When we planned our latest Topeka visit, our first stop was at Old Prairie Town. This historic site is located on the original path of the Oregon Trail. The morning drive from Kansas City was wet with thunderstorms, but by the time we arrived they had passed by.
After a small argument with Siri and Google Maps, we finally arrived. The parking lot of Old Prairie Town is ample, especially when it is empty. The grand-kids were with us, so after the extended drive they were ready to stretch their legs. As we entered the park, we noted the old one-room schoolhouse< which was built in 1891. It was moved from nearby Rossville, and is a favorite location for birthday parties.
Around The Square
The park is laid out like an old town square, and is easy to navigate. None of the buildings in this park were originally located here, but all are historic structures. Staff offer tours three times a day, but our timing didn’t match up for any of those. The grounds were open, so we could still walk around, and look in the windows. The train depot is from Pauline, and has tracks complete with a caboose.
We looked around the train depot, and even took a few minutes to inspect the old style train signals. It was interesting having the Old Prairie Town to ourselves, but the kids were certainly wanting to see the inside of some buildings.
More In Store
We had worked our way about three-quarters of the way around the square. Although it was still quite wet, the paved walks made it all easy walking. Now we stepped up the short staircase that led to the entrance of the Mulvane General Store. The building serves as the gift shop and information center. While the Crystal and the grand-kids looked around, I spoke with the staff member on duty. Afterwards we crossed over to check out the Potwin Drug Store. Inside we found the marble counter of an old-fashioned soda fountain. Since our plans for lunch were not far away, we decided to pass on the sweets at this time.
Home Sweet Home
We had finished in the square, but noticed a couple more buildings just beyond, and assumed they were still part of Old Prairie Town. A short walk uncovered an 1854 Log Cabin, complete with an old blacksmith shop. The cabin is a replica, and it is used to host special dinners for guests. Those in attendance have the opportunity to see hearth cooking, and savor the bounty.
The last building was a turn-of-a-century Barber Shop. Something we noticed on this end of the Old Prairie Town, was the impressive landscaping. While there had been some nice patches closer to the square area, here they began to become larger. They were also much more colorful. It was quite obvious that we were now just across the parking lot from the Ward-Meade Historic Site. This would be our next stop, and another article.