Not So Small, The Beautiful Older Homes of Atchison Kansas

June 10th, 2009


Perched on the eastern banks of the wide Missourah, Atchison, Kansas was once a thriving river port and then the original terminus for the “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” railroad.  As a result the town experienced more than it’s fair share of boom times and fairly bursts at the seams with gorgeous mansions from a variety of eras.  



These days, one of Atchison’s primary tourist destinations is Nell Hill’s, the much loved home goods store of designer, author and syndicated columnist, Mary Carol Garrity.  

Mary Carol often opens her home for tours during the Holiday season, but this year she opened it for a summer tour.  It is always a pleasure to see how she has her home decorated for the seasons.






Atchison is also the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.





Even though the Country Doctor taught school at Atchison High (physics and chemistry) during the year we were engaged, I have yet to see the inside of Amelia’s home.  I guess when I was visiting him, we were otherwise uh… occupied.






But I do remember taking some walks through Atchison’s beautiful old neighborhoods and marvelling at the lovely old homes.






Dreaming of maybe owning one myself someday…



Many homes are built on the cliff-side of the river.  






But others are tucked into various neighborhoods around town.





The best way to find them is to drive to the historic district…






Get out of your car…






And start walking…






I spent a lovely afternoon finding and taking photos of these homes.





Can you see the dragons?







I bet there’s a great story here….




As I was driving out of town I saw this last house towards the edge of town…








A nice way to end the day.  

Though it would have been nice if the sky wasn’t so DADGUM WASHED OUT!


Still trying to figure out the new camera. 

I think I will be figuring it out for a long time.


  • Those houses are beautiful and your photos are beautiful.

    They (both) sort of fuel that desire for an impossibly big house with plenty of details but, alas, no staff…

    Which is why we’re all so tired…

  • like the post, but that click…ugh, the click.

  • susan in FL:

    Have to agree with April. The click dang. Also have to go back to the top. Then the post below is new too? Getting confusing here. and you thought you were weak and shaky.

    • Rechelle:

      I know… clicking is tiresome. I don’t feel bad about April, but for my other readers I do. It is working for me in some ways though, and I am not ready to abandon it yet. I try really hard to make the clicks worth it! I do. I really do! I promise!

  • Orghlaith:

    Even professional photographers use photo-editing software. There are several. Even free ones. Try Microsoft’s Picture It or Picnic (; Picassa (; FotoFlexor (; Irfanview ( and many more. Many of your photos are really really good.

    • Rechelle:

      I just started using Picasa’s editing today. I used it a bit on that last photo in this post.

  • I am thinking your next invested should be Adobe’s Lightroom because then I could tell you how to get the sky back. ;)

    Beautiful homes!

  • DirtyKSmama - Nikki:

    Oooooo, I want dragons!

    What a great way to spend a day!

  • Lisa:

    Rechelle, you are OBVIOUSLY making huge strides in figuring out your new camera, because these pictures are divine!! I’m so happy that someone shares my obsession with old houses, and the stories that go with them.

    This is one of favorite of your posts – good job!

    • Rechelle:

      Thanks Lisa! I thought that last one was pretty good even with an invisible sky!

  • That last house looks like it has a face.

    The only time I’ve ever been to Atchison was in 2001. I was the archaelogy merit badge counselor for our small Boy Scout Troop and that is where the KATP Field School was being held and the best place for the boys to meet their requirements for the badge. Caleb and two other boys, the Scoutmaster, and myself all traveled up there in my Suburban. It rained almost the entire time we were there. One of the boys (the one without a parent present) puked outside the field lab that had been set up at the college and spent a good portion of the rest of the time puking. On the way to and from the lab each day I looked longingly at all those beautiful old homes and wished we could be doing the architecture merit badge also so these dang boys would agree to stop and look. They didn’t seem the least bit interested in stopping to look at old homes. Stoopid boys!

  • Ohhh purdy! I love it when old homes are so well-mainted. If you ever get the story behind those dragons, I’d love to hear it!

  • Absolutely lovely. Reminds me of Janesville, Wisconsin and the Victorian homes that are tucked away in my Grandmother’s neighborhood. Oh how she always wishes that she could have a home like that.

