On a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, you can easily imagine a young Amelia Earhart and her sister running around in an open space, playing tag or another childhood game. Thoughts like these and more may pop into your head as you visit the childhood home of Earhart and other attractions in Atchison. Also known as the most haunted city in Kansas, Atchison takes you down a path of history, art, and even the paranormal. One thing’s for sure; you’ll long remember your visit.
1. Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum And Hangar Museum
Amelia Earhart’s legend is fueled by her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Researchers have spent years trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Earhart and her co-pilot. Before her disappearance, the Atchison native set multiple world records as one of the first successful female pilots. Earhart grew up in the home of her grandparents, Judge Alfred Otis and Amelia Otis. Earhart and her younger sister lived with their grandparents until reuniting with their parents when she was 12. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum shares the history of the family. While the house is decorated with period furniture and accessories, some of the items actually belonged to the family, including a table used as a visitor log.
Two floors showcase Kansas life during the early 1900s as well as symbols of Earhart’s aviation career, including a mannequin dressed as Earhart and model planes. The first floor is home to a parlor, dining room, kitchen, and office. The upper level has bedrooms used by the family and features a set of vintage luggage endorsed by Earhart during her career. The Gothic Revival cottage appears almost as it did more than 100 years ago.
Located a few miles outside of Atchison, the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is home to Muriel, a Lockheed Electra Model 10E, the same plane Earhart flew on her fatal expedition. The plane, named for Earhart’s younger sister, was purchased from Grace McGuire, who had planned to retrace the pilot’s route but didn’t because of an illness. Muriel is part of a planned museum featuring more Earhart artifacts and memorabilia.
A 1-acre portrait of Earhart was carved into the ground at the Amelia Earhart Earthwork at Warnock Lake. The portrait of Earhart wearing her pilot’s helmet was created in 1997.
You can find sculptures of Earhart in downtown Atchison as well as in the International Forest of Friendship. The IOF is an arboretum and forest near Warnock Lake that honors people involved in aviation and space. A plaque recognizing a special recipient is added to the park annually.
2. Benedictine College Art
Built with Kansas limestone, the Abbey Church on the campus of Benedictine College opened in 1957, using the prairie school concept made popular by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The church is home to Trinity and Episodes of Benedictine Life, a beautiful 21-by-29-foot fresco painting located behind the altar. The college is home to several sculptures, including one of St. Benedict, the college’s namesake. The statue features a raven at his feet, because Benedict was known for feeding a raven. A story claims that another priest tried to kill Benedict with poisoned bread, but the saint gave the bread to a raven and told the raven to take it to a place where it couldn’t harm anyone. The campus also features a sculpture of Jesus Christ in the middle of campus, along with several other historic statues. Benedictine College’s grotto is among the most beautiful you’ll see.
3. Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum
Atchison’s version of a castle, the Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum is a 25-room mansion built in 1882. With beautiful fireplaces, carved woodwork, and its original chandeliers, the mansion offers an example of the beauty of the Victorian era. As you tour the home, you’ll find authentic furniture and decor original to the era and learn the Cray family history. The carriage house serves as a gift shop.
4. Santa Fe Depot Museum
Built in 1880, the Atchison Santa Fe Freight Depot was built using ashlar stone. The depot serves as a small museum sharing the area’s history, with Native American artifacts, press machines, rifles, Amelia Earhart memorabilia, and rail-related pieces. Outside the museum, you can stroll among rail cars, including a locomotive and a caboose.
5. Muchnic Art Gallery
Home to art exhibits, the Muchnic Art Gallery is almost a piece of art itself. The Muchnic House is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Atchison, with parquet floors, carved woodwork, and cast bronze hardware. The Atchison Art Association strives to share art and improve the community’s public art scene through special exhibits, mosaics, murals, and more. As you travel around town, you’ll find murals such as ones honoring the city’s rail history.
6. Self-Guided Walking Tour
While Atchison may be a city of about 11,000 people, you can enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the city’s main street as well as some of the older mansions. Check with the visitor center at the Santa Fe Depot for a city map, and then head out on your adventure. You’ll come across several mansions, such as the B.P. Waggener House, also known as the Gargoyle House because of the gargoyles atop the roof; the former Presbyterian church; and the old Atchison High School. If you prefer to let someone else lead, check out the trolley tour. You can also stroll along the Missouri River, taking in historical monuments and military memorials. Each night, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge is illuminated with various colors, such as red, white, and blue, accentuated by the river’s reflections.
7. Haunted Atchison
With Atchison considered the most haunted city in Kansas, it’s also home to the scariest haunted house in the U.S. The Sallie House, open for self-guided tours (reserve through the visitor center), has been the focus of paranormal investigators and national television programs. Another must-visit haunted house is the 1889 McInteer Villa. The site of several paranormal encounters, the McInteer has become a favorite visit for ghost hunters and celebrities. During each October, you can reserve a spot on a Haunted Atchison trolley tour. While the night tour may be more conducive to sending chills down your spine, a day tour actually lets you see the mansions and buildings that are believed to be possessed.
Shopping Like A Local
With local stores and boutiques aplenty, you’ll have a good time shopping in Atchison. A must-stop is Backroad Atlas, a combination home decor and antique shop featuring a unique collection of vintage and contemporary home pieces. At Favorite Things, you can pick up unique home decor and accessories such as candles and light fixtures.
Where To Eat In Atchison
Maria Mexican Restaurant
For an authentic Mexican dining experience, Maria Mexican Restaurant is the perfect spot. From its chips and queso to entrees such as pollo asado and tacos de carne asada, Maria is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner. Oh, and the margaritas are second to none.
Paolucci’s Restaurant, Deli And Lounge
While offering an array of entree choices, Paolucci’s Restaurant, Deli and Lounge is best known for its Italian dishes. From lasagna to linguine with Alfredo, Paolucci’s Italian cooking shines through. But, the best dish may be Paolucci’s Italian Dinner, with your choice of pasta topped with meatballs, meat sauce, or Italian sausage. You can also enjoy steak and chicken entrees as well as sandwiches such as burgers, clubs, and pork tenderloin.
Where To Stay In Atchison
With its fair share of national chain hotels, Atchison’s hospitality scene is well covered. But, for a truly personal experience, consider reserving a room at the Tuck U Inn at Glick Mansion. The bed and breakfast inn once was the home of George Glick, the ninth governor of Kansas. With large rooms and suites with names such as the Eisenhower and the First Lady, Tuck U Inn is a great choice for your accommodations. Across the street from the infamous Sallie House, a little paranormal is an added perk. The bed and breakfast starts your day with a coffee service on the second floor, just steps from your room. Breakfast is served in a classically appointed dining room and features homemade items such as quiche and fresh fruit parfaits.
While you’re in Kansas, stop by these historic and scenic destinations: