Lucas and Lindsborg

My friend April and I spent a June weekend exploring central and western Kansas. This is a story from our trip.

We reached Lucas at lunch time on the first day of our tour. The K-18 Cafe provided lunch, followed by good pie for dessert: Rhubarb custard for me, and cherry for April. I hadn’t eaten rhubarb custard pie in 25 years–it tasted divine.

Lucas strikes me as a small town that turned its most irritating citizen into a tourism cash cow. S.P. Dinsmoor, a free thinker from Ohio, retired from farming and moved to town in 1907, where he spent the rest of his days expressing his personal philosophy in soaring concrete sculptures. Adam, Eve, and the serpent define his grape arbor, while at the other end of the lot, Labor is crucified on the cross of the professional man.  Dinsmoor made a good living from the tourist trade, and ignored his more conventional neighbors’ protests, even going so far as to build and use a mausoleum for himself and his first wife.

Go ahead. View his remains. I could not.

My favorite aspects of the Garden of Eden exhibit were his house, built like a log cabin with the “logs” made of limestone, and his practical inventions. Strawberries grow in a planter that resembles a Mayan pyramid, so the picker does not have to lean down. There’s no denying the man had a certain amount of genius.

Bowl Plaza mosaic
Bowl Plaza Mosaic, detail

The citizens of Lucas have added a grassroots art museum and Bowl Plaza, “the country’s second-best public bathroom”, to Dinsmoor’s exhibit. Even the public signage has that grass-roots feel. I found it interesting, educational, and a bit unsettling. Not my cup of tea.

Lindsborg, on the other hand, exudes a Scandinavian tidiness that refreshes the weary traveler. We arrived at the Swedish Inn at suppertime on our second day out. By that time we were weary of the road, the heat, and the wind, and sick of diner food. The Swedish Inn enfolded us in its air conditioned arms, and gave each of us a just-big-enough room of our own. 

**Lindsborg was so refreshing to these weary travelers, that we forgot to take any pictures. You’re going to have to take my word for it. This is a lovely small town.

When we asked the hotel clerk to recommend a good restaurant, she directed us to the Swedish Crown just around the corner, a wonderful choice. We began the meal with an appetizer of beet hummus, and the goodness proceeded from there.

After dinner, April and I drove the town from end to end, and admired the many well-kept homes that line the streets. We weren’t there during business hours, so we couldn’t visit the real high points. From previous experience, I can recommend the following:

The McPherson County Old Mill Museum. This local history museum is special because of the old mill it calls home. Visitors can tour the mill at many levels to understand how it worked. The rest of the museum tells the story of the settlement of the area, and displays some local art.

Small World Gallery. Lindsborg is home to several art galleries. This one just happens to be my personal favorite. National Graphic photographer Jim Richardson displays his work in several formats, including a large greeting card collection. Jim and his wife Nancy, a jewelry designer, are often available to discuss their work.

Grassroots art dog
Grassroots Art Dog in Lucas, Kansas. Alas, no pictures of Lindsborg!

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