A facelift of an 80-year-old Central Kansas landmark is nearing completion. A renovation project that began in late May at Coronado Heights will be complete within the next couple of weeks, and the historic castle structure will once again be open.
The Smoky Valley Historical Association, and project manager Bill Shipley from Harbin Construction, took KSAL News on a tour of the project on Saturday.
Improvements to the castle include refurbishing the floors and replacing wood timber on the lower level. On the upper level, the observation deck is being refurbished. Additionally, the entrance ways to the castle are being made accessible, and the restroom facility has been renovated.
Association President Chris Abercrombie told KSAL News that the project has been funded through a $90,000 state grant, and about $60,000 in donations.
Highlighted by the stone castle structure, Coronado Heights Park is a scenic overlook and park on a 300′ promontory a few miles northwest of Lindsborg. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration built a picnic area and castle like building out of Dakota limestone. The winding drive up to the heights is lines with many trees, yucca, and sumac.
The park has grills and fireplaces, including a fireplace in the “castle,” which is otherwise unlighted except for the windows.
As many as 1,200 visitors ascend the winding 3/4-mile road up Coronado Heights each week. People come from all parts of Kansas as well as other states and nations to experience the quiet beauty of the place with its iconic 1936 WPA-built Spanish style castle, its breath-taking vistas of the Smoky Hill River Valley 300 feet below, and the rolling hills to the north and west.
Coronado Heights receives its name from Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who visited central Kansas in 1541, looking for the Native American community of Quivira, where he was told “trees hung with golden bells and … pots and pans were beaten gold.”
Abercrombie says that it’s possible, but cannot be proved, that Coronado and his men actually spent time where the castle is now located.
Coronado never found his gold, and Shipley told KSAL News with a chuckle that his work crew hasn’t found any gold, or treasure either. He did say that the timbers they removed are kind of a “historical treasure.” They have been preserved, and the historical association plans to make use of them in the future.
Shipley says that the project should be totally finished, and the castle reopened to the public, within a couple of weeks.
Abercrombie says that once the castle project is complete, the next project on the agenda is repairing the winding road that leads to the castle. The road was repaired in 2013, but has since been damaged by the elements, especially erosion from water flowing down the hill. Plans are to consult several experts, including a water expert.
The Smoky Valley Historical Association of Lindsborg is a small, non-profit organization established in 1919 for the development and improvement of Coronado Heights for the benefit of the general public.
(click photos to enlarge)