Downtown Leavenworth West of 4th Street Historical Walking Tour
Beginning at the Leavenworth County Historical Society, walk north past historic homes, a library-turned-apartment building, and a downtown commercial building and theater.
The Leanna Giles House may be one of the oldest houses remaining in Leavenworth and is thought to have been built in 1860. Near the northwest corner of Pottawatomie and 2nd streets, the house is a two-story, gable front frame dwelling. The house was named for Leanna Giles, a long-time owner and tenant of the home in the twentieth century. The simple architectural style, National folk, was common in the era, especially for working-class families. The home is still owned by the Giles family and was listed in the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2017. It is significant to the history of residential development as one of the few houses of its age and style left in Leavenworth.
The house at 309 N. Esplanade Street is one of fourteen houses that contribute to the North Esplanade Historic District, listed in the National Register in 1977. The district runs from 203 to 515 North Esplanade, on the west side of a street facing east toward a narrow strip of parkland, Esplanade Park, and the Missouri River beyond the bluff. Most of the contributing houses were built in the 1860s to 1880s. John C. Ketcheson, a printer, bought three lots in 1877 and had this house built in 1882. The two-story, frame, Queen Anne Victorian house features an octagonal three-story tower on the front and a rounded veranda.
The Planters Hotel opened for business in December of 1856 within a four-story brick building that offered a hundred rooms to travelers. The hotel was the site of numerous proslavery gatherings giving Leavenworth's proximity to Missouri and political leanings during the Bleeding Kansas era, but it is also worth noting that Abraham Lincoln gave a speech on the steps of the hotel. The Planters Hotel was one of Leavenworth's leading historical landmarks until the 1950s when the structure was declared unfit for occupancy and demolished.
The original portion of the Merritt H. Insley House was constructed in 1860 and is now the two-story rear wing of the house. The house originally was ell shaped and faced east. From 1865 to 1866, a two-story, brick Italianate cube was added to the south of the ell; the house then faced south. One more building episode took place in 1883, when a one-and-a-half story, five-sided bay was added to the west of the cube, containing a staircase. The Insley House was listed in the Kansas and National Registers in 1986. The house is significant because of its owner, Merritt Hitt Insley (1830-1909), and for its architectural style. Insley was a local entrepreneur and financier and was active in Leavenworth's business community from the 1850s to 1890s.
Leavenworth's Hollywood Theater exemplified the Art Deco style with its vertical square columns and geometric designs on the front facade, above the marquee. The two-and-a-half story concrete building was constructed in 1937 and 1938 on the corner of Delaware and S 5th streets. Hollywood Theater was listed in the Register of Kansas Historic Places in 1984 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The City of Leavenworth owns the building, which currently shows movies and hosts a local theatrical group's live performances in the building now known as the Leavenworth Performing Arts Center.
The AXA Building is a commercial structure on the corner of Delaware and S 5th streets that was built in 1905 and designed by William P. Feth. The building's original owner was Charles Espenscheid, a miller from St. Louis. The ornamental building is two-and-a-half stories tall of red brick with contrasting tan brick trim. The main facade faces west onto S 5th Street and the building is divided into two identical wings connected by an arched entryway. The AXA Building was listed individually on the National Register of Historic Place in 1972 and is a contributing building in the Leavenworth Downtown Historic District which was added to the National Register in 2002.
The building at 601 S 5th Street was constructed as a public library in 1901 to 1902 as a Carnegie Library. The two-and-a-half-story, Beaux Arts structure has a projecting central entrance bay with a two-story portico above a double-door entry. Fanciness abounds above the paired Ionic columns, with relief sculpture ornamentation, a molded cornice, and a terra cotta ornament at the pediment peak. The public library has moved to 417 Spruce Street and the S 5th Street building was renovated and converted into eleven apartments. The building now houses studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and was renamed Carnegie 601. The ribbon-cutting was held in March of 2017.
In an era when travelers had few dining options beyond railroad depots that offered notoriously bad and overpriced fare, Fred Harvey created a restaurant that served travelers quickly and efficiently. Harvey's methods were soon repeated at depots along the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad--effectively creating the first restaurant chain in America. The Harvey House restaurants helped to convince travelers to choose the ATSF rail line above others, and also provided viable employment for many cooks and servers, known affectionately at that time as "Harvey Girls." This stately rim rock building was constructed in 1869 and was purchased by Fred Harvey in 1883. The home stayed in the family until 1944 when Harvey's heirs donated the property to Cushing Hospital for use as a dormitory for its nursing school. City leaders and preservationists are working to restore the residence and build museum exhibits. Local volunteers are available to offer private tours of the building and share their progress as well as their vision for the museum's future.
Completed in 1885, the A.J. Angell House a two-and-one-half story brick mansion with a basement constructed in the Queen Anne style. A wing attached to the west facade served as a servants' quarters and kitchen. The owner, a native New Yorker with a successful lumber business in Leavenworth, died soon after the house was finished. Widow Mary J. Angell and her three daughters continued to live in the mansion with her new husband Amos Fenn and a stepsister. Amos and Mary J. both died in 1913. Angell descendants owned and occupied the house until 1975. The Angell House and its carriage house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as a fine example of Victorian architecture.