In these days of mobile devices, it’s often hard to imagine that the ground beneath our feet was once home to cowboys and cattle drives. However, that is exactly how Delano, Kansas came to be. For local residents and tourists alike, the streets of Delano abound with American history and modern amusements.
Once a quaint stop on the map, Delano is now home to everything from historical buildings, markers from the original Chisholm Trail and a wide array of fashionable shops. While exploring the city, there are always places to snap a photo for social media or grab a hearty meal at one of its wide array of eating establishments.
Historic roots of Delano, Kansas
The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers a chance to purchase affordable land in Wichita. Located across from the Arkansas River, this new community of settlers was named Elgin, Kansas. Only a few years later, Elgin would become a prime location for cattle drives along what would be known as the “Chisholm Trail.”
Less than a decade after its founding the city of Elgin was renamed Delano, after United States Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano. Over the next few years, Delano gained an official post office and a bridge linking it to Wichita. Small businesses, hotels, and saloons became popular; particularly the latter because Delano had no local laws governing the sale of alcohol.
Delano gained a well-earned reputation as a hard-drinking town, ripe with gambling and other illegal pursuits. Cowboys enjoyed its many diversions, when not driving forth cattle through its streets. By the late 1870’s the bulk of the cattle drives moved to Dodge City, leaving Delano behind in its wake.
Delano would become West Wichita, as an annex to Wichita in 1880. West Wichita (as Delano was now known) would see a booming economy again. Although this time around, it was in residential housing, higher education, and merchants opening legitimate businesses. However, the area would suffer another economic decline before the turn of the next century.
Growth in the 1900’s
West Wichita would gain strength with manufacturing and oil companies in the early part of the decade. Delano found itself as the center of manufacturing for the newly created aircraft industry and the parts required to employ these flying machines during the 1920’s. This included such factories as Cessna, Yunker Aircraft, Travel Air, Hilton Aircraft and the Wichita Blue Streak Motor Company.
The onset of the Great Depression saw the Delano District of West Wichita as a residential city. It would become home to the newly built Lawrence Dumont Stadium, where baseball would be played. The Ben F. McLean Memorial Fountain would also be built, in memory of a former Mayor of the city.
By mid-century, aircraft companies relocated from the city. Following this loss, Delano saw yet another economic decline and subsequent business abandonment. As the year 2000 loomed closer, the goal of revitalization and new development was brought into being. Both city and local civic organizations worked together to redesign the business district. Delano would once again become home to shopping, entertainment and historical markers within the “Historic Delano District” of Wichita, Kansas.
Things to do in Delano
The Historic Delano District is now becoming a shopping hotspot filled with locally-owned shops. It features such unique offerings as hand-sewn fashions, artisan created soaps custom made hats and vintage shops. District stores are also home to bicycles, holiday crafts and wearable accessories for everyone.
Eating, Drinking, and Places to Gather
There is no shortage to the types of cuisine one can sample while in Historic Delano. Restaurants and cafes feature the finest of Asian, European and All-American menu offerings. Choose a morning treat from a French Bakery or an afternoon snack of an authentic Coney Island hot dog. Friendly neighborhood pubs, coffee shops and after-hour dining spots are everywhere you look.
Pamper, Play and Enjoy
The Historic Delano District is also where you can rest and relax. Stop in to one of its luxurious healing spa studios for a massage or invigorating facial treatment. Lace up your skates and travel around the rink at the Wichita Ice Center. Invite your friends and take your turn throwing axes at the bar or in a race to find your way out of an Escape Room. It doesn’t matter whether you wish to wind up or wind down, there is always a new activity to try.
Parks and Recreation
Delano Park is located at 101 North McLean Boulevard and the Douglas Street Bridge. Just over half an acre in size, the park is perfect for families and individuals. Bicycle enthusiasts will want to roll along the Arkansas River Path. Park visitors make a point to visit the water fountain which decorates the park as well as it hydrates park visitors.
Seneca Park was founded in 1920 with 2 acres located at 202 South Seneca Street. Here you will find picnic tables and a playground for young children. Adults can reach their fitness goals at both the tennis and pickleball courts in the park.
Historical Sites to Explore
Chisholm Trail Marker
Placed in Delano Park in 1941, it was commemorated by civic groups and veterans of the Spanish American War. This monument was erected to remember the end of the trail for cowboys delivering cattle from Texas and the beginning of the freight cars that would deliver the cattle to points elsewhere in Kansas. Delano was the focal point of the Chisholm Trail until the action moved to Dodge City, Kansas. The historic marker can be found near the McLean Fountain in Delano Park.
The Mulberry Tree
An ancient Mulberry tree is still standing at the edge of the property which houses the Masonic Home. Cowboys on the Chisholm Trail would be taught to look for the tree to signal that the end of the trail was near. In the days before GPS and standardized maps, this lone tree served as a guide for cowboys delivering cattle to Delano.
The Clock Tower
Located at the intersection of Sycamore and Douglas, this clock tower was given the title “Window in Time.” Created as a link between the olden days of cowboys and the modern future of Delano, the tower was designed to remember the Turner Opera House. The Opera House originally stood at the corner of First and Market streets.
There are four panels crafted with bas-relief art designed by Kansas artist Kiv Yankey. These panels depict the original days of Delano through its modern transformation. Depicted is the original trading post of Jesse Chisholm along the Arkansas River, the cattle herds that once traveled down the center of Delano, the years of lawlessness and the business center that would later take its place in history.
Art and Sculpture
“Longhorn on the Chisholm Trail”
This sculpture was originally commissioned to reside at the Kansas Coliseum. When the Coliseum was sold, one half of the sculpture and its Longhorns were gifted to Delano. The sculpture was repaired and recommissioned in its current location in 2013.
The historic district is home to the Delano Fall Fair. This three-day event explores the history of the city, the commemoration of the Chisholm Trail and the people that developed the city of today. The celebration includes events like a parade, a cattle run, campfires and local merchants offering holiday fare.
Visit Historic Delano in Wichita
Delano is conveniently reached from Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Travelers are also able to reach Delano by Amtrak train and by car on US Route 54. Wichita Transit operates bus routes into the city and the Delano Old Town Trolley offers free rides within the historic district.