Sunday, April 19, 2009

Small towns have a beautiful story

I bet this looks like just a charming small church. It's much more! This 1899 Presbyterian church on Third Street in Natoma (Osborne County) has a no-sag, self-supported roof style invented by Natoma native Louis Beisner. (Natoma, population 350).

You say "what?" Yes, you know, a no-sag roof! (This is where the part comes in about needing an Explorer mindset -- but if you have one, you'll see more than you could ever imagine).

There is no sign inside that tells the no-sag story and the church has been renovated so it's mostly the shape and size that are historic. In any case, it's the roof that is important and many come to pay homage to see one of Beisner's first attempts at this style. Beisner conceived the innovative plan over 110 years ago and since then it has become a standard design element in modern architecture.

An Explorer would want to see another application. So, just ask anyone in Natoma to call Orville or Betty Pruter for a tour of their barn loft. Check it out! No supporting beams coming from the floor. A giant load but the Beisner no-sag structure works. Cool.

If you love chocolate, maybe you'll want to travel the scenic backroads of Osborne County (north of Natoma) to find the birth site of chocolate magnate Russell Stover. He was born in Osborne County in 1888. Thanks to the Osborne County Tourism group, a sign now tells the story. One from that group is pictured, Laura McClure. For me, I just loved standing on that spot imagining a young Russell Stover.

Alton, population 150, is another city in Osborne County. The name of the cafe has changed but it's always fun to have a reason to step inside the Bohemian Hall that was moved into town almost 10 years ago. It's main function is a restaurant and a community gathering spot.

Alton and Natoma are just two cities in Osborne County. The tourism group does a fabulous job of telling the rural culture element story of the whole county. In 2008, they showcased their Kansas Sampler Festival display after the festival.

Come to Concordia's city park on May 2-3 to learn what Osborne County and 136 other Kansas communities have to see and do! For more information go to

In the meantime, just know that to "get" Kansas, you've got to visit small towns -- and take your Explorer mindset with you.

KE #2 Marci Penner

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