Tag Archives: Wyandotte County

Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit is now traveling Kansas #thinkwater

None of us can live without water, and a new traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit examines the role that water plays in our lives. Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a program that brings big topics to smaller towns all over the United States.

The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling Water/Ways exhibit is as beautiful as it is informative.

Water/Ways is currently traveling through Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia. It’s a beautiful hands-on exhibit that looks at all of the ways we need, use, and interact with water. Water decides where we live, what we grow, and even our recreation and spiritual activities. Too much or too little water can be devastating.

Learn things you might not have known about water. Endorheic watersheds are made of water that drains to a basin instead of a river or the ocean.

In Kansas, we’re constantly thinking about water. We get too much rain. We don’t get enough. Our rivers are up. Our water supply is low. Our water mains break. Our reservoirs silt up. Zebra mussels threaten our water towers. We worry we’ll deplete our aquifers.

The rest of the world is having conversations about these things. too.

This display helps you understand how much water it takes to produce everyday things, like apples, blue jeans, and cars.

The Water/Ways exhibit looks at where we find water on earth and how human activity impacts our water resources. Learn how much water it takes to grow an apple, built a car, or produce a pair of blue jeans. Try your hand at developing good water policies that protect our water supply while supporting cities AND agriculture. [Hint: It’s super hard.] Discover the water challenges faced by people, plants, and animals around the globe, and how living things have adapted to them.

Try your hand at creating public policy that will both protect the water supply AND meet water demands.

It’s a small but powerful exhibit.

In addition to the traveling Water/Ways exhibit, the Kansas Humanities Council has also awarded grants to numerous sites around the state to tell their own water story. [Disclaimer: The Old Depot Museum, where I work, received one of these grants!] The local stories are amazing and demonstrate how our own state can have very diverse water experiences.

The Smithsonian exhibit is on display at the Eudora Community Museum through August 6. If you can’t make it to Eudora in time, you can catch the exhibit in other Kansas locations through 2018.

There are also three local stories being told during the summer of 2017:

At the Mercy of the Kaw: Eudora’s Relationship with Water,” the story of Eudora’s relationship with the Kansas River (Eudora Community Museum, Eudora, Kansas)

Crossings: Getting Over, Around, and Through Water in Franklin County,” the story of the love/hate relationship between Franklin County and the Marais des Cygnes River (Old Depot Museum, Ottawa, Kansas)

Dam, That Took a Long Time,” the story of the construction of Wyandotte County Lake and Dam (Mr. and Mrs. F.L. Schlagle Library and Environmental Learning Center, Kansas City, Kansas)

Upcoming local stories look at floods, failed canals, desegregating swimming pools, and artesian wells.

This is a powerful traveling exhibit and worth seeking out before it leaves the state.

The Magic of Moon Marble Company

Even though it has been around since 1997, I first heard of Moon Marble Company a few years ago, when the Kansas Sampler Foundation named it one of Kansas’s 8 Wonders of Commerce. After hearing everyone from our 12-year-old nephew to my historical society executive director singing its praises, Jim and I finally made our own trip to the mecca of marble making.

Moon Marble Company: Where the magic happens.

Moon Marble Company: Where the magic happens.

Moon Marble is one of the most whimsically wonderful places we’ve ever visited. The building’s exterior only hints at the happy energy inside. The place is filled with marbles and toys, bright colors and staff that truly love what they’re doing.

As you’d expect, bins and bins and more bins of beautiful marbles line the walls of an entire room.

You'll find bins and bins and bins of beautiful marbles at Moon Marble Company.

You’ll find bins and bins and bins of beautiful marbles at Moon Marble Company.

There are also cases of some of the most beautiful art marbles made by true craftspeople. Many of the marbles showcase the work of Moon Marble’s own marble masters, but the company also sells marbles by other glass artists from around the country.

I love this marble SO MUCH.

I love this marble SO MUCH. (Artist: Cathy Richardson)

Many of the marbles made in-house are mesmerizing.

Many of the marbles made in-house are mesmerizing. (I didn’t catch the name of the artist who made this one.)

Three days a week, Moon Marble marble makers offer demonstrations on how marbles are made. You’ll learn the difference between machine-made and  handmade marbles and come to appreciate the science and artistic skill that goes into making a truly beautiful and unique marble. The day we were there, artist Ernie Kober made a marble for us, rotating a ball of molten glass over a 2000° flame as we all leaned in toward the safety glass.

Marble-making masters offer free demonstrations three days a week.

Marble-making masters offer free demonstrations three days a week.

Many of these beautiful marbles can fetch a handsome sum (and rightfully so). However, visitors will have an easy time finding marbles they can afford. Jim needed a few hundred marbles for a physics lab he was teaching, and Moon Marble lets you fill a container that holds about a hundred small machine-made marbles for just $8.50.

Now, here’s the part of Moon Marble that was a total surprise to us: room after room of vintage toys. I have no idea where they get them, but if you’re yearning for a plaything from yesteryear, you will probably find it at Moon Marble.

Moon Marble is a mecca for old-timey toys.

Moon Marble is a mecca for old-timey toys.

We expected to spend a half hour or so at Moon Marble, but our short visit lasted an entire afternoon. It’s a fun place to learn and shop and will appeal to the whole family. If you’re in the KC Metro area (especially during the colder months when you’re looking for fun indoor things to do), Moon Marble is a fun choice.

