What are The 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture?

Kansas is a state that is often overlooked when it comes to tourism, but it has a lot to offer. From stunning architecture to unique businesses, Kansas has a lot of hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered.

There are so many amazing places to visit in Kansas that the state has been divided into different categories of "wonders." Whether you're a local looking to explore your state or a traveler passing through, you won't want to miss out on these incredible destinations.

In this article, we will be exploring the "8 Wonders of Kansas" and what makes each of them so special. 

Key Takeaways 

Chase County Courthouse: The oldest functioning courthouse in Kansas, featuring a distinct red mansard roof and French Renaissance architectural style.

Cooper Barn: Purported to be the largest barn in Kansas, it is now part of the Prairie Museum of Art and History.

Fromme-Birney Barn: A historic round barn built in 1912, originally designed to house draft horses.

Holy Cross Church: A Gothic-style church built in 1918, known as "the two-cent church" due to its unique funding method.

Kansas State Capitol: The building housing the executive and legislative branches of the Kansas government, was recently restored to its original architectural vision.

Lebold Mansion: A limestone mansion built in 1880, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Ness County Bank: A four-story limestone bank built in 1890, nicknamed the "Skyscraper of the Plains."

Seelye Mansion: A 25-room Georgian-style mansion built in 1904 for a patent medicine magnate, featuring original furniture and Edison light fixtures.

St. Fidelis Church: Architectural Marvel Witness St. Fidelis, a Volga German masterpiece and a Kansas Wonder. Twin bell towers, "Cathedral of the Plains," 1911 grandeur. Cross-shaped, granite pillars. Restored by Wayne Brungardt, Tim Linenberger's art.

Big Well, Greensburg: Engineering Marvel Discover Big Well: Kansas' marvel. Hand-dug 1887, served locomotives. Tourist gem since 1939, survived 2007 tornado. Symbol of Greensburg's strength, rebirth in 2012.

Chase County Courthouse

Chase County Courthouse

The Chase County Courthouse is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas and is located in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. 

Constructed in 1873, this courthouse holds the distinction of being the oldest functioning courthouse in Kansas and the second-oldest in uninterrupted operation to the west of the Mississippi River.

The courthouse, designed by John G. Haskell, who was also the architect of the Kansas State Capitol, stands out with its distinct red mansard roof and elegant French Renaissance (Second Empire) architectural style, making it highly distinguishable within Kansas.

The courthouse exemplifies the Second Empire/Franco-American architectural style, showcasing limestone walls and trim, pressed metal ceilings, and a distinctive red mansard roof, all of which are characteristic of the French Renaissance architectural style.

The courthouse is characterized by the distinctive shape of the roof which stands 113 feet tall, was constructed from local limestone, and the three-story winding staircase was constructed from local walnut trees.

The distinct red mansard roof and elegant French Renaissance (Second Empire) architectural style make it highly distinguishable within Kansas.

The courthouse is open to the public for self-guided tours during normal business hours Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call the Chase County Chamber of Commerce at (620)273-8469 to schedule a visit to the courthouse on weekends and holidays.

Cooper Barn

Image of Inside Cooper Barn

The Cooper Barn is located in Colby, Kansas, and is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Guided Book, because it is purported to be the largest barn in Kansas.

The grand barn is 66 feet wide, 114 feet long, and 48 feet, featuring a gambrel roof. It was built in 1936 by northwest Kansas men using premium lumber purchased in the late 1920s from the Foster Lumber Company.

Ben Foster of Kansas City, Missouri owned the Foster Farms, which included the towering cattle show barn. The Foster Farm's prize-winning cattle could fit in up to 75 heads of this barn. registered Hereford cattle.

The barn was built so well that it sustained not only years of Kansas weather but a journey to its new home, and now as part of the Prairie Museum of Art and History, it houses Thomas County agricultural history, including artifacts and photos from the last 100 years.

Admission and information on the barn and the rest of the museum can be found on the museum's website

The Cooper Barn is open daily from noon to 10 p.m.

Fromme-Birney Barn

Photo of Fromme Birney Barn

The Fromme-Birney Round Barn is located in Mullinville, Kansas.

In 1912, Henry Fromme, a German immigrant, constructed the building to accommodate 28 draft horses and a designated space for his registered Percheron stallion.

The barn is 50 feet tall, 70 feet in diameter, and has 16 sides. It features a domed roof, which is visible from a considerable distance, and was designed to be more wind and cyclone-resistant, efficient use of space, and less wood is needed to build the same amount of space.

