The historic Big Well in Kansas was constructed between 1887 and 1888. The well is located in Greensburg, Kansas (Kiowa County). This is about a four-hour drive from Kansas City, Missouri.
This well contained the chief supply of municipal water until 1932. It was initially built to supply water for the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads.
In 1939, the well was opened as a tourist attraction and visitors could descend into the well. The museum also displayed a 1000-pound Pallasite meteorite.
In 1972, the well was designated as a national museum and awarded an American Water Landmark in 1973 by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The AWWA was founded in 1888 and is the biggest organization of water professionals in the world.
The well was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. (Visit here to see the nomination form.) The well is supposed to be the largest hand-dug well in the United States.
Building the well
...it was begun in 1887 with farmers, cowboys, and transients in crews of 10 to 15 working from sun-up till sun-down using only shovels, picks, a half barrel, pulley and rope to dig the well. Their pay was 50 cents to a dollar a day. (Source.)
The well is 109 feet deep and 32 feet wide. Some say this well is the largest in the world, but there's a larger one in Italy. In 1956, the well received its one-millionth visitor. During the 1990s, divers were hired to clean the bottom of the well. Some of the items found included eyeglasses and about $1,200 in coins.
The 2007 tornado
On May 4, 2007, much of the City of Greensburg was destroyed by an EF5 tornado where 11 people lost their lives and many others were injured.
Unfortunately, the 2007 tornado took the museum down around the meteorite which was located in the remains and temporarily kept in Hays, Kansas while Greensburg was rebuilding.
Rebuilding the town and museum
When Greensburg began rebuilding, it sought to be one of the most environmentally friendly communities.
At the time, Discovery’s new eco-lifestyle channel, Planet Green (which also relaunched as Destination America in 2012), partnered with actor and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio, to help launch the channel in 2008. DiCaprio was the executive producer of Eco-Town.
The 13-part reality series covered the rebuilding of Greensburg and the show, Greensburg, ran for three seasons. Visit the IMDB site for information on the episodes. With the series, attention was brought to the town including visitors to the Big Well. In May 2012, the new Big Well Museum and Visitor Information Center opened.
The Big Well Museum received a big $3 million renovation. Visitors can go down a spiral staircase into the well and catch exhibits about the town's history, the 2007 destructive tornado, and how the town became a sustainable community with its rebuild.
The Big Well Museum and Visitor Center is open from Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. During the winter, it closes at 5:00 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. The cost is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (60+) and children aged 5-12. Children under 4 are free. If you're a Kiowa County resident, the cost is only $4. For questions, call (620) 723-4102.
Below is an image of the Big Well Visitor Center before it was destroyed by the 2007 tornado. It still remains listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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