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Monday, July 24, 2017

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City, KS

It's funny how you can live years of your life in an area and only discover some of its uniqueness once you've moved away.

I recently attended an Instameet event (for those who don't know, an event for Instagrammers) in Kansas City, Kansas. I had lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, twenty-plus years, and can honestly say I'd never heard of a couple of the places we visited.

Downtown KCKS is home to a truly fabulous Memorial Hall, dedicated as the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall more than ninety years ago. Located within short drives to the airport and downtown Kansas City, Missouri attractions such as the Power and Light District, it has a history as an entertainment venue.

It was the 1963 venue for singer Patsy Cline's last public performance before she and her fellow performers - Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins - died in a plane crash returning to Nashville. In the intervening years, many famous performers including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, REO Speedwagon and Led Zeppelin have performed in the 3,500 seat arena.

In addition, it has been home to a variety of sports events including professional wrestling and martial arts. On the day I visited, a roller derby practice session was in progress.

Although the outside is stately in an understated way, the inside is elaborate in its design. Marble, arches and columns combine to draw the eye. Sixteen arches separated by the columns showcase patriotic quotations. The architects who designed the building had a keen sense of classic beauty.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Needless to say, I loved it and like all the other attendees took many pictures. If you ever get the opportunity, take the time to visit the memorial located at 701 N 7th Street in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Museum

Trolley Museum

Looking for something different to do in Colorado Springs? We recently visited the Trolley Museum in the Roswell area and discovered an interesting history of the city and streetcars.

Inside of trolley
Located in the 19th century Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific roundhouse at 2333 Steel Drive, the museum has interesting artifacts of a bygone era. Our knowledgeable tour guide gave us a rundown of a fascinating period in the city’s history.

A number of restored – and in the process of being restored – streetcars provide a historical look at transportation across the nation. The current inventory includes streetcars from Denver, Ft Collins, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The display includes cars from the Rock Island, Southern Pacific and D&RGW railways, as well as interurban electric busses. An 1888 Pullman sleeping car is being restored. Visitors can tour a restored caboose and take a short ride in a restored trolley.
The tour guides also present the significant figures in the development of transportation in the area.

But the Trolley Museum is more than just the past. The Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, operator of the museum, is in ongoing negotiations to restore streetcar service in Colorado Springs.
Caboose display

With the current inventory of restored cars, it will be possible to operate the trolley line. What fun that will be!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Colorado Springs, a vibrant destination

Old Courthouse

Colorado Springs – then and now. Eons ago (so it seems), I lived in the city and attended St. Mary’s High School, which stood next to St. Mary’s Church. Today the church still stands tall against the skyline, but the two-story building that was my school is now an expanded parking lot for the church.

Prickly pear
The Pioneer Museum and the public library across the street are still operational, but much of the downtown is totally new to me. I find that exciting. Walking the streets, I am inundated with memories, and with a genuine fascination for what cities can offer. The old department stores of my youth – Kaufmann’s, Hibbard’s, the Grey Rose and Lorig’s – are gone, but in their place, the buildings house restaurants, bars, shops and galleries. I spent a morning taking photos of a few of the public art projects that line the streets. I was not alone. A number of people of all ages took photos and selfies. I wondered how many shots of downtown Colorado Springs hit social media sites in those few hours.

I love the old courthouse that graces the newer buildings around it. I am forever fascinated with the unique designs that architects create. With the Rockies as a backdrop, it must be a challenge to design something that enhances the natural beauty of the area and yet stands on its own.

Just twenty or so blocks to the west, the old Colorado City has kept the flavor of yesteryear. It also features many food and drink establishments, galleries and shops, but unlike the modernization of downtown, this area boasts of its history.

I enjoy them both. When you visit Colorado Springs, take time to walk both areas and experience the new and the old. Both offer visitors plenty of charm and choices.

Add in the climate and the mountains, and life doesn’t get much better!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mt St Francis Sanatorium

Mt. St. Francis

I recently read “The Art of Breathing” by Janie DeVos. With little knowledge of what tuberculosis (TB) care was like in the early part of the 20th century, through her novel I learned a little about the life and treatment for patients at the time.

