The 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture

The Kansas Sampler Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sustaining rural culture in Kansas, asked the public to vote on the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture. Here's what they decided:

Chase County Courthouse

Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, KSWhy it's on this list: This building's striking French Renaissance style and red mansard roof make it one of the most recognizable buildings in Kansas. 

Built in 1873, the Chase County Courthouse is the oldest county courthouse still in use in Kansas and the second oldest west of the Mississippi River. Over the years, it has undergone $2.4 million worth of renovations and restoration.

The building was designed by accomplished architect John Haskell. Haskell came to Kansas in 1857 and quickly rose to prominence, designing many important early Kansas buildings like the original Kansas statehouse. 

The French Renaissance style is characterized by the distinctive shape of the roof. Standing at 113-feet tall, you can see the the courthouse and its red roof from throughout the county on clear days. Features within the building include a three-story spriral staircase made from walnut trees along the Cottonwood River. 

Self-guided tours are available during normal business hours Monday-Friday. Guided tours are available most weekends and holidays.

Address: 308 Broadway, Cottonwood Falls, KS
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Cooper Barn

Cooper Barn in Colby, KSWhy it's on this list: The Cooper barn is said to be the largest barn in Kansas and was one of the finest show cattle barns of its time.

Built in 1936, the barn boasts an impressive 15,048 square feet inside. It measures 66 feet wide, 114 feet long, and 48 feet tall with a gambrel roof. 

The barn was originally built in Breton, KS as part of Foster Farms and housed as many as 75 prize-winning registered Hereford cattle.

Gary Cooper and his sister, Mary Cooper Pawlus, donated the Cooper Barn to the Prairie Museum of Art & History, and on May 15, 1992, after months of fundraising and planning, the barn made the epic 16-mile journey to its current location in Colby.

Anyone visiting the Prairie Museum may also tour the barn. It is used today as a venue for dances, weddings, and other community celebrations.

Address: 1905 S Franklin, Colby, KS
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Fromme-Birney Barn

Fromme-Birney Barn in Mullinville, KSWhy it's on this list: This barn is one of only 23 round barns built in early Kansas history and has been beautifully restored.

In 1912, Henry Fromme had the barn built to house 28 drafts horses and his registered Percheron stallion. Round barns were promoted as being more wind and cyclone resistant and took less lumber to construct the same volume of space. At a cost of $8,000, this barn was several thousand dollars more than others of the time. 

This barn is actually composed of 16 sides. I stands 50 feet tall and 70 feet in diameter. Soon after construction, the tractor replaced the horse as the farm power source and the barn was obsolete. Because of it's location, it was later used as a landmark for training WWII bomber navigators. 

Some of the history of the barn is on display inside, and visitor are welcome.

Location: 3.5 miles south and 1.25 miles west of Mullinville
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Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church in Pfeifer, KSWhy it's on this list: This church is often touted as the finest example of the Gothic style in the state.

Sitting 165 feet long and 75 feet wide, the structure features a rib-vaulted ceiling supported on delicate, decorative columns. The central spire is 165 feet tall and is believed to be the tallest Gothic church spire in Kansas.

Holy Cross is known as the "two-cent church" because parish families paid two cents for each bushel of wheat they produced to fund construction. The total cost of the church came out to $56,000. 

In 1993, the Diocese of Salina decided to dissolve the parish, but the church itself remains open to the public, depending on donations for upkeep. The church is also available for funerals, weddings, and other services.

Location: Pfeifer Ave, Pfeifer
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Kansas State Capitol

Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, KSWhy it's on this list: This magnificent building was designed in a time when people lived in sod houses and the state had a population of just 27,000.

Completed in 1903, after 37 years of construction and more than $3 million, it is one of the largest state capitols in the nation. 

From the ground floor to the top of the dome is 304 feet, a few feet higher than our nation's Capitol in D.C. In 2002, a bronze statue of a Kansa warrior was placed on top of the dome, adding an additional 22 feet and 2 inches. 

The chamber rooms for the Senate and House of Representatives include dozens of unique, ornate details from several Renaissance styles. The white marble on every floor came from the state of Georgia and the grey marble from Tennessee. The second floor rotunda has varieties from Belgium, France, and Italy.

A guided tour of the capitol building is available several times a day Monday-Saturday (when not under COVID restrictions). On the dome tour, visitors are able to climb the 296 steps leading up from the fifth floor to the top of the dome. 

Location: 300 SW 10th, Topeka
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Lebold Mansion

Lebold Mansion in Abilene, KSWhy it's on this list: This mansion is a rare surviving example, not only in Kansas but the entire U.S., of the architectural style known as "Italianate Tuscan Villa."

Most villas built in the U.S. were made of wood in an "L" shape floor plan. The much rarer style common in Italy is made of stone and cube shaped, like the Lebold Mansion.

One of the most distinguishing features of the mansion is the architect's re-use of the Hersey stone dugout. When building, architects used the dugout that had been there for 23 years as the foundation to support the weight of the 65-foot-tall stone tower. 

In the 1920s, the building was purchased by C.L. Brown of the United Telephone Company and became a residence for single telephone operator women. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, it was used by Brown as a children's orphanage. Then, during WWII, it became a boarding house for soldiers. 

Location: 106 N Vine, Abilene
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Ness County Bank

Ness County Bank in Ness City, KSWhy it's on this list: Because of its hand-carved stone arches, rare extruded mortared joints, and beautiful woodwork inside. 

Finished in 1890, this four-story limestone building was said to be the finest, most imposing structure west of Topeka and was nicknamed the "Skyscraper of the Plains."

Unique features include four vaults, one of which has an oil painting finished with 22 karat gold, an original elevator shaft, 13-foot tim-pressed ceilings, pocket doors, and 110 arch-carved windows. 

Many Civil War veterans worked to construct the massive limestone building, hand carving and chiseling the stone. One stone brought in for the arches weighed in at 6,820 pounds.  

Today, the building houses the Ness County Chamber of Commerce, Prairie Mercantile, and an exhibit of Ness County History.

Location: 102 W Main, Ness City
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Seelye Mansion

Seelye Mansion in Abilene, KSWhy it's on this list: Because of the grandeur of the well-restored, three-story Georgian style mansion.

Built in 1904, this beautiful 25-room home was built for Dr. A.B. Seeley, a patent medicine magnate. The house still features most of the original furniture and Edison light fixtures.

The home includes 11 bedrooms, a ballroom, bowling alley, library, gold French furniture, Steinway grand piano, and a Tiffany-designed fireplace in the grand hall.

The Patent Medicine Museum located in the mansion has many artifacts of the A.B. Seeley Medical Company, which sold more than 100 products over a 14-state area.

Ninety-minute tours start Monday-Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Location: 1105 N Buckeye, Abilene
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Photos courtesy of the Kansas Sampler Foundation

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