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The Beaumont Hotel—fly to it Americana, drive to it Americana

4 November 2019

Traveling and exploring are exciting as well as challenging endeavors most of us enjoy—many even relish. But where to go? Where to go that is unusual? An out-of-way-escape that is easy to get to and depart since time can be a factor?

A bucket list candidate for these questions is the Beaumont Hotel and RV Park in Beaumont KS which is within the unique Flint Hills region—going on 150 years old, near one of the last remaining North American buffalo grazing prairie ecosystems and (some say) visited by a ghost (i.e., Zeke) from the cowhand-railroad days.

Viewing the Beaumont Hotel from its aircraft parking area—©2019 Taras Lyssenko

This is Americana at its best. The hotel (10 rooms and a cottage—plus 11 RV gravel pads with tent camping sites) had its stone foundation laid in 1879 can be driven to, naturally, as it is less than an hour’s drive east from Wichita KS. The viewing decks provide for outstanding vistas of the Flint Hills landscape. Quite handily, as well as charmingly, it is also a fly-in destination with its natural turf airstrip (2600′ x 80′ 18/36) with aircraft parking directly across from the hotel (a short taxi down SE 116th Terrace, taking care to obey the mandatory stop at Main Street to immediately finding yourself turning south onto the reserved aircraft parking area). Private aircraft pilots have been taxiing there since1962.

As a Bed & Breakfast the Beaumont Hotel is open year round with its restaurant/café (they share the same menu but are separate eating spaces) providing breakfast 365 days each year to its overnighters. The restaurant/café is open to others Friday through Sunday.

Regulars (fly-ins, aircraft clubs, car clubs and motorcycling clubs) on weekend visits—gather throughout the year except in the low season of January through mid March. Regular visitation implies good food as well as service with the Beaumont not providing disappointment in price, quantity or quality. Recently AOPA published Pilots Pick Top 10 Airport Restaurants of 2019 with the Beaumont Hotel and RV Park solidly in place on the list.

The café is 50’s themed—the overall structure represents the years of 1953 through 1961. After its most recent modernization, by the former owner, the atmosphere is solidly in the 1950s with brick and stucco construction, wooden interior and log common area furniture. 2000 saw ownership change to the current title holder, an accomplished aviator as well as avid aviation history buff. But there is much older human history to see, such as the adjacent Frisco RR (a portmanteau of the St. Louis & San Fransisco Line) all cypress wood built water tower. It is America’s oldest wood construction (since 1885) water tower which remains standing. It possessed a capacity of 50,000 gallons and was erected to provide water for the steam locomotives shipping cattle to market at the time—Beaumont being the local high point on the line. Water was supplied to the tower by the adjacent, as well as artesian, fed Frisco Ponds.

The preserved entirely wooden Frisco Water Tower from 1885 with Barry Seal’s historic Twin Beach sitting to the rear—©2019 Taras Lyssenko

A caboose sitting on a preserved remnant of the old Frisco line—©2019 Taras Lyssenko

Within easy driving distance, or fly over, from the hotel is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This is the ecosystem which provided for the buffalo herds (correctly termed American Bison) which unbelievably numbered in the tens of millions prior to western settlement and conversion of the prairie to farmland. The Flint Hills could not be so converted so it retained the prairie grasses and and ecological niches of old. Especially the big four grasses (Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass and Switch Grass) that amazingly grow to heights approaching seven feet in the late year, when not grazed, with roots reaching near an astounding ten feet in depth. Incredibly, these roots make their way through limestone and chert which lithified about 250 million years ago from sediments when the area was a shallow sea. More recently four Native American tribes hunted here, back in the day, among the 35 species of mammals and 30 species of fish—as well as collecting the flint/chert for tools and weapons points as the flint/chert edges can be flaked to a mere few microns in thickness (sharper than a razor’s blade). Today’s visitors can also enjoy the 400 wild flower types.

Beaumont KS and its Beaumont Hotel are deep Americana. Beginning as hunting grounds of the Native American tribes to a stage coach stop then railway center for cattle shipment (in the Wild West days), to a bedroom community for workers in Wichita’s tremendous aircraft production facilities (e.g., Stearman, Beechcraft, Cessna, Boeing, Mooney and Lear) and now a portal to heritage ecology and a strategic travel stopover. It’s unsurprising that the Beaumont Hotel offers visitors many examples rooted well into the past, such as:

  • The Frisco Water Tower
  • The former Beaumont State Bank—brick built in 1915 and closed in 1929 with The Great Depression. (More on that later.)
  • Adjacent to the hotel, on the north side, is a brilliant red 1949 Beechcraft D18S “Twin Beech” aircraft with a unique history since it was infamously flown by Barry Seal in several illicit operations. Seal flew for TWA as well as the CIA and later for himself brushing with historical events leading to the Iran-Contra affair of the mid 1980s . His story is remarkably in not one but two movies: American Made (Tom Cruise 2017) and Doublecrossed (Dennis Hopper 1991).

The former Beaumont State Bank, a proud brick structure dating to 1915—©2019 Taras Lyssenko

Beaumont KS architectural relics—©2019 Taras Lyssenko

The Beaumont Hotel is historic and has been written about during the previous decades but it is not resting on its enviable reputation. Plans are to begin substantial enhancements during Spring 2020, such as:

  • Increasing the runway’s length
  • Building a fueling station for cars, trucks and aircraft with convenience store attached
  • Repurposing the handsome brick former bank to an education/engagement center for Beaumont’s and aviation’s history
  • A Frisco Line period steam locomotive to compliment the historic segment of rail line, caboose and Frisco Water Tower

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More information can be found at this link Beaumont Hotel and RV Park and here is the contact information:

Beaumont Hotel and RV Park

37° 39′ 20” N / 96° 31′ 58” W

11651 SE Main St, Beaumont KS 67012

620-843-2422

One Comment leave one →
  1. Terry Welshans permalink
    4 November 2019 16:57

    What a charming piece of history with a crossover railroad/cowboy/aviation component. It is a bit far for a weekend adventure from my home base in Kentucky, but one that I will put on my list. Thanks!

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