Confined to sanatoriums and often quarantined, patients must have been driven nearly crazy during their months and sometimes years of treatment. In addition to the confinement and separation from family and friends, they faced their illness head-on and knew the odds against recovery.

Katherine, the heroine in DeVos’ story, is based on her grandmother’s own battle with TB. DeVos spent time in Chicago in the sanatorium where her grandmother received treatment, researching medical methods of the time and the day-to-day activities allowed patients.
The book reminded me that my dad had an aunt who emigrated from Ireland only to die here from TB a short time later, or consumption as they called it then. She was only eighteen and none of my dad’s generation ever knew her. However, he and his cousins took care of her grave throughout their lives.

Patient hut
With these thoughts in mind, I recently visited Mt. St. Francis in Colorado Springs. In 1907, the Modern Woodmen of America purchased the land to build a sanatorium for treatment of their members who contracted TB. Once built, the facility consisted of many individual huts where a patient was isolated from others. With room for only a bed, a table, and a wheelchair, the small huts probably became the center of a patient’s world. The Colorado air has always been known for its health properties, so hopefully patients spent many days outside enjoying the magnificent Rocky Mountains and the woods that surrounded the facility. 

Inside of patient hut
This one facility treated more than 12,000 patients over the years, and it is just one of several major sanatoriums in the Colorado Springs area. In fact, for years the city was known as a healthy place to treat TB patients.

On my visit, I saw a number of deer and I hoped that the thousands of patients from yesteryear also were blessed with their calming presence.

The Woodmen society operated the sanatorium until 1947, when they sold it to an individual who donated it to the Sisters of St. Francis. The sisters continued to concentrate on physical and spiritual health care and today the facility includes a nursing center, a retreat center, and a church.

The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. I would love to make a retreat there.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Monument Rocks in western Kansas

Slash a wide path down the middle of our country from north to south, and you will likely discover that eons ago it was part of a shallow sea. Back before dinosaurs roamed the land, sea creatures swam the sea.

For years, geologists, archeologists and other scientists have found fossils proving that sea life once existed in what is now prairie land. Today Monument Rocks, a formation of chalk rocks, is all that remains of the millions of years of sediment deposited on the sea floor. Erosion washed away all but these rocks. Today they rise out of the flat Kansas landscape and stand as tall sentinels to a distant past.

As a National Landmark, they attract many visitors. Although they stand on private property, they are open to the public. Standing tall at heights of 100+ feet, they appear both majestic and vulnerable. I stood in awe, trying unsuccessfully to imagine what our country once looked like. How many years did it take for large deposits of fossils and how many after that for sediment to build to such towering heights?

Although they don't cover large areas of land, they are magnificent. You can see the vulnerability in the crumbling bits of rock that litter the ground. Climbing on them is forbidden, and it's easy to understand why. However, visitors are free to roam around and take pictures of the different views. When you visit, be sure to walk through and around the formations, because you'll be amazed at how a few steps can totally change your perspective.

Located south of Oakley, Kansas and I-70, it is about a twenty-mile drive and well worth the time.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Coronado Heights Castle near Lindsborg, Kansas

Coronado Heights Castle

Yes, Kansas has its marvels too. Too often we just drive I-70 and never see all that the state has to offer.

This trip we chose to visit Coronado Heights Castle and Lindsborg, before spending a night in Salina.

In 1541, explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado visited the area while looking for a lost city of gold. Legend has it that, not finding the gold, he gave up the search and returned home.

In the 1900s, a Spanish coin and the chain from Spanish armor were discovered in the area, furthering the belief that Coronado visited.

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal program to put people back to work during the Depression, built the castle and picnic area that people love to visit today. As you wind up the hill to the castle, you still have little clue to the fantastic views from the top.

Take your camera when you visit. The views showcase the beauty of the Kansas countryside. In June, the land is quilted in a golden and green pattern.

A bike trail circles the base of the hill. The park is located just a few miles northwest of Lindsborg and is easily accessible from I-70 at Salina.