Greensburg Well to Go High-Tech
In 1887, farmers, cowboys, transients and mules built the Big Well.
Now, a partnership of museum designers will try to add more wonder to one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.
They plan to build a below-grade, high-tech, interactive museum around the rustic World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well, which was formed with stones hauled by wagon from a river.
Designers say the museum will tell Greensburg’s multiple tales — the tale of the well, the tale of the tornado, and the tale of the “green” rebirth of the community.
The city is allocating $3 million for it, hoping that the well and museum will draw tourist dollars to help it grow.
“We’ve all been down the well,” said Steve Hewitt, city administrator, “but this will be something new and different, and capture a new audience.”
BNIM Architects of Kansas City, Mo., which did the master plan for rebuilding the town and designed many of its new buildings, is designing the structure of the museum. Project Explore Inc., an Overland Park nonprofit museum consultant, is collecting stories and artifacts to provide the content.
They needed somebody to design the exhibits, and decided to aim for the top, so they approached Ralph Appelbaum Associates Inc. of New York.
That firm designed exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock.
It didn’t take long for the firm to decide to join the project in Greensburg.
“It’s the stories that attract us to a project, “said Tim Ventimiglia, an associate at Ralph Appelbaum who is directing the project.
“We don’t think of it as a small town as much as we think of it as a big story that happened in a small town.”
Ventimiglia was impressed by Greensburg’s effort to rebuild after a 2007 tornado destroyed 95 percent of the town.
“We’re very interested in the kind of endurance and stamina and all the vision that represented,” he said. “Like the traits of early pioneers, that character is somehow evident in this will to rebuild and re-think the town.
“It’s like a second settlement.”
Ventimiglia called the Big Well “a terrific historic structure” and a “remarkable engineering feat in its day.”
“It’s a terrific space. You almost don’t have to do anything,” he said. “But we’re interested in making it accessible and inspirational for people who stop in Greensburg.”