The barn was built by William "Pat" Campbell, a local carpenter, and though the specific architect is not known, proportionally, the Fromme-Birney barn appears similar to many designed and constructed by Benton Steele, a prolific, early twentieth-century Midwest round-barn builder who made his home in Halstead, Kansas after 1910.

The barn is always open to the public, free, and includes several displays and exhibits, including pictures and stories

Holy Cross Church

Image outside Holy Cross Church

The Holy Cross Church is located in Pfeifer, Kansas. It was constructed in 1918 and is an architectural masterpiece that can be compared to other stunning churches in Western Kansas.

The church was built in the Gothic Style of Architecture and features a rib-vaulted ceiling supported on delicate, decorative columns and pointed arches for the windows and doorways. 

The structure is 165 feet long, 50 feet wide at the nave, and 75 feet wide at the transepts, and the central spire is 165 feet high, believed to be the tallest Gothic church spire in Kansas. The two side spires are each 100 feet high.

The name "the two-cent church" was given to the Holy Cross because families in the parish contributed two cents from every bushel of wheat they harvested to finance its construction. Parishioners also donated much of the labor, including the quarrying and delivery of the stone, and the total cost of the church was $56,000

The Diocese of Salina decided to disband the parish on July 1st, 1993. However, the church itself remains open to the public daily and is in pristine condition.

To protect this impressive building, the remaining parishioners established Holy Cross Charities, a non-profit organization that relies entirely on donations to uphold the church and the adjacent cemetery.

Ness County Bank

Building Image of Ness County Bank

Ness County Bank is a four-story limestone bank located at 102 W. Main, Ness City, KS 67560, It was finished in 1890 and was nicknamed the "Skyscraper of the Plains"

The building, fully restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, boasts unique features such as four vaults – one adorned with an oil painting finished in 22-karat gold – brass fixtures featuring a sunflower motif, and an elevator shaft which was rare at the time it was built

The Ness County Chamber of Commerce and Prairie Mercantile call it home. It is presently used as a gathering area, and one floor has a historical exhibit on Ness County.

Ness County Bank is open in the basement Monday-Friday 1-5 p.m. Call 785.798.2237 for a tour.

Seelye Mansion

Photo of Seelye Mansion outside

The Seelye Mansion, located at 1105 N. Buckeye, Abilene, KS 67410, is a 25-room Georgian-style mansion.

It was constructed in 1904 for Dr. A.B. Seelye, a wealthy maker of patent medicine, along with his wife. This historic house is included on the National Register of Historic Places and retains much of its original furniture and Edison light fixtures.

The Seelye family was known for manufacturing patent medicines, with notable products like Wasa-Tusa, Ner-Vena, and Fro-Zona, marketed as cures for both humans and animals.

Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a game of bowling at the 1904 Box Ball Alley, a unique feature purchased from the World's Fair.

Guided tours are available from Monday to Saturday at 10 a.m. and on Sunday at 1 p.m., as well as by appointment for a fee. 

Kansas State Capitol

Image of Kansas State Capitol Building outside

The Kansas State Capitol, also known as the Kansas Statehouse, is the building that houses the executive and legislative branches of government for the U.S. state of Kansas

It is located in Topeka, which has served as the capital of Kansas since the territory became a state in 1861

The recent completion of a 13-year, top-to-bottom restoration of the Kansas State Capitol restored the original architect's design by revealing stunning paintings, maintaining original features, and updating deteriorating limestone.

The Capitol Store on the building's ground floor has a wide selection of Topeka and Kansas-made gifts, souvenirs, and merchandise.

Kansas State Capitol is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday

Lebold Mansion

Image of Lebold Mansion outside

The Lebold Mansion is located in Abilene, KS, the boyhood home of President Eisenhower and considered one of the 8 wonders of Kansas.

The mansion was constructed of native Kansas limestone and was built over the "dugout" dwelling of Abilene founders Timothy and Elizabeth Hersey. It was built in 1880 by banker Conrad Lebold and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

The Hersey dugout was incorporated into the construction of the mansion's tower and is preserved as part of the foundation located at the tower's base.

The mansion is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas guidebooks, is rich with history, and bears a striking resemblance to the Addams Family home. Visitors can still view the dugout when touring the home.

The site hosts many activities throughout the year, building on its extensive history and distinctive architecture, including regular tours, live dinner theater performances, themed Victorian dinners, Saturday teas, and Sunday sundaes.

Special Mention

St. Fidelis Church

Image of St. Fidelis Church

St. Fidelis Church, one of Kansas' 8 Wonders of the World. This amazing building is evidence of the pioneering Volga Germans' superb craftsmanship and architectural genius.

