Paola: A January Field Trip

cafe-latte-lunchTwo or three of my special interests tend to rise to the surface when I write. Food, for instance, occupies a lot of my brain space. I study restaurant reviews in great detail, carefully plan my excursions into the food scene, and try to pass along my observations to my readers. Architecture is another favorite subject. I like good floor plans and structural details for their own sake, which explains my fascination with the Symphony Designer Showhouse. Add to the list a love of American history, and we can begin to understand how I choose my field trip destinations.

Food is what drew me to Paola Kansas. Paola, a modest county seat 30 miles south of Overland Park, will never make anyone’s listicle of the Top 10 Winter Destinations (Number 3 left me speechless!). But I’d seen rave reviews of a restaurant called Beethoven’s #9, which was reputed to serve wonderful German food, and I talked two friends into making the trip to find out what a bierock is.

We still don’t know. Beethoven’s #9 was closed, a fact I learned by checking the website about ten minutes before we left home. Nobody could accuse me of being too detail-oriented when I plan trips.

Our time in Paola was not wasted, though. Far from it.

Armed with a brochure from the Chamber of Commerce website, we started our day with a walking tour of the work of architect George P. Washburn. Best known for designing county courthouses, Washburn’s talent was quite versatile.

In one block we found the Paola Free Library (left) and three houses, all Washburn designs. Sorry about the pictures–I was fascinated by the round details in each structure.

The Miami County Courthouse is another Washburn gem.

Walking tours can’t last all day in January. When the winter chill got to us, we ended our walk at the Miami County Historical Museum. For me, this well-staffed museum was the highlight of the trip. The four volunteers who made time to speak with us were knowledgeable, interesting, and excited about everything the museum has to offer.

abraham-ellisOne exhibit showed us Bleeding Kansas from the perspective of Paola citizens. Abraham “Bullet Hole” Ellis was our favorite. After taking a bullet in the forehead from Quantrill’s raiders, this stalwart pioneer just kept on living. He probably couldn’t shake his nickname, though.

We read up on the Patterson Circus, Headquartered in Paola from 1912-1925. The circus occupied a 100-acre tract near the railroad tracks, and several of their buildings were designed by—wait for it—George P. Washburn. (Later in the day we went hunting for the Patterson Circus House. Our GPS led us through a sad neighborhood of non-Washburn houses, to the gates of a large industrial plant. As we hadn’t packed our hard hats, we gave up the chase.)

The museum’s latest addition is a room devoted to the history of Indians in Miami County. The sad facts of the forced Indian relocation often go unremarked in small history museums, so I was doubly impressed with the exhibit. An extensive collection of artifacts represents both the Indian tribes and the first Christian missions to come to the area, a treasure trove for any serious researcher.

A mural by Patsy Bortner shows Miami County when it was Indian territory.

My thanks to Pat, Luanne, Larry and Rob for all their help at the historical museum. Special thanks to Pat, who steered us toward Café Latte for lunch. The soup, sandwiches, and specialty coffee drinks refueled us for the short ride home.

Carrie and April, my traveling companions



  1. Thank you, Jane , for sharing your expedition with us. I had heard the story about a man shot in the head by Quantrill but I did not know where he lived or for how long. Was Beethoven’s #9 closed for that day or closed permanently? I would like to eat some authentic German food again. The last time I had some was in 1983 when I lived in Germany.

    • I’m so glad you asked! Beethoven’s is closed every Tuesday and Wednesday. I am still game to go back someday and eat there. If you are interested in Quantrill’s raid, I recommend visiting the museum. It also has a genealogy research room that looks well-stocked with resources.

  2. I find it interesting that bierocks are spelled so many different ways. Probably because each individual translated the spelling in the way it made sense to them. We’ve been to Beethoven’s twice. It was very very busy both times–if you consider that an indication of a good restaurant. We had an especially long wait when we went for an evening. Thank you so much for the info about the museum. And by the way, I like your photos of all the turrets. They’ve always been one of my favorite architectural details.

    • Turrets are my favorite, too. As a kid I dreamed of living in a house with a tower room. The Paola Free Library uses its ’round room’ as a reading room, and it’s very cozy.

  3. Sally and I did a booksigning at the Paola library – years ago. Such a lovely staff and what a fabulous building ! I’m so sorry to hear Beethoven’s is closed !

  4. In 2017, Beethoven’s relocated to a larger building one block North of “The Square”. They’ve extended their hours, so check their website or Facebook page. And they’re still as busy as ever. Regarding the James Patterson circus house, you should have kept going. It’s on Mulberry Street, going through the grounds of the factory, on the other side of the railroad tracks. Several years ago it was a B&B, and the owners gave tours of the renovated house. Now it’s a private home, and I doubt they give tours. However, I’m sure they’re very use to people using their circle drive to check out the house. Mulberry Street actually becomes their driveway after the railroad tracks.

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