The new and very busy grocery store, hospital, and Baptist church are all located right on US54. Other construction is in progress. Nearby wind turbines promise an ample supply of electricity as this is a windy place even without the tornados.
I saw in many places whole neighborhoods missing, where only empty pits of former basements locate homes, and only a network of cracked asphalt, broken concrete sidewalks, and rusty iron storm drain grates revealed local streets. Free lots are available for those willing to build, but otherwise barren trees wither for lack of water in the windswept landscape as wild prairie flowers begin to encroach upon flowering tulips and other ornamental plants struggling to survive the harsh weather of western Kansas.
The tornado's 200+ mph winds didn't bring down the huge grain elevator located just north of mainstreet along the railroad tracks, but it did damage to pipes and equipment such that required restoration to be used.
There is a fundraising sign on the plot of land where the town's movie theater once stood. It had actually already closed prior to the arrival of the tornado, but the town has a goal to build and reopen it.
There was a substantial stone and concrete commercial building or private home on Main street that was completely destroyed, leaving only bare remains of it's former grandeur. Because this has yet to be bulldozed, it may be of some historical interest.
The County building and courthouse survived the tornado but required a complete interior renovation. The original corner dedication stone was so eroded that I could determine the original date of construction. Landscaping was still not complete as of my visit.
At the time of my visit, the well was closed to the public but I was able to shoot these images through the class cover. The well is lined with locally quarried stone, and in 1913, the iron staircase was added. The well is adjacent to railroad tracks, as the original purpose of the well was to supply steam locomotives. The Greensburg water tower tumbled in the tornado, and there was extensive damage to the tourist attraction. I learned most of what I write about in these tips from a young woman who cared for her six week old infant as she managed the gift shop for the well. She had been away at the time of the storm, but described how her family survived the storm in the basement, only to be soaked by rain after the home was ripped off it's foundations overhead. The gift shop, though a temporary building of sorts, is well stocked with souvenirs, photo albums, and books that focus on the tornado.
Main street Greensburg has several banks and other well financed commercial and public buildings which are very modern and energy efficient. Streets are repaved, sidewalks bricked, and so on, but there are still plenty of open lots waiting for new construction.
For many years the good people of Greensburg claimed not only to have the world's largest hand-dug well, but also the world's largest Pallasite (rock and metal) Meteorite. That was before a man in Texas uncovered an even larger meteorite of the same rare "Brenham" type, so now the one in Greensburg is called "one of the world's largest."
The meteorite, known as The Space Wanderer, was found on the Ellis Peck farm east of Greensburg. It is old beyond imagination and came to the earth as a shooting star from far beyond our solar system. Meteorites of this type were known to prehistoric Native Americans at the time of the Hopewell era. The Indians found them to be desirable as religious symbols and also excellent material for making useful tools and ornaments.
The Space Wanderer, weighing 1000 pounds, was unearthed in 1949 by H. O. Stockwell with the aid of a large metal detector, which is also on display in the museum. It was purchased by local persons who wanted to keep the meteorite in their area, and has been on display at the Big Well Museum since 1949.
Most people who visit Greensburg, Kansas will come via the East-West route, U.S. Highway 54. The first building they will see as they turn off the highway onto Main Street is the Kiowa County Historical Museum.
The Museum houses large collections of dolls, antique quilts and old photos of county landmarks. It is a good place to see items which were once owned and used by residents of the Kansas prairie in everyday life.
The museum is open only on weekends, May - November, from 2-4 p.m.
There's only one place on earth where you can see the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well and its here in Greensburg, Kansas. The well is easy to find. Just look for it underneath the water tower which says BIG WELL.
The story of the well began in the 1880s when both the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads were laying new track across the high arid plains of Kansas. A dependable source of water was needed to supply the steam locomotives, and also for the people who were settling in the area. The city of Greensburg appropriated $45,000 - a huge sum of money at that time - for a water works system.
Crews of 12 to 15 farmers, cowboys and transients worked from sun-up till sun-down for 50 cents to a dollar a day. Using only shovels, picks, a half barrel, pulley and rope, they dug the well 32 feet in circumference and 109 feet deep. Other work crews quarried native rock to use as the casing of the well. The stone was hauled in wagons from the Medicine River 12 miles away.
The well served as the main water supply of Greensburg until 1932, and it is still an active producing water well. Since 1937 it has also been a historic tourist attraction. For a $2.00 fee visitors may descend a series of metal stairs into the cavernous belly of the well. Going down is thrilling; climbing back up will take your breath away - literally. It's the equivilent of climbing a ten story building.
The United States Government designated the Big Well as a National Museum in 1972, and in 1974 it was named as an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association. Beside the well is a free museum and gift shop. It is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A little further off US50 there is a substantial subdivision of new homes, many of them duplexes, with open yards. Most of these homes are convention, but at least one I found was not.
Just one late 19th century brick building on Main Street survived the Tornado, while the rest was completely demolished. This building has been structurally renovated.