Around the Block: Amelia Earhart's Birthplace and Atchison, Kansas
Just across the Missouri River from Kansas City International Airport lies Atchison, Kansas. Once a major rail hub in the days of western expansion, Atchison is now best known as the birthplace and childhood home of Amelia Earhart.
The world-famous pilot who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while attempting the first flight around the world reached celebrity status because of her pioneering adventures.
A visit to her birthplace and other sites that honor her accomplishments just might fuel a few dreams for the young women of a new generation.
Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum
You'll begin to understand Amelia's rambunctious spirit when you see the backyard of her grandparents' Atchison home, where the adventurer was born in 1897 and lived on and off for 12 years.
Set behind the house is a rollercoaster built to resemble the one Amelia and her sister Muriel constructed after trying the ride for the first time at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Amelia took the initial run on the homemade device and lost control on the first curve, flying off into the yard and crashing a few feet away. She is said to have shouted to her sister, "Oh, Pidge, it's just like flying." Today it's a rickety old thing, and no one in his or her right mind would try it, even if it were allowed.
The home now contains a museum dedicated to Amelia and her family. You'll learn about her parents and grandparents, who provided their girls with education and opportunity, view the family's original furnishings and see the luggage and clothing line inspired by Amelia's achievements.
From the window of Amelia's 2nd-floor bedroom, imagine her childhood dreams as she looked across the Missouri River and the expansive plains beyond. Where would those open skies take her?
A selection of movies and books about Amelia's life is available in the gift shop, along with T-shirts and other items with inspirational words from the famous pilot.
Pick up a copy of "Soaring Wings," written by Amelia's husband, George Putnam. In it, he includes a letter from Amelia that reads, "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
Where to Eat
Pepper Mill & Co. (913-367-3663) is set in an 1870s building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dine with a view of the Amelia Earhart Bridge, which crosses the Missouri River -- ask for a seat on the patio at night so you can see the bridge's colorful lights. Hamburgers, steaks and traditional American fare fill the menu.
While You're Here
Just south of Atchison, near Warnock Lake on Highway 7, visit the Amelia Earhart Earthworks, a 1-acre landscape portrait of Amelia created for her 100th birthday. Also near the lake is the International Forest of Friendship, operated by the Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots that Amelia helped establish. The forest includes trees from 50 states and 30 countries, along with tributes to the world's leading aviators.
Nell Hill's in downtown Atchison is one of the Midwest's top destinations for home furnishings. Shoppers travel for hours just to see the latest goodies offered by Mary Carol Garrity, the store's owner.
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