, founder of the Chrysler Corporation, was born in
Wamego in 1875. Compelling evidence suggests he lived in Wamego into
his teen years where his father was an employee of the railroad. The
home in its original location is now in jeopardy, so efforts are underway
to move it to a suitable location where it can be viewed and toured.
Wamego is the hub around which much small-town Kansas antiquing occurs.
Located in the city are 5 antique shops. Paxico's noted antique shops
are but a 15 minute drive away, and the shops of Riley, Kansas, are
within 45 miles of Wamego.
to stay in Wamego?
Wamego Super 8
The Cottage at Cedar Meadows
Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast
Eagle View Inn
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