With pressed tin hallway ceilings upstairs, rooms are decorated in Colonial and Victorian decor.
Traveling straight down Hwy 54 south only 2.5 hours can transport one back to a different era. History buffs or those who enjoy the old west will both be satisfied in Fort Scott, Kansas. Unbelievably close, Fort Scott, Kansas is a destination that affords a quick escape from ordinary life into a time when buffalo roamed the plains, and cowboys and indians were still sorting out territorial rights. Covered wagons, snake oil salesmen, and frontier justice left their footprints on this town that can still be seen today. Fort Scott makes a great escape for a day due to its easy travel from the lake area. A right turn onto Hwy 69 at Nevada, Missouri, puts you there. Historically interesting over many diverse eras, Fort Scott has destinations that are significant to pioneer days, Civil War battles, and railroad history. Bloody Kansas details the battles between the Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers. Underground Railroad history is there as well. The National Cemetery is a moving tribute to countless lives lost at the military compound from battles taking place there.
The Courtland Hotel and Day Spa is a place to completely immerse yourself in the feel of another time. Dating to the early 1900’s this gorgeously preserved building is cozy, and welcoming. The innkeeper is a wealth of knowledge to the town history and an attentive host. With pressed tin hallway ceilings upstairs, rooms are decorated in Colonial and Victorian decor. Downstairs, the day spa offers all modern services for face, hair, and body. A continental breakfast is served every morning, behind the old counter of a turn of the century business.
Those that like a little spooky history will be interested to find that Fort Scott has a pretty good concentration of haunted sites. Officer’s Row at the Fort Scott Historical destination has been the location of many a ghostly soldier encounter. The Dupont house on Crawford Street has hosted a multitude of paranormal investigation teams. The Scottish Rite building downtown near the Courtland Hotel reportedly is home to some wispy characters in windows. One really can’t help but feel the past creeping in on you in this charming yesteryear getaway.
Fort Scott National Historic Site sits adjacent to the Courtland Hotel. After checking in, and putting on your walking shoes, allow for about 2 hours to explore the site. Enter the welcome center and gift shop, then step back in time to 1842 when the fort was built. Maintained by the U.S. National Parks service, Fort Scott’s structures are meticulously maintained and staffed. When the fort was established, the nation was still young and confined largely to the area east of the Mississippi River. As the nation developed, tensions over slavery led to the conflict and turmoil of "Bleeding Kansas" and the Civil War. Fort Scott takes you through these years of crisis and beyond to the time when the United States emerged as a united, transcontinental nation. Soldiers kept peace between white settlers, native peoples like the Osage, and relocated Eastern tribes. The fort was home to infantry soldiers and the dragoons, an elite unit of troops trained to fight both on horseback and on foot. The infantry performed many of the fatigue duties, including fort construction, while the dragoons went on numerous expeditions. At one time, Fort Scott was divided over slavery, literally splitting the town politically. When the Civil War arrived, tensions over slavery continued to build, with more fighting and divisions. Fort Scott served as a major supply depot for Union armies in the West, a general hospital for soldiers in the region and a haven for people fleeing the war-displaced Indians, escaped slaves, and white farmers. Many of these refugees joined the Union Army, greatly diversifying its ranks. American Indian and African American regiments were recruited in the area, including the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry. Sworn in on the grounds of Fort Scott, this was the 1st African American regiment to engage the Confederates in combat. Guerilla warfare, which plagued the region, also threatened the town. Intense fighting on the Kansas-Missouri border between the Jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers kept the military occupied. The Union presence likely spared Fort Scott from pillaging and destruction, a fate of other towns in the area.
And then the railroad came to town. Town leaders of Fort Scott saw a railroad line as a means to build prosperity by tapping into the trade of Eastern markets. By 1869, their efforts succeeded as the first railroad reached the city. As workers laid tracks south of town, they came into conflict with squatters who forcefully opposed the railroad. The military returned and established the Post of Southeast Kansas (1869-73) to protect the railroad workers. This set the stage for a rare instance when U.S. troops took up arms against American citizens to protect the country's business interests. From that point in time, Fort Scott had great wealth move in, and the town grew out from the military compound into today’s present city. The old Western Military Road route runs through the fort and the town, which spans from Nebraska all the way south into Louisiana.
Downtown is also home to the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, a tribute to spirit of historical individuals who took extraordinary measures to improve the lives of others.. The center developed from the simple production of a local Bourbon County, Kansas school play in 1999 chronicling the life of Irena Sendler, a Catholic social worker in Poland, who saved 2500 jewish children from the Holocaust. By relocating them, and placing their names in a buried jar, she was able to reunite them with their families after the war was over. The student’s play, Life in a Jar, went on to be performed statewide and nationally, and throughout Europe. A book developed out of the project. The Lowell Milken foundation, a nationally known foundation leading in business and education, constructed the center downtown which now honors many unsung heroes, and welcomes visitors from all over the world.
While in Fort Scott, check out the NuGrille Cafe, established in 1949. At 24 N. National Avenue, on the edge of downtown, it sits amongst many historical buildings. The entire downtown district is on the National Historic Register. Nu Grille offers ambiance and menu reminiscent of a 50’s diner.
A little farther down National Avenue one will find finer fare, and a tour of the fabulous Twin Mansions, two Victorian estates that sit on the same property. Lyons Twin Mansions offers a luxurious bed and breakfast and spa in one house. Nate’s Place Restaurant is located in the second mansion on the property. Both structures are red brick homes from the 1870s. A pair of bankers moved to the area and constructed the estate.
Nightlife in Fort Scott is pretty quiet, with the exception of The Boiler Room Brew Haus, located in the historic downtown district. The microbrewery crafts beer on site. Brewery tours and tastings are available during normal business hours. The brewery is located in a 1950’s motor lodge. An 80 acre farm that the family owns nearby supplies honey used in their brew.
Fort Scott’s downtown district mostly closes down at 5pm, but venturing 25 miles down highway 69 will take you to the Kansas Crossing Casino. Located near Pittsburg, Kansas, the casino is open 24 hours. Restaurants on site close at 9pm, but a limited sandwich menu is available at the casino bar until 1am. Small in size, this gaming destination packs a big punch with the latest modern slot machines, as well as popular table games. Signing up for free for the club player’s card will give you seven dollars in game play.
Fort Scott, Kansas is the perfect destination for a day or overnight escape. Small in size, your trip here will be packed with non stop exploring and discovery.