Rosedale World War I Memorial Arch

High up on a hill, the Rosedale World War I Memorial Arch is easily seen from the Seventh Street Trafficway in Kansas City, Kansas. However, this was the first time my husband and I ever actually made the trip to the park where the arch stands.

The Rosedale Arch was dedicated to local World War I soldiers in 1923.

The Rosedale Arch was dedicated to local World War I soldiers in 1923.

Rosedale was originally established in 1872 as a distinct Wyandotte County town. It was ultimately annexed by Kansas City, Kansas, but maintains its name as a community. The Rosedale Arch echoes the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and was originally designed by Rosedale native John Leroy Marshall and dedicated in 1923. More recently, monuments were added to commemorate soldiers from later wars.

2013-08-05 18.17.37

The little park is a lovely retreat in the middle of the city and is easily accessible. In addition to the arch, there is a great view of the downtown Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri skylines.

2013-08-05 18.14.37

The park is high on the hill and offers a view of the downtown Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri skylines.

Sunday Snapshot: Huron Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas

High above street level on a mound of prime downtown real estate lay the final resting ground for many members of the tribe that would lend its name to the county of Wyandotte. In 1843, Wyandots migrated from Ohio to what is now Kansas. When they arrived, the land they were promised was no longer available, and instead, they purchased 36 acres from the Delaware, who were already living in the area.

During those earliest months, epidemics of disease swept through the Wyandot, and they buried their dead on the hill overlooking the river. As the area was opened up to White settlement, the cemetery land was supposed to be protected ground, but as much of the surrounding land changed hands, several attempts were made to sell the cemetery and remove the graves–especially as the business district grew around it.

Huron Cemetery hovers over the intersection of 7th and Minnesota in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Huron Cemetery hovers over the intersection of 7th and Minnesota in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

When such an attempt was made in 1906, three sisters with some Wyandot blood in their veins–Helana, Eliza, and Ida Conley–padlocked the cemetery gates, built a shanty over their parents’ graves, and pointed shotguns at anyone who tried to remove tombstones or bodies. Eliza “Lyda” Conley studied law and was thought to be the first woman to  argue a case before the Supreme Court. The three sisters kept up this occupational protest for several years as court after court ruled in favor of the sale, but the public sided with the Conleys and in 1913, Congress denied the sale and instead appropriated funds to improve the grounds.

Today, the cemetery includes winding paths and is a scenic, green overlook for an otherwise paved downtown. The cemetery is thought to be the final resting ground for several hundred early area residents, though only a few dozen graves are specifically marked. Many are graves of Wyandot chiefs, a few of which are still marked today.

Early settler Lucy Armstrong's recollection of the Huron Cemetery. Armstrong was a member of the Wyandot.

Early settler Lucy Armstrong’s recollection of the Huron Cemetery. Armstrong’s husband was a member of the Wyandot.

Because many White settlers had assimilated and married into the Wyandot nation, graves sometimes carry traditionally European names, English translations of native names, as well as Native American names. In many places, a marker indicates only that there are many unmarked graves.

The cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places and is easily accessible (it’s right next to the Kansas City Kansas Public Library). Detailed plaques at the entrance outline the history of the Wyandot and the burial ground. It’s worth a visit, both to remember those who came before us and to understand just how valuable two acres of land can be to different people.

Sunday Snapshot: Interstate Federal Savings Sign in KCK

I have a boatload more to share from our recent adventures in Wyandotte and Johnson counties, but for now, here’s one of my favorite street scene pictures: an awesome vintage sign in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

A fabulous vintage sign for the Interstate Federal Savings building at 7th and Minnesota in Kansas City, Kansas.

A fabulous vintage sign for the Interstate Federal Savings building at 7th and Minnesota in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sunday Snapshot: Sumner Academy, a high school with heritage

Originally known as Sumner High School, Sumner Academy of Arts and Science nurtures some of the brightest minds in Kansas City, Kansas.

I still remember walking through the doors of this fabulous Art Deco building to enroll for the first time in 1989. This was my dream high school, and I did a little dance the day I received my letter of acceptance. But what I didn’t fully understand about Sumner was its history and how that history is interwoven with the history of race relations in Kansas City.

Many Kansans believe that schools were racially segregated right up until Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. However, in Kansas City, Kansas, this was not true until 1904, when a Caucasian boy was allegedly killed by an African American boy in a baseball park. The next morning, 700 Caucasian students refused to allow the 80 African American students to enter Kansas City, Kansas High School even though the accused murderer was not a student. This incident led to the passage of a state law that mandated segregated schools in 1905.

Sumner High School was born at the corner of Eighth and Oakland.

The student population outgrew the original 1905 building, and in 1939, the Public Works Administration built the original sections of the present-day building. It was never as grand or flashy as Wyandotte High School, which catered to the Caucasian population, but it has an elegance that has graced the corner of Eighth and Oakland for more than 70 years.

In 1978, the courts ordered the integration of Sumner High School. That fall, Sumner Academy of Arts and Science opened its doors as a public college prep magnet. Sumner High School already had a reputation for providing an excellent education. Sumner Academy would provide that education to a more diverse student body.

My husband and I are part of the class of 1994, and we’re both incredibly grateful for the education we received there. However, it is only now, nearly two decades later, that I am beginning to really appreciate the role that Sumner Academy played in the history of an entire city.

Read more about Sumner Academy, its architecture, and its history through the National Historic Register application.