2019 review

The Dwight D. Eisenhower museum opened to the public on July 29.

The year 2019 turned out to be a busy one for those living in and around Abilene.

It was impossible to narrow the top stories of the year down to 10. The Reflector-Chronicle staff’s original list of nominees topped 30.

Similar to last year, 10 top events of the year are recognized. Two of our top five were also the top five from 2018: Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum and Economic Development.

Here are the first five.


There was water, water everywhere in 2019.

Rainfall in the Midwest flooded farm ground around the Smoky Hill River and residential homes on Faith Avenue in Abilene.

In late May the Dickinson County Commission held a special meeting to proclaim a state of emergency.

The Smoky Hill River was projected to crest its banks throughout the county.

Sandbags were placed around businesses in Solomon, Abilene, Enterprise and Chapman.

Rivers and creeks damaged fields, roads and railroad tracks twice, once in May and again the first of July.

As wheat harvest was winding up, some flooded fields were not harvestable. Crews worked to repair county and township roads.

The Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad faced major damage to its tracks which limited its trips to partway down the track. The full trips to Enterprise resumed in mid-August.

Landowners along the Smoky Hill River in Dickinson County said that attempts were being made to shore up the banks and levees of the river to prevent the flooding but time and money prevented that from happening.

Damage to county roads alone was estimated at $100,000.

Flooding in a northeast Abilene housing development has dated back 10 years and it appears now a solution is coming.

On Dec. 9 the Abilene City Commission voted 4-1 to fund a detention lagoon in the area, capable of handling a 100-year flood.

Dwight D. Eisenhower


The opening of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum was delayed about a month.

President Donald Trump shut down the government which included renovation on the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He was wanting lawmakers to fund a $5.7 billion wall between the United States and Mexico.

Despite the delay, activities for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion continued as scheduled at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Director Dawn Hammatt said lost time because of the 35-day shutdown of the U.S Government couldn’t get made up on the museum renovation but soldiers and visitors to the Eisenhower Presidential Library were able to see the $11.7 million renovation about 75 percent complete on June 6 during the D-Day Commemoration.

The doors to the 25,000-square foot museum completed project opened to the public at 10 a.m. July 29.

Economic development

Not all of the economic development news was good for the county. Farmers took a hit with both flood damage and the price of grain. Greyhound owners learned about upcoming track closings.

Abilene’s Shopko store on north Buckeye announced in February it was closing its doors on May 12. Abilene’s store was one of 12 in Kansas closing.

Shopko had operated in the former Alco building since 2015.

However, there was a lot of positive economic development news in 2019 also.

Shopko had been closed for about a month when Matt and Amber Engle announced their plans to relocate Webb Home Center to that location and renamed their business Lumber House True Value which opened to the public in mid-October.

The Abilene City Commission approved tax incentives for a new Holiday Inn Express & Suites to be built just north of the current hotel. According to the agreement, the current hotel will be rebranded when the new Holiday Inn is built.

The commission also approved Eighth Street to be extended from Washington Avenue to Van Buren Street so Land Pride can connect its Abilene facility to Abilene West.

Plans to build a unique new Kubota product exclusively at the Abilene West location were announced, creating jobs.


Lots of activity happened in Downtown Abilene.

In the Post Office block Connie Brunner opened C’est La View in the building which was formerly the Steinhauser Building. That building also houses Third and Vine Design and Paper Moon.

Rob Hammatt renovated the Perring Building on the west end of the same block. There, the former home of Etherington and Company Realtors now has two Airbnb rooms and the Ortus Cafe.

Another new restaurant, Texcaco Mex Grill, opened on Spruce Street and Midwest Snow Cones and Creamery moved in on Third Street near the Sunflower Hotel.

Tray and Jennifer Green opened Cowork Abilene in the United Trust Building in June.

Waddell & Reed also moved from north Abilene to downtown on Third Street.

Two new businesses also came to downtown. Julia Boggs moved the Farm Bureau Financial Services to Third Street and Broadway and Jennifer Morton opened Stepping Stones counseling in the former ceramic shop on Cedar Street.

Downtown lost the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation but Big Swag moved into the office on Broadway.

Also moving to north Buckeye was Auburn Pharmacy.

Building facades were updated at Benjamin F. Edwards, American Family, Kansas Best Real Estate and Stephens Chiropractic

Downtown Abilene progress can’t be noted without mentioning Abilene Forward.

This group of community leaders and business owners met to discuss the Historic District in 2019. Their first priority was signage on Buckeye Avenue directing motorists to downtown. Abilene Forward volunteers worked seven Saturdays to clean up the downtown area.

Downtown Abilene hosted Oktoberfest, Night of Christmas Magic, Kris Kringle Market, the Antique Fest, Arts and Ales and the Wild Bill Hickok Parade.

The Heritage Commission also created window clings for properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Work to refurbish Little Ike Park started in January. The corner at Spruce and Third streets was dug out and new fill added before the statue of Little Ike was put back in place and landscaping was completed, including picnic tables.

It officially opened in July.


Funded mostly through the Community Foundation of Dickinson County, four new murals were added to the four murals already in the downtown area designed by William Counter.

When Patti O’Malley was looking for a mural to overlook Cedar House’s Cabin, she ran across Whitney Kerr III.

Not only did Kerr paint two murals for Cedar House, he created the “Abilene” mural in Little Ike Park. On a north brick fencepost near the parking lot, walking tour maps of the eight murals located downtown are available.

Each letter in the mural on the back wall of the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle building depicts an important part of Abilene’s History.

New murals were painted on the west side of Abilene Printing, the south side of the KABI radio station and behind Accent Boutique.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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