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Columbian Exposition lives on in rural Kansas theater

Letters to the Editor

| June 2010

  • FC-AP10-sm-columbian-expo-14
    A complimentary ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
    Courtesy of Sam Moore

  • FC-AP10-sm-columbian-expo-14

I enjoyed the article about the Columbian Exposition in the April 2010 issue of Farm Collector. Here in northeast Kansas there is a fond connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893. A very wealthy man from Wamego, Kan., visited the exposition and was so struck by the event that he returned to Chicago at its close and purchased several exposition artifacts. He then built a theater in Wamego incorporating many of the artifacts he had purchased, and named the building the Columbian Theatre.

The theater operated until 1922, when it closed and fell into disrepair. In the 1990s interest grew in restoring the Columbian. Today a giant eagle – one of the original artifacts brought to Kansas – stands at the roof’s peak, as if it had just landed there. Visitors enter the theater at ground level and go into a dining/display area that doubles as an art gallery. Access to the elegant theater itself is made from the second floor.

Among the artifacts brought to Wamego were six huge (10 feet by 10 feet) canvas murals. These huge classical art paintings line both walls of the theater. It is a wonderful, classical building with many more treasures from the Columbian Exposition.

Today the Columbian houses a community theater company and an art gallery, and is often used for special community events. It is just next door to the Oz Museum. For the past several years, the Columbian’s annual schedule has included production of The Wizard of Oz, including performances by some of the original munchkins.

Ronald J. Williams
3839 Fox Ridge Dr.
Manhattan, KS 66502
(785) 587-4122


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