Tourism Attractions & Events

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Miami County is a great road trip destination from the Kansas City area. Here are four of our favorites that will keep you coming back for more.

Miami County is home to an abundance of 19th and early 20th century architecture and notable structures — perfect for a weekend road trip. 

Two remarkable bridges in Osawatomie are worth a visit, and both can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. The Creamery Bridge is a rainbow span bridge that serves as an excellent example of early bridge architecture. Built in 1930, it reaches 1,940 feet into the air at its highest point and is one of only two remaining Marsh Arch triple span bridges in the state of Kansas. 
Want to see how criminals were detained in 1920? The Spring Hill Original City Jail still stands in the town’s City Park. This pre-World War II jail was built by A.H. Starbuck in 1926. Originally de­signed as a temporary holding facility for Spring Hill’s criminals, it is made of strap iron. Bring along a sack lunch to enjoy at the nearby playground and picnic area. 

The Little Round House of Louisburg has served many different roles during the past 100 years. Just like the name implies, it is a tiny, round Victorian house that started out life as a front porch to a larg­er mansion, then later became a border checkpoint office, an inspection station for the state of Kansas and even temporary housing during World War II. It now re­sides at Louisburg City Lake as a historic landmark. 

In Paola, you can find an excellent exam­ple of 19th century Romanesque architec­ture at the Miami County Courthouse. 

On the National Register of Historic Plac­es, this building was constructed in 1898 for only $66,152, then renovated in the 1970s for $500,000. Walk inside to see how noted architect George Washburn used quartered oak with a natural finish on the interior design.There’s even a time capsule on display, including its artifact contents, that was unearthed in 1998.

History Museums
Miami County is rich in pre- and post-Civil war history. These six histor­ic sites bring the past alive and make an ideal weekend road trip. 

Start your trip at the Miami County Historical Museum, which will give you a solid background in the history of the region. The 6,000 square feet of displays include Native American and early pio­neer history, with a stunning collection of original artifacts, including clothing, fur­niture, toys, fishing and military items. For genealogical fans, the Hunt-Russell Genealogy Library is one of the finest research libraries in the Midwest and con­tains records on everything from barns to the county census to marriage licenses. 

Osawatomie is steeped in history and has a large number of historic sites. The exhibits at the Osawatomie History and Missouri Pacific Depot Museum ex­plore this rich background, with informa­tion on railroads, pre-Civil War life and the Osawatomie State Hospital (see below). There’s also an exact replica of the original Missouri Railroad Depot for train buffs. 

The Osawatomie State Hospital was the first “insane asylum” in the state of Kansas. After admitting its first mental­ly ill patient in 1866, it hosted a variety of noteworthy residents, including artist D.O. Bacon, who was admitted in 1900 after being driven mad by the Kansas sun. This institution has modernized and still operates today. 

The First Land Office, also in Osawat­omie, was built in 1854 by the town’s first mayor, H.B. Smith and his brother. The two brothers were the first land patent agents in Kansas Territory. Today, it is a tourist center (operated by the Osawato­mie Historical Society) and a memorial to the Pottawatomie Indians and the Trail of Death. It is an excellent example of pio­neer architecture. 

For Civil War buffs, the John Brown Memorial Park and John Brown Museum State Historic Site offer a glimpse into the reality of “Bleeding Kan­sas.” The 23-acre park features exhibits that teach visitors about the violent strug­gle over slavery and the role of eastern Kansas as the “Cradle of the Civil War.” It was here where John Brown and 30 of his men defended the town of Osawatomie against 250 proslavery militia. Interesting note: This park was dedicated in 1910 by President Theodore Roosevelt himself and is where he delivered his famous New Na­tionalism speech. 

Historic Monuments
Still want more? Play historical detec­tive by following the trail of these land­marks and wind your way from pioneer days right up to the present. 

