Kansas State Historic Sites

Constitution Hall State Historic Site – Lecompton, Douglas County

When constructed in 1857 this two-story, wood-frame building was one of the busiest in Kansas, serving as a land office and as the territorial capitol of Kansas. The second territorial legislative assembly met here and drafted a constitution for Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a proslavery state, which was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Congress. This site tells the story of Bleeding Kansas and the path to statehood as a free state. Listed in the National Register and designated a National Historic Landmark, it became a state historic site in 1986.

Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site – Studley, Sheridan County

The significant buildings at this once thriving Merino sheep ranch were made of locally quarried limestone. On the high plains of western Kansas, John Fenton Pratt, a native of Yorkshire, England, built his sheep ranch in the 1880s. The main section of the one-story ranch house was built first; the wings were constructed in two stages. The stable, corral, and bathhouse, made with limestone, all share distinctive elements. The Pratt family owned the property until the State of Kansas acquired the buildings and 23 acres. Listed in the National Register, it became a state historic site in 1983.

First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site – Fort Riley, Geary County

This limestone building was under construction when the Kansas territorial legislature convened for the first time in 1855. Kansas Territory was at the center of the national debate over slavery. Voters from Missouri had illegally voted and elected mostly proslavery legislators. As workers raced to complete the roof, representatives fought over which lawmakers would be seated. Days later, they adjourned and reconvened near the Missouri border. Listed in the National Register, this became a state historic site in 1927.

Fort Hays State Historic Site – Hays, Ellis County

Established as a military post on the lands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho in 1865, this frontier fort was built to protect railroad workers and travelers on the Smoky Hill Trail. During its 25 year history, the fort drew many famous figures including Generals George A. Custer, Nelson Miles, and Philip Sheridan; Major Marcus Reno; William “Buffalo Bill” Cody; James B. “Wild Bill” Hickok, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant John Denny, and other African American “Buffalo Soldiers.” The site features four historic buildings: blockhouse, guardhouse, and two officers quarters, plus a visitor center and interpretive walking trail. This became a state historic site in 1901 and is listed in the National Register.

Goodnow House State Historic Site – Manhattan, Riley County

Isaac Goodnow and Ellen Goodnow were abolitionists who came to Kansas Territory to establish the free-state community of Manhattan. They purchased the limestone cabin that became their home in 1859. Work on their house continued over time and the main stone farmhouse was completed in 1869 with additions until 1876. Isaac was involved in politics and education, serving as a constitutional convention delegate and founding what would become Kansas State University. The site tells the story of these freestaters and community leaders. Listed in the National Register, it became a state historic site in 1969. Grinter Place State Historic Site – Kansas City, Wyandotte County Annie and Moses Grinter built their house, the oldest in Wyandotte County, in 1857, overlooking the Kansas River. The design was inspired by a Kentucky estate Moses had seen in his native Kentucky. Annie was a member of the Delaware (Lenapi) and owned the land after her family was forcibly moved west from their homelands. Moses began operating the first ferry across the Kansas River in 1831, and later trading post, serving the local population, military, and commercial development. Listed in the National Register, it became a state historic site in 1971.

Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site – Hanover, Washington County

Gerat and Sophia Brockmeyer Hollenberg established this station to serve wagon trains on the Oregon and California Trails in 1857. Gerat sold supplies while Sophia sold homecooked meals. The one-room log cabin expanded to a five-room building with additional barns and sheds. The station served riders on the short-lived Pony Express, providing food, shelter, and a change of horses. The end of the Pony Express caused financial loss for the Hollenbergs and they closed the station and turned to farming. Listed in the National Register and designated a National Historic Landmark, this became a state historic site in 1942. Visitors can tour one of the few remaining original stations and see exhibits in the visitor center.

John Brown Museum State Historic Site – Osawatomie, Miami County

Samuel and Florella Brown Adair came to Osawatomie, Kansas Territory, in 1855 as abolitionists to support the free state cause. The Adairs’ cabin was a refuge for many including Florella’s half-brother, John Brown. His actions during Bleeding Kansas helped fan the flames of violence, gaining him infamy, and placing the Adairs in great danger. Listed in the National Register, this became a state historic site in 1911. The original cabin was moved to John Brown Memorial Park dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. It was later enclosed in a stone pergola for preservation. Visitors can step into the historic Adair cabin where John Brown once stayed.

