History of Prairie Dog State Park

Prairie Dog State Park at Keith Sebelius Reservoir west of Norton, in Norton County, hosts two vintage 19th century buildings – a renovated adobe house and Hillmon Schoolhouse, a one-room school.

 

The adobe house is the only one in Kansas on its original location and preserved as a museum. The house was probably constructed in 1892 by the John Spencer family. It was built with bricks formed from a mix of mud and straw, called adobe. A horse walking in a circular trench to which dirt, water, and straw were added was used to create the proper consistency. Once the adobe bricks were laid in place, they were covered with a smooth finish coat of adobe. The adobe is still visible on the interior walls.

 

The house remains in its original location. As the state park was being built, a volunteer group worked to preserve the building. They fixed the roof, walls, and windows, cleaned the interior, and furnished it with donated antique furniture. The Adobe House has recently been extensively renovated. The grounds around the adobe house feature a wooden-wheel windmill, and a two-horse, dirt-moving wagon unearthed during the dam’s construction.

Hillmon Schoolhouse is the second iteration of the school. The original was a combination dugout and log structure overlooking the Sappa Valley in northwestern Norton County about 1 ½ miles south of the Kansas-Nebraska line. It had two windows, a door in the rear and desks fashioned of wood slabs with pegs for support. The current building was built in 1886 about ½ mile south of the original. It hosted community, church, and school events for many years. It was moved to Prairie Dog State Park in the late 1960s and was dedicated at its current location in September 1969.

 

Prairie Dog State Park is located about three miles west of Norton, south of US-36 Highway on K-261 Highway.