  • These are beautiful Rechelle…thanks for letting us take a walk with you!

  • Nancy in Alaska:

    I have been reading your blog for a while now – ever since your ad on PW! your blog is stupendous. (My 5 year old’s new favorite word.) I am interested in many of the things you are interested in – houses, gardening, books, etc. And so I love looking at all your photos. I wish I lived in the midwest and could take a walk and see such amazing houses. keep up the good work and i have a request for more photo tours of the midwest. we have terrible architecture up here in AK!

  • Wow! Those are some houses.
    Who’da thunk it?

  • Nancy in PA:

    Your pictures are wonderful Rechelle! What kind of camera did you get?

  • Alabama Grandmother:

    I LOVE old houses! Your pictures are great!
    Ala. Grandmother

  • Wondering Woman:

    I’m not sure if the people of Atchison will know what hit them when tourists begin arriving in droves due to your post. I’ve gotta run finishing packing. Thanks

  • km:

    These homes are beautiful and obviously well cared for.
    there are times when we are driving through towns and it’s obvious that the area was the posh area “in its day”, but now once-beautiful homes are crumbling into disrepair. It’s easy to imagine the high society events that must have taken place, the gossip, the competition…..

    Have you ever been to Newport, Rhode Island. It’s full of gilded age “cottages”, home so huge they deserve their own zip code. It’s truly a beautiful place to visit with gorgeous beaches and so much history. One of our best family vacations. Has lots of Jackie O connections, great food etc.

    We were peeking into your neck of the woods for a Little House on the Prairie vacation. We are reading the series here at home and the kids are so into it.

    Loving the glimpse at the area…good work with the camera!

  • WOW. What beautiful houses. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never been that far west but my goal is to see each of the United States in my lifetime. Each time I get a chance to take a vacation I go abroad instead but there are so many wonderful things to see here in the states that I really need to make it a priority to stay local so to speak. :)

  • Beautiful old houses! The only problem that I see if you have such a large house then you need “staff” to clean the dagburn thing!

  • I love big, old houses. They have such character. Thanks for sharing them with us. They’re awesome!

  • susan in FL:

    Have to say it. That is why I love you. You treat your sis the same way I treat mine. Poor April.

  • The second house looks like my old house the Haunted Money Pit. Only it wasn’t in Kansas.

  • marewood:

    Beautiful homes. I’ll have to take time to look around next time I’m there – I just get so involved in the shopping… Did you smell the yeast in the air? Different, huh?

  • Lori Anne:

    O’my – Those houses are beautiful! You sure know how to spot ‘em.

  • I’m sorry to say that having grown up in Kansas I have never been to Atchison. I read a lot of blogs from folks in KC, Lawrence, etc I sure am getting lonesome to come back for a visit. Guess if I do I’ll have to go up there just to scope it out. The houses are beautiful. They have an area in San Antonio called King William that has beautiful old houses like that. They are near or on the San Antonio River which contains the River Walk area. Very pretty, too. Thanks for sharing, I think your pictures are great. Do you use manual or automatic. It’s complicated some times. I use to set the F stop for artistic control and let the camera set the shutter speed with my 35 mm. My digital is not that expensive I don’t know if it works the same with digital.
    Thanks again for sharing

  • Jennifer:

    Thanks for the photos of the houses in Atchison–I love looking at old homes. Wealthy people in NYC used to escape to the fresh air of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (where I live) so there are some wonderful homes to see. I particularly loved the last home in your photos–you’d never get me out of the cupola (or whatever those are called). So romantic!

  • April still no likey the click and yet she come back and clickey again. April not making her point very well. Stop the clickin’!

  • I love the dragon closeup. Love the stories behind old houses too. I need to take a day trip up to Atchison. Haven’t been in years.

  • If memory serves – these days it sometimes only serves appetizers – some of those fabulous homes were built with “booze money”, as Atchison was home to one or more liquor distilleries. Which I always found interesting considering until recently, Kansas was a “dry” state.

    That said, the photos are gorgeous! But if you had PaintShopPro, I too could tell you how to get the sky back. ;D