Monday, May 25, 2009

The 8 Wonders of Osborne County

Osborne County Tourism held a contest in 2008 to name the 8 Wonders of Osborne County, in homage to the 8 Wonders of Kansas project by the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Seventeen candidates were chosen and presented to the general public, who then voted on the eight finalists. Over 800 votes were cast (in a county of 4,000 people!) and the winners were:

Alton Bluffs, Alton
Covert Ghost Town, Covert Township
Geodetic Center of North America, Delhi Township
Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot, Downs
Natoma Presbyterian Church, Natoma
Old State Bank of Portis Building, Portis
Osborne County Courthouse Square, Osborne
Sod & Stubble Country Self-Guided Tour, Ross Township

This year Osborne County Tourism, together with the Osborne County Transient Guest Tax Board, authorized eight postcards to be created in honor of the 8 Wonders of Osborne County:

The limestone Alton Bluffs tower above the South Fork Solomon River a mile south of the city of Alton. They are the setting for the annual Sunrise Service, held every Easter morning for the past 60 years.

The former town of Covert was founded in 1880 and was a thriving community until the post office was closed at last in 1966. At its height the six blocks that comprised Covert sported a population of 150 people. Covert Rural High School (1915-1952) was the lifeblood of the community for many years. Teacher John Locke was born near Covert and taught his first years here; as the lone senior (and the team's coach!) he led Covert in 1926 to the Kansas State Basketball Tournament, the smallest school to ever do so. Locke went on to become the winningest high school basketball coach in Kansas history and was named to the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 1910 a point atop a hill in the southeast corner of Osborne County in what was then known as Meade's Ranch was selected by U.S. Geodetic Survey as the center point for its grid of survey dots and lines across the nation. In 1927 both Canada and Mexico attached their grids to this point as well, and it received the official name as the North American Datum. More commonly called the Geodetic Center of North America, all surveys and deeds on the continent originate from this point. This unique site was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

The pride of downtown Downs, the 1917 Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot recalls the days when Downs was a major railroad division point. Recently restored, the depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Natoma's elegant Presbyterian Church is considered to be the finest example of Carpenter Gothic architecture in Kansas. The 1898 structure is the National Register of Historic Places for another architectural milestone as well: it was the second structure in the world built with the "no-sag roof" concept. This revolutionary idea of distributing the weight on a roof eliminated the need for supporting columns was created in Natoma by construction owner Henry Beisner and is now a fundamental part of all modern architecture.

The former State Bank of Portis building commands your attention as you drive down Market Street/U.S. Hwy. 281 in the village of Portis. It was built of native limestone in 1886.

Courthouse Square in Osborne County, Kansas was selected by the first county commissioners in the fall of 1871 to be the site for the local seat of power. The historic square is the home to several county entities: the Osborne County Hospital; the Osborne County Jail; the 2000 Osborne County Veterans Memorial; the 1929 Osborne County Pioneers Memorial; and the Osborne County Courthouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the century-old building was a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture as a prime example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. A further attraction is the face of pioneer John Wineland, carved into the south face of the clock tower.

Still being printed is the postcard for the Sod & Stubble Country Self-Guided Tour. The 20-mile, 21-stop driving/biking tour is located two miles northwest of Downs and features many of the people, sites, and events made famous in the 1936 book Sod & Stubble by John Ise. An international bestseller today, Sod & Stubble is considered a classic piece of literature and is used as a textbook in many colleges and universities across the United States and Canada.

Merlyn Brown of the Merlyn Entertainment Professional Group in Osborne designed the postcards, making it as truly local county grassroots project.

So come and see the 8 Wonders of Osborne County! You won't be sorry!