Category Archives: History

Kansas Pilgrimage Places for "Wizard of Oz" Fans


Two Kansas sites celebrate the movie released 60 years ago

The foodie in me has been focusing on August 15, 2009, as what would have been Julia Child’s 99th birthday, but movie goers note it as the 60th anniversary of the “The Wizard of Oz.” According to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz website, “The official premiere [of the movie] was at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on August 15, attended by most of the cast and crew and a number of Hollywood celebrities. Notably absent, however, was Judy Garland — she was on the East Coast with Mickey Rooney, rehearsing a vaudeville act.”

The magical journey of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, to the Land of Oz began as a fantasy novel written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W.W. Denslow and published in 1900. It was the bestselling children’s novel for two years and was produced as stage musical shortly thereafter. Baum died in 1915, but his dream story lives on and on — nowhere more so than in Kansas where the fictional Dorothy lived. .
Oz Museum

The Oz Museum, a storefront in downtown Wamego, Kansas, nine miles north of Interstate 70, is “dedicated to all things Oz.” It lays claim to 2,000 artifacts. The collection includes original Baum books, objects from the 1939 movie and Oz-related merchandise produced over the years. There are also earlier silent films, including one with Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame as the Tin Man, and much later adaptations such as “The Wiz” starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. The Oz Museum (511 Lincoln, Wamego; 785-456-8686 or 866-458-TOTO) is open daily except major holidays.

Other Ozian Things to Do Nearby

Immerse yourself in Oz on the weekend of October 3-4 when Wamego celebrates Oztoberfest, a festival complete with vendors and live performances of “The Wizard of Oz” in the town’s Columbian Theater. Cyclists can also take part in the Yellow Brick Road Bike Ride, which begins and ends at Wamego High School on Saturday, October 3. Choose from three routes varying from 15 to 50 miles. Fuel up on breakfast served from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. and start pedaling. Net proceeds from the ride help fund the WAM-SAG-MAN Recreational Trail between Wamego and a connection with the St. George and Manhattan Linear Trail.

I suspect that Aunt Em was a teetotaler, but these days, the Oz Winery is operating a few doors from the Oz Museum The tasting room pours samples and sells wines labeled “Witch in a Ditch,” “A Witch Gone Good,” “Lion’s Courage,” “Run, Toto, Run!” and even “Auntie Em’s Prairie Rose.” The winery is at Oz Winery 417A Lincoln Avenue, Wamego; 785-456-7417.

Dorothy’s House

I think of it as dueling Dorothys. Miles and miles from Wamego in southwestern Kansas, not far from Oklahoma, is the town of Liberal, location of Dorothy’s House, built in 1907, donated to the Seward County Historical Society, moved to its present location on the Coronado Museum grounds and furnished to replicate the house shown in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Former governor John Carlin recognized the house as the official home of Dorothy Gale in 1981.

The museum now includes The Land of Oz attraction, comprising “5,000 square feet of animated entertainment – good and bad witches, the Munchkins, talking trees, winged monkeys, and of course, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto, too.” Visitors can wander down the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy, Auntie Em or Uncle Henry as their tour guide. The complex is at 567 East Cedar Street, Liberal; 620-624-7624.

The museum also seems to host an OzFest in mid-October, but the most recent information on the website is from 2007, so if you’re interested, call to check details before heading out.

A Taste of Eastern Europe in Denver

Upcoming food and cultural festival in Globeville spotlights 120 years of history

While researching the Orthodox Food Festival & Old Globeville Days for Mile High on the Cheap, I found out that the Globeville section of Denver is a 120-year-old community with deep roots in Eastern Europe. Located in the shadow of the elevated sections of Interstate 70, it is mainly known as the site of of the National Western Stock Show complex.

Globeville might not have gotten much respect in recent times, but its history is long by Western standards and represents a tapestry of the American experience. Immigrants from Russia, Poland, Romania, Serbia Ukraine and Greece settled there and found community through the shared Eastern Rite religion. Later, they were joined and often replaced by people from such different places Mexico and Eritrea, and African-Americans too. Workers lived in the neighborhood was an important part of Denver’s industrial landscape, and when industry and commerce changed and when Interstates 70 and 25 were routed by it, Globeville suffered. But as happens so often, houses of worship that cannot easily be moved provided a bit of a counterweight through good times and bad times.

According to Father Joseph Hirsch of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, “since Globeville’s incorporation as a town and subsequent annexation into the City and County of Denver, there has been a Summer celebration of some kind or another. For most of that time, the main Homecoming event has been the annual Picnic held by the 109-year-old [now 110] Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral. In recent years, the District Attorney of Denver, Bill Ritter, now Governor of Colorado, promoted a Globeville Community Day which positively impacted the neighborhood but did not involve much participation from those outside of the neighborhood. In 2004, the Orthodox Community agreed to combine the Annual Orthodox Picnic with the Community Days celebration and to provide a free public celebration both for the residents and friends of Globeville as well as an opportunity to reach out to and inform the entire Front Range.”

