Monday, November 21, 2011

Visiting Abilene's Historic Seelye Mansion with Lisa Waterman Gray

It was an accidental meeting. While nursing my daily café latté at
 Lenexa's finest coffee house, I heard bits of pieces of a nearby conversation and surmised they were discussing Kansas and photography. Upon introducing myself, I learned that one of the folks was Lisa Waterman Gray, a name which I recognized, but could not remember why.  I later learned that Lisa is a much-published free lance writer whose credits include articles for Midwest Living; AAA's Midwest, Southern, and New Mexico Travel magazines; Kansas City Star; Christian Science Monitor; Delta Sky; KANSAS! Magazine, and numerous other magazines and journals. 

Lisa has recently published a guidebook for travelers, Explorer's Guide Kansas, as well as authoring a blog: Crossing Kansas.

I was recently honored by a request to do a "guest spot" on Crossing Kansas, and now have the privilege of returning that favor to Ms. Waterman Gray. I am pleased that she chose to share her views and photos of the historic Seelye Mansion in Abilene. I have driven by on several occasions, but never toured this majestic old home, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture.


I pulled into the driveway of the graceful Historic Seelye Mansion, in Abilene, on a cool fall morning. Set against a cobalt sky and a wide expanse of emerald lawn and manicured gardens, the 1905 Georgian-style mansion combined a natural stone foundation with massive columns and expansive porches.
Tiffany Fireplace - Seelye Mansion
I entered through the back door, just across from the building that served as Dr. A.B. Seelye's workshop, and home to more than 100 medical and other products that were distributed across 14 states. But my tour began in the beautifully appointed and spacious living room where stunning Tiffany-designed mosaic decorated the fireplace face and Edison lights illuminated the space.
Curved wall with window, Seelye Mansion

Much of the décor in this lovely 11,000-square-foot home came from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Delicate lace curtains flanked a high leaded glass window that followed the subtly curved wall and low radiator. A stunning gold side table stood atop a richly hued Oriental rug.

Elegant table service, Seelye Mansion

Crystal and gold bowls, and sterling candlesticks decorated a long table in the elegant dining room while a pair of antique dolls stood on the single side table in this bright and airy bedroom shared by Dr. Seelye's daughters.
Daughters' bedroom, Seelye Mansion
The upstairs ballroom astounded me with its beautifully maintained, highly polished floor and arched ceiling. Modest bedrooms encircled the space, which Mrs. Seelye frequently offered as a weekend sanctuary for soldiers who were stationed at the nearby Fort Riley.

Upstairs ballroom, Seelye Mansion
Twenty-five rooms, original furnishings and a very devoted owner/caretaker - Terry Tietjens - introduce visitors to one of the finest homes built between Kansas City and Denver, during the early 1900s.

Crossing Kansas Blog:
Lisa Waterman Gray - The Storyteller:

Seelye Mansion Site:
Abilene Tourism Site: 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead, Overland Park

Our granddaughters love the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead. Nancy and I enjoy it as well. That means we have a fun, no-fail day's activity within a short drive whenever there is an opportunity to spend some with the kiddies. Neither Nancy nor I have any family left who are still involved in farming, so the Deanna Rose is the closest we can get to teaching our little ones about life away from the suburbs.

There are a number of attractions in Overland Park, but in this writer's opinion, nothing tops the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead. Judging by the attendance, even on its last day of the season when these photos were taken, there are lots of folks who agree with me. For out of town visitors, especially those with youngsters, or grandparents in town for a visit, the farmstead is a great place to let the little ones run around and play in an educational environment.

The 12-acre city-owned farmstead was first opened in 1978. In 1985, it was re-named to honor Deanna Rose, the first Overland Park police officer killed in the line of duty. Recent years have witnessed a steady growth in attendance (over 450,000 in 2010) and attractions, and a number of "Coming Soon" signs prove the growth is not going to stop soon.

Dairy Barn
Volunteers are crucial to the existence of the Deanna Rose Farmstead, and the vast number of individuals and corporations involved would seem to disprove any notion that folks in the 'burbs lack community spirit.

Granddaughter Brooklyn said "Moo," the calf responded in kind.

Indian encampment area
A wooded area within the grounds is dedicated to the native tribes who lived in this area prior to the coming of the European settlers. The centerpiece of this exhibit is an authentic re-creation of an earthen lodge in the manner of the Kanza tribe. I spoke for a few moments with the exhibit interpreter, a woman of Huron lineage who was on hand to teach children about the lodge. Based on her own research, she was impressed with the attention to detail and accuracy exhibited in the lodge.
Sydney feeding pygmy goats

Brooklyn tries to copy her sister

Little fire fighter dismounts after his horse ride

Sydney on her Farmall tractor
Conestoga Wagon

General store, ice cream parlor, bank

In the general store

"Live?" entertainment in the general store

Wood stove and checkerboard in the general store
Entry to one of the play areas - a Rotary Club project


Readying for a hay rack ride
Bald Eagle
Late season fall color

The Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead is open 9 am to 5 pm April 1 through October 31. During peak summer months it remains open until 8 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

There is a $2 admission charge Friday through Sunday (children 1 and under free); and no admission charge Monday - Thursday.

The street address is 13800 Switzer, Overland Park, Kansas. From I-35 or US 69, exit at 135th Street (also known as Santa Fe in Olathe).

View Larger Map

Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead:
Overland Park Tourism:
Friends of the Farmstead: