Past meets present

11/16/2013

'Then and Now' exhibit opens Tuesday at historical museum.

'Then and Now' exhibit opens Tuesday at historical museum.

Residents can take a stroll down memory lane and back when the Finney County Museum reveals its new "Garden City Then and Now" exhibit on Tuesday.

"We think this will give people the time to reminisce about the past and marvel at how the city has evolved over the years," said Steve Quakenbush, executive director of the Finney County Historical Society.

Quakenbush said the exhibit will remain in place for several months and includes historic and present-day photographs from about 20 locations in the community, while offering visitors a chance to compare each site with the way it appeared decades or even a century ago.

The "Then and Now" paintings, artifacts and photographs line the walls, ready to share untold stories and bottled-up secrets.

An old sturdy oak bench that was in the Finney County Courthouse in 1930 has the names "Tami and Mark" engraved into it by possible mischievous lovers. And what is now part of the museum's courtyard, was the Lee Richardson Zoo "Monkey Island," a 62-foot-long and 20-feet-wide exhibit surrounded by a moat, where 13 Rhesus monkeys roamed freely.

Quakenbush even said the monkeys were known to escape from time to time and "cause a little havoc," he said with a laugh.

But what he thought would "really impress" those who visit the exhibit is the elaborately-detailed Wildwood mansion that was used for parties and social events through the early 1900s. It also was used as a hospital during the influenza epidemic in 1918, but the castle-like mansion was destroyed in a fire in 1929.

Wildwood mansion is now Plaza Medical Center.

Other past and present features includes the Myton House, a Victorian-style home now occupied by an office plaza north of Garden City's post office; the old Methodist Church that is now the Garden City Administrative Center; Gardendale, a housing complex dating to World War II, where Harold Long Park is now located; the U.S. Army Airbase, the site of today's Garden City Regional Airport; present and previous Finney County Courthouses; Hutchison Elementary School, now occupied by the Finney County Public Library; the Stevens Opera House, which once stood south of the Windsor Hotel; the old Garden City Railroad Depot; the present and former Garden National Bank Building at the intersection of Main and Grant streets, which is now the office of architect Bruce Glass; the "Sugar Beet Factory," the first Finney County Fair, which was called the Southwest Kansas Exploration; Ted's Market, now the Cancer Center at St. Catherine Hospital; various Garfield Elementary School buildings; Pitts House, now the County Administration Building; the River Bridge, which once lived up to its name as it stood above water; and the Buffalo Hotel.

As you enter the "Then and Now" exhibit, visitors can log their own memories of life in Garden City in a public journal.

"The beauty of doing this is we can do one or two more in the future or perhaps even more," Quakenbush said. "The point is to show change and evolution."

The exhibit will open with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, including a brief program at 4:30 p.m., featuring remarks by Mayor Dan Fankhauser and a ribbon cutting by the the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors.

"A lot of people don't know what was standing at the current locations of some of the buildings now and will be amazed to discover what once stood there," Quakenbush said.

Quakenbush also said the exhibit has been "months in the making," and members of the museum society brainstormed to figure which former locations should be highlighted and how to assemble the exhibit.

He gave a lot of the credit to Laurie Oshel, the assistant museum director and research librarian, who said she used files in the research library, old clippings, old city directories, and Google Maps to show the area of the locations and old photograph files.

One past feature Oshel called her favorite was the Cree-Mee Drive-In that reminds her of the present day Sonic, operated from 1906 to 1955 and where the former Wheat Lands Restaurant is currently being remodeled as Shweeni's Fine Dining.

Above the old photographs of Cree-Mee is a menu where hamburgers were 25 cents, chocolate was 10 cents and to get your day started back then, coffee was only 5 cents.

"I always find something interesting," Oshel said with a laugh.

She also said one of her favorite artifacts is an old coin machine from a bank in the late 1800s.

"You never know what you might dig up," she said. "We hope everyone will come and find out."

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