And that’s what’s coming up on Saturday, July 18, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 19, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. when the the sixth annual Orthodox Food Festival & Old Globeville. Admission is free to this event that will feature ethnic foods, music, folk dancing international crafts and for the first time, an art show. There will also be inside tours of the historic and elaborate cathedral, which from the outside looks like a modest church. “Boogie Under the Stars” takes place Saturday evening from 7:30 to 9:30.

9News’ Susie Wargin, whose own Denver pioneer heritage is anchored in old Globeville, wrote, “Inside St. Joe’s, beautiful stained glass windows align the east and west walls. However there is one window on the west side, featuring the mother Mary with her mother, that shows exactly where I came from. My great, great grandfather Jan Wargin’s name adorns the bottom of the stained glass. The word in my family is Jan was a founding member of St. Joseph’s and helped fund construction while working at the Globe Smelting and Refining Company. It’s a church that has always been very special to our family even though we are all in different locations now.”

In the classic American tradition, some stalwarts like Father Hirsch, members of the Globeville Civic Association and Margaret and Robert Escamilla, the successful plaintiffs in Escamilla vs. ASARCO that has been called a landmark victory for environmental justice never give up on their community and just when a neighborhood is thought to be down and out, it is “discovered” by artists and urban pioneers who appreciate history, diversity and low prices, and the process of renewal begins. Globeville is on the rise. New sidewalks, undergrounded utility lines, zoning changes that favor local businesses and other quality-of-life enhancements are in place. The first major sign of gentrification is the multi-use TAXI development, an ambitious project whose first phase includes 43 residential lofts with 130,000 square feet of commercial and office space on an 18-acre site. Globeville’s new second identity is RiNo (RIver NOrth), and the incipient arts district.

The festival is in large part a tribute to those who held on and made a historic community better, and all are invited to help celebrate. The event appropriately will take place at the Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral and Globeville-Argo Park at 47th and North Logan, Denver. For more information, call 303-294-0938.

National Trust’s Endangered Places List

Mid-century hotel, crumbling hangar, historic bridge all make “the list” of threatened places

One of the saddest lists to be issued annual is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the country’s most endangered places. Some are considered obsolete, in need upgrading or replacing. Sometimes historic places are falling apart due to remoteness, neglect and a lack of money or caring to maintain them. Sometimes it’s just the opposite because the land is deemed more valuable to developers than as a physical link to our past. Here are the 11 most endangered places on the 2009 list — the Trust’s 22nd annual list:

Century Plaza Hotel – Los Angeles (right)
Miami Marine Stadium – Miami
Dorchester Academy- Midway, Georgia
Lāna’i City – Lanai, Hawaii
Unity Temple – Oak Park, Illinois
Ames Shovel Shops – Easton, Massachusetts
Memorial Bridge- between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine
Mount Taylor – Grants, New Mexico
Human Services Center – Yankton, Sout Dakota
Cast-Iron Architecture – Galveston, Texas
The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar –Wendover, Utah

Beguiling Shenandoah Valley Loop Drive

A spring drive through a historic American landscape

Scenic drives were part of my childhood vacations in New England, because my parents’ generation, with World War II gas rationing etched into their memories, liked to get into the car and go. Similarly, my first husband was fond of to driving around and sightsee through the car window too.
In my present Colorado life, when my husband and I drive somewhere, it is to do something, not as an end unto itself.
I am visiting cousins in Maryland. She is ill, weak and has serious mobility issues, so as a treat, we took a drive southwestward into the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. And it was a treat for us all. As we left the metro area, we passed blooming beds of roadside daffodils. In the valley, we drove through quaint and charming old towns, past places where Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops trumped Union soldiers, past historic markers, across the gap where George Washington planned to make his last stand if his Revolutionary army couldn’t stand up to the Redcoats, past farms, along the meandering Shenandoah River close to vineyards in this increasingly prominent wine area and through woods where trees were budding and, in some cases blossoming. All this in warm sunshine even as Colorado was blanketed in an impressive (and impressively wet) spring storm.
My cousin’s husband, a history buff, narrated interesting facts about Revolutionary and Civil War strategy and battle tactics that took place right there. The stories came to life when the sites were right there. The old buildings — older than anything in Colorado — were lovely. The mountains have a gentle roundness but are actually rugged and were more so to 18th and 19th century soldiers. The history is interesting to listen to but frankly more than I am willing to delve into. But beyond
everything touristic and historic, I treasured the opportunity to share this day with cousins whom I care about deeply.

I forgot my camera at home, so I’m grateful that the Shenandoah Valley Web folks have made these available to remind me of this precious day and to share them here.