Way back in 1834, Presbyterian mission­aries opened a mission in Paola that oper­ated until 1855. American Wea tribes were granted 250 sections of land within Miami County. The Wea Mission Monument educates visitors on the harsh living con­ditions and strong spirit of the early set­tlers to Miami County.The mission includ­ed a school, stable, smoke house, corn crib, spring house and a 14-foot meet­ing house. 

Sports fans will be familiar with The Jayhawk, the popular mas­cot for the Univer­sity of Kansas. But do you know where the term originat­ed? In 1856, a free-state Irishman, Pat Devlin, coined the term to describe guerilla actions against proslavery forces. At that time, in the 1850s, Kansas Territory had erupted into a battleground for determining whether the state should be free or slave. The Jayhawk monument is located in Osawatomie. 

The Adair Property is also an import­ant pre-Civil War monument, originally built by local founding citizen the Rev. Samuel Adair. This historic property later became the site of the famous Battle of Osawatomie, where antislavery crusader John Brown lost his son Frederick. Brown later made this his unofficial headquar­ters during the Civil War. Although the original family cabin has moved to John Brown Park, you can still see the farm­house built here in 1904 by Samuel’s son, Charles Adair. 

In all, five men were killed in the Battle of Osawatomie in 1856. Besides Freder­ick Brown, the other men were: George W. Partridge, David Garrison,Theron Parker Powers and Charles Kaiser, whose body was never found.  In 1877, the Soldiers Monument, which still stands today, was dedicated to these men and their sac­rifice with more than 10,000 people in attendance.
Shortly afterward, in 1859, Horace Gree­ley formally organized the Republican Party in Kansas by address­ing a crowd of 5,000 people at the Osage Valley Hotel. The monument in Osawatomie cel­ebrates the roots of this party, as well as Greeley’s work as a newspaper editor, politician and ultimately founder of the Liberal Republican Party in the state of Kansas. 

New Lancaster was the first school in Miami County. Now the New Lancaster Unit­ed Methodist Church in Paola, you can still see the original school bell on the living memo­rial site. 

In 1951, an extraordinary rainfall caused the Marais des Cygnes River to rise to a histor­ic high of 50.3 feet. The Paola high water Flood Marker shows visitors the depth of this incredible flood. 

The Veterans Memorial in Paola honors the men and women from all five cities of Miami County who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country. This unique memorial has an ever-growing veterans’ wall, with bricks constantly being added to honor current or past veterans. 

Finally, as you drive through Miami County, don’t forget to give your attention to U.S. Highway 69. This living memorial is the Frontier Scenic Military Byway.  It was used by the U.S. Army in the 1830s and 1840s to transport troops and supplies along the edge of the permanent Indian frontier, at a time when our nation was still young and uncertain. 

Community Landmarks
In addition to its rich histor­ical landmarks, Miami County has a number of interesting community landmarks that draw interested visitors every year. 

Walking through Paola's beautiful Park Square is like walking through the downtowns of America in the 1940s and 1950s. With restored buildings, this historic town square is surrounded by local shops, restaurants and businesses. While Native Americans once used this area for horse racing and social gatherings, today it hosts a wide variety of seasonal and music festivals throughout the year. Don't miss the amazing center gazebo, designed by famous architect George Washburn.

While you're in Paola, stop by the red brick Community Center, built in 1916. In 2009, this historic building was ex­tensively renovated and now features a 300-seat auditorium, 150-seat banquet room with a large kitchen, 30-person meet­ing room and 12 large studio rooms. Today, this magnificent structure is routinely used for weddings, meetings, confer­ences and receptions. 

Another historic hot spot is the Spring Hill Historic Downtown District, built in the 1890s. This is actually Spring Hill’s second downtown, created after the townspeople moved their original downtown east ½ mile to meet the new rail line. It turns out the plucky citizens refused to pay the $15,000 the railroad required to grade the land at the original site in the 1870s  and opted to simply move their downtown instead.