As this post is written we are about an hour away from leaving for the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago to take in a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants. Helen (adorable wife) is organizing all of her baseball appropriate outfits and prepping for the day and I’m hopeful that I can use all of that time to tell Easin’ Along readers about our trip to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. We were staying at Hoge Hall, an IHG facility on post.
I had been to Ft. Leavenworth for some classwork about 20 years ago when I was an instructor in the Army Reserve and teaching fellow Reservists enrolled in the Army’s Command and General Staff College. The college is headquartered at Ft. Leavenworth. At that time I was impressed by the uniqueness of Ft. Leavenworth and held out hope that I would be able to return at some point in the future.
Ft. Leavenworth is about thirty miles west of Kansas City. It was established in 1827 and was the first Army base west of the Missouri River. Since that time, the US Army has worked hard to preserve the quaint feel of that period by preserving and maintaining many of the early homes and buildings that were constructed for the original soldiers and their families. We took a self guided tour of the post and were charmed by the many old homes, some of which were built in the 1830’s and had a distinct early western quality about them. We could easily envision a young Army wife and her children on one of the porches looking out to the prairie for any site of her soldier returning from a mission to the west.
In addition to the homes, we passed by the original US Army Disciplinary Barracks (prison) that was originally built in 1874 with a capacity of 515 inmates. This old stone structure has a castle like appearance and is somewhat foreboding. This prison was replaced by a newer and more modern facility in 2002 which is located about a mile from the old one. We didