Wamego city park.

Wamego, Kansas

A small city with a population of 4,372 residents and the birthplace of Walter Percy Chrysler - the founder of Chrysler Corporations, Wamego, Kansas, has many surprises. The visitors to this town can come and get lost in the Oz Museum or sip on wines at the Oz Winery. One can also stroll along the shores of the Kansas River or launch boats at Riverfront Park, and ogle at the rare paintings displayed at the Columbian Theatre. Wamego may be small, but it's full of prairie scenery and historic sites.

Geography And Climate Of Wamego

Aerial view of farmland and Kansas river
Aerial view of farmland and Kansas river. 

Located in the northeastern portion of the US State of Kansas, Wamego is situated approximately 23km east of Manhattan and 68km west-northwest of Topeka - the state's capital city. The Kansas River flows on the southern edge of Wamego, where it is the widest at 6.4 km and forms a part of the more extensive Kansas River Valley system that drains into the Missouri River. Wamego covers an area of 5.83 sq. km, of which 5.72 sq. km is occupied by land, and 0.10 sq. km is covered by water. 

Although it experiences four seasons in a year, Wamego has long hot summers attributed to the humid subtropical climate. Wamego sees 92.1 days of precipitation in a year, including rains, hail, and snow. The total yearly rainfall equates to 901.7 mm, whereas the US average is 967.74 mm. On the other hand, the total snowfall is 431.8 mm, unlike the US average of 706.12 mm. The year's coldest month is January, with an average temperature of -8.6 degrees Celsius, and the warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 32.22 degrees Celsius.   

History Of Wamego

Windmill in Wamego City Park.
Windmill in Wamego City Park. 

Until 1840, the lands where Wamego would become a town belonged to the Konza and Pottawatomie Tribes. By the 1860s, news of gold in nearby Denver brought many prospectors to Wamego. In 1863, Kansas Pacific Railroad announced they would build the main railroad line crossing the prairies for both passenger and freight. In 1868, Wamego was incorporated as a town. The town's founders offered cash and land incentives for the Kansas Pacific Railroad to place its headquarters in Wamego. Thus, a station, roundhouse, and shops were built. Hence, Wamego also served as a rail yard for nearby Louisville, which was a part of the Oregon Trail. Among the people employed by the Kansas Pacific Railroad included Henry Chrysler, whose son, Walter Percy Chrysler, was born in Wamego in 1975 and would later become the founder of Chrysler Corporations.

Population And Economy Of Wamego

Located in Pottawatomie County of the US State of Kansas, Wamego has a population of 4,372 inhabitants, with a population density of 770.57 inhabitants per sq. km. The city's median household income is $70,574, with a gross monthly rent of $890. The poverty rate sits at 13.08%, and the average age of a resident is 33.9 years old. On the cost of living index, Wamego is rated at 87.1, whereas the state of Kansas sits at 93.

The largest contributing economic sector in the city is education, which accounts for 18.3% overall. This is due to Wamego being home to Highland Community College, which was established in 1858 and was the first college in Kansas. Irvin Hall, the first building on its campus, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and notable alumni include NFL players Tay Glover-Wright and Brandon King. Other significant economic drivers include healthcare and social service (17.9%), retail trade (14.1%), and finance and insurance (7.4%).

Attractions In Wamego

Oz Museum

Dedicated to the Wizard of Oz, the Oz Museum is a collection of everything associated with L. Frank Baum’s fiction series. This all-ages museum started as a 2000-piece collection in a home in the 1900s. However, with a small grant and the help of thousands of volunteers and donations, it was able to expand into the Oz Museum today. Some notable artifacts include the Swarovski crystal Rudy Slippers created for the 50th anniversary, doors and windows from the Muppet’s Wizard of Oz in 2005, and yellow bricks from Baum’s elementary school.

Oz Winery

A trip to the Oz museum wouldn’t be complete without a wine tasting at the Oz Winery, which runs daily. The Oz Winery boasts wines such as Yellow Brick Road Chardonnay, Witch Gone Good Moscato, Flying Monkey Zinfandel, and Munchkin Semi-Riesling, to name a few. All these wines are tied to The Wizard of Oz novel series, and each one of them is described with an insert from L. Frank Baum’s original books. 

Columbian Theatre

Founded in 1893, the Columbian Theatre Museum and Art Center reflects the architecture and creative vision of J.C. Roger, who built the theater. At the height of its hay-day, it was a music hall with live performances and showcased silent films before closing in 1950. Today, it houses an exhibit in which rare paintings from the 1893 Chicago World Fair are on display and are publicly funded by the National Historical Publication and High Commission. The multipurpose space is used for banquets, weddings, and a performance and art center. It is rumored that the ghost of J.C. Roger haunts the Columbia Theatre, with unexplainable phenomena such as carnival music playing in the halls.

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