Kaw Mission State Historic Site State Historic Site - Council Grove, Morris County

The two-story mission was built on the diminished Kanza reservation where the tribe had been relocated in 1846. Made of native stone, the building had eight rooms, plus teachers, missionaries, and farmers. The mission opened in May 1851. As many as 30 Kaw boys between the ages of six and 17 eventually occupied the four upstairs dormitory rooms. They were to learn academics, farming, and Christian traditions. Classes ended in 1854 and the school was closed because of cost overruns. Listed in the National Register, this became a state historic site in 1951.

Last Chance Store State Historic Site State Historic Site – Council Grove, Morris County

This trading post was built at the west edge of Council Grove in 1857. Operated by a mercantile firm it was one of the last retail stops for traders to pick up supplies on the Santa Fe Trail. This was also a crossroads for prospectors headed toward the mines in western Kansas Territory, now Colorado. The store was built from locally sourced stone and lumber. The site was later used as a grocery store, and family residence. Listed in the National Register, it became a state historic site in 2015. Visitors will be able to schedule tours and view this historic building and learn more about commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.

Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site - Trading Post vicinity, Linn County

On May 19, 1858, proslavery men killed five free-state men and wounded five others in a ravine that is now listed as a National Historic Landmark. The massacre, which followed earlier guerrilla warfare activities, on both sides, shocked the nation and became a pivotal event in the "Bleeding Kansas" era. This National Historic Landmark site includes an interpretive driving/walking trail with future plans for a museum/visitor center in the 1862 Hadsall House located on the property.

Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield State Historic Site – Pleasanton vicinity, Linn County

On October 25, 1864, approximately 2,800 Union troops attacked and defeated about 8,000 Confederates along the banks of Mine Creek. This was one of the largest cavalry battles in the Civil War and a major battle fought in Kansas. The Union brigades were commanded by Colonels Frederick W. Benteen and John F. Philips. After this battle, federal forces pursued and defeated additional Confederates in Missouri as they attempted to return to Arkansas, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and eventually Texas. Listed in the National Register, this became a state historic site in 1974. The battlefield includes a modern visitor center and interpretive walking trails.

Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site – Republic vicinity, Republic County

Overlooking the Republican River Valley, this former Pawnee Indian village was thriving in the late 1700s. Visitors can see the remains of a large Pawnee earth lodge left intact from an archeology investigation. A rare sacred bundle hangs above the hearth. Listed in the National Register, it became a state historic site in 1901. The visitor center exhibits tell the stories of the Pawnee Nation that once occupied much of this region.

Pawnee Rock State Historic Site – Pawnee Rock, Barton County

This Dakota Sandstone precipice was used as an observation point over time, important to the people living in the region, and the trails that passed through. This was a welcome landmark for the commerce wagons, signaling that half of the journey from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe was completed. Hundreds of people stopped to engrave their names in the soft sandstone. The site was acquired by the Woman’s Kansas Day club in 1908 and made a state historic site. A stone monument was dedicated in 1912. The National Register site offers visitors today a breathtaking view along with picnic tables.

Red Rocks State Historic Site, Home of the William Allen White Family - Emporia, Lyon County

William Allen White was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, editor of The Emporia Gazette, and political adviser to presidents. He and his wife, Sallie, hosted five presidents at Red Rocks including, Theodore Roosevelt. William Allen White purchased this house in Emporia in 1899, and he resided there until his death in 1944. The National Historic Landmark property includes White's residence, an adjacent garden, White's mother's house at 923 Exchange Street, and a modern visitor center.

Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site – Fairway, Johnson County

Shawnee Mission was established as a manual training school for Native American boys and girls, which operated between 1839 to 1862. Indian children were to learn basic academics, manual arts, and agriculture. Enrollment totaled 200 children from against five to 23 from the Kaw (Kansa), Munsee, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Otoe, Osage, Cherokee, Peoria, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Wea, Gros Ventres, Omaha, and Wyandot once lived here. The mission once spanned more than 2,000 acres with 16 buildings, including the three large brick structures which still stand on this 12-acre site. This was also the seat of territorial government and an encampment for Civil War soldiers. Listed in the National Register and designated a National Historic Landmark, this became a state historic site in 1927. Visitors can tour exhibits in two of the buildings.