Thursday, September 10, 2015

Transportation Then and Now

Ribbon cutting at the Kansas Aviation Museum
When Isaac B. Werner arrived in Kansas in 1878 he did not have a horse.  His only means of travel was on foot, unless he was fortunate to catch a ride with a neighbor going to town with a wagon.  More than once Isaac wrote in his journal about walking to St. John, the county seat about sixteen miles from his homestead.  Eventually, Isaac bought his horse, (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden, 12/28/2012 in the blog archives), and later he acquired his own wagon.

The H. Russell Bomhoff Attrium
Recently we attended the grand opening celebration of the restored Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita, Kansas, and I could not help but contrast Isaac's mode of transportation on foot with the rapid advancements in flying only a few decades later.  How rapidly transportation changed during those years!  Wichita calls itself the Air Capital of the World, and with justification, considering the number of airplane manufacturing plants, other aviation related manufacturing, McConnell Air Force Base, several general aviation airports, and the commercial airport recently renamed Eisenhower International, with its beautiful new terminal, all located in Wichita.

Museum building center front 
The history of aviation has its roots in Wichita and its future role in aviation firmly secured, so it is appropriate that the beautiful Art Nouveau terminal at the old commercial airport be restored to house the museum.  Art Nouveau was most popular during the period 1890-1910 and is now considered a transition period in architecture between the popularity of historical revival styles and the new Modernism.  As these buildings disappear, the restored terminal becomes an even more important example to preserve.

Dreams and plans for a terminal at the airport finally brought about the start of construction in 1932, but the Depression caused work to cease temporarily before resuming in 1934, with the completion of the terminal in 1935.

Detail of front
With the military base next door, commercial air space was no longer appropriate at the old airport, and the new commercial airport was relocated several miles to the west.  Various uses were found for the old terminal, but without air conditioning it became unsuitable for any modern use.  Demolition seemed its likely fate.

Additional details
With the cooperative efforts of the city and the generosity of donors, the terminal was rescued and renovated.  One of the major donors to the project was the father-in-law of our niece, whose generosity is honored in naming the refurbished atrium the H. Russell Bomhoff Atrium.

It was in the atrium that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, and guests enjoyed a buffet, which included clever cookies with the Kansas Aviation Museum logo on them.  We walked around to see the exhibits and visited the room designed for young visitors.  At that time the museum was hosting Home School Programs for ages 6 to 17 and Summer Camps for various ages, sharing the importance of Kansas Aviation with another generation. 
Visitors study a display

I mentioned in my blog about Castle Rock how often we ignore interesting places nearby ("Castle Rock," 8/27/2015), and the Kansas Aviation Museum is a place that Kansas residents especially should add to their list of interesting sites.  Whether you love aviation or architecture, it is a place all visitors would enjoy!  

Display case, TWA stewardess
Isaac, who died in 1895, might never have imagined that people living at the time of his death would one day fly or that Kansas would be so important to the Aviation industry.  However, the way he enjoyed tinkering and inventing things, I am certain the possibility of flight would have intrigued him.  

Cookie with logo
(In order to post more photographs I have published the images in a small format.  To view them in a larger size, just click on the image.)

Museum information:  3350 South George Washington Blvd., Wichita, KS 67210; 316/683-9242;

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