The Heritage Center of Dickinson County has both a local historical museum and a number of old buildings which were moved from locations in Dickinson County to the site in Abilene, Kansas. For my taste, it would be too much like the county historical museums that can be found across Kansas, except for two things.
The Heritage Center has a 1901 C. W. Parker carousel, and about half of the museum is devoted to the history of independent telephony.
When the Bell Telephone patents expired in 1984, nearly 6,000 non Bell Telephone companies, known as Independents, sprang up in North America. The Museum of Independent Telephony tells the story of the small independent telephone companies which served nearly half of the US.
Cleyson Leroy Brown built his first telephone exchange, called the Brown Telephone Company, in Abilene in 1898. Over the years, C.L. Brown purchased several other telephone exchanges and the combined company became known as United Telephone and Electric. United Telephone maintained its headquarters in Abilene, Kansas until 1966, when the corporate office moved to Westwood, Kansas. The name of the company continued to change, becoming United Utilities, United Telecom and eventually Sprint.
The C. W. Parker carousel tells another part of Abilene's History. Charles Wallace Parker's family moved to Abilene, Kansas when Parker was 5 years old. C. W. Parker bought a used carousel in 1892. He soon began doing his own repairs and repairs on other carousels. While doing the work, he would replace the manufacturer's name with his own. In a few years, he began the C.W. Parker factory. By 1905 C. W. Parker Amusement Company had four full sized carnivals on tour and sold equipment to other amusement operators.
Although the Parker Amusement Company moved on to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1911, the Parker carousel at the Heritage Center of Dickinson County was built in Abilene in 1901. Carousel rides are available for an additional fee. The C. W. Parker carousel was named a national landmark in 1995. There is an additional $3 charge to ride the carousel.
Winter Hours: Monday - Friday 9 AM to 3 PM, Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM, Sunday 1 - 5 PM
Extended hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day: Open
until 4 PM Monday - Friday and until 8 PM Saturdays.
copyright 2008-2010 by Keith Stokes