The twin bell towers of St. Fidelis, located in Victoria, properly mark the horizon from a distance. When it was finished in 1911, this church had 1,100 seats, making it the biggest west of the Mississippi. William Jennings Bryan was so touched by it on a visit during his 1912 presidential campaign that he gave it the nickname "Cathedral of the Plains."

Seven kilometers to the south, in a quarry, was where the stone for the massive Romanesque building came from. Being without contemporary lifts and power equipment made the incredible achievement of extracting, moving, and treating the stone all the more astounding.

The church's cruciform structure gives it a remarkable cross shape, measuring 220 feet long by 110 feet wide at the transepts and decreasing to 75 feet at the nave. The twin bell towers rise to a lofty height of 141 feet as they overlook the wide prairie.

Notably, the church's immovable pillars of granite were transported from Vermont.

The thorough renovation of the church's interior is proof of the parishioners' steadfast devotion. The parish's local and competent architect Wayne Brungardt oversaw the church's renovation in the 1990s, giving it new life. Tim Linenberger skillfully painted the interior, which features exquisite stenciling and rejuvenated deep mauve and gold tones. Tim is the third generation of Linenbergers from Victoria to add their artistic flair to the church, demonstrating the community's enduring ties to this amazing structure.

Big Well, Greensburg

Image outside of Big Well Museum, Greensburg

The Big Well, the largest hand-dug well in the world, is one of The 8 Wonders of Kansas because its construction was an engineering marvel in its day.

Big Well is open from Mon-Sat, 9 am-6 pm; Sun 1-6 pm.

The first shovel was pushed into what would eventually grow to be a 32-foot wide, 109-foot deep well with two-foot thick native stone walls on August 9, 1887, by Jack Wheeler, who also led his crew in an architectural adventure. The well was manually excavated, cribbed, cased, and stoned using rock from the Medicine River and sand from Cowskin Creek, a process that took approximately two years. The building of what many have referred to as "a pioneer engineering marvel" was done by stonemasons of herculean skill.

The Kingman, Pratt & Western rail line, a division of the Santa Fe, ran a freight route from Wichita to the Mullinville turnaround until 1893, but the well was also erected alongside it for city water. The steam locomotives need a lot of water to operate. The Big Well provided water to Greensburg until 1932 when a new well was drilled nearby.

The people of Greensburg decided to affix a homemade sign to the roadside and start promoting their wonder as a Kansas tourist destination in 1939. Since then, the Big Well has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors from every state and every country. The Big Well was now undoubtedly Greensburg's main source of revenue

The massive EF5 tornado that struck Greensburg on May 7, 2007, devastated much of the city, including the Big Well's above-ground structures.  On May 26, 2012, a brand-new museum at the Big Well debuted.



What can visitors expect at the Seelye Mansion?

Visitors to the Seelye Mansion can anticipate a captivating experience steeped in history and opulence. They'll explore grandiose architecture, intricate woodwork, and period furnishings that provide insights into the Gilded Age lifestyle of a prominent Kansas family

What's a well-known architectural structure in Kansas?

An iconic architectural landmark in Kansas is the Kansas State Capitol. This majestic building showcases neoclassical design and stands as a symbol of the state's governance and history.

How can I plan a visit to these wonders?

To plan a visit to these attractions, first research their operating hours and admission details online. Consider scheduling your trip during off-peak times to avoid crowds, and don't forget to explore nearby dining and accommodation options.

What makes Kansas unique?

Kansas stands out for its diverse geographical features, including the vast prairies of the Great Plains, its role in American history, such as the abolitionist movement, and its contributions to agriculture and aviation.

Is Kansas one of the states in the USA?

Yes, Kansas is one of the states in the United States of America, located in the central part of the country.

What is the capital of Kansas?

The capital of Kansas is Topeka, a city known for its historical significance and its pivotal role in the fight for civil rights, as exemplified by the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.

Final Thoughts

The 8 Wonders of Kansas reveal the state's history, architecture, and culture. These hidden gems offer unique experiences often missed by tourists.

From the oldest Kansas courthouse, Chase County Courthouse, to the impressive Cooper Barn and historic Fromme-Birney Round Barn, these sites showcase the state's past.

Holy Cross Church, Ness County Bank, and Seelye Mansion are architectural masterpieces, testaments to their builders' craftsmanship. Kansas State Capitol and Lebold Mansion add more architectural wonders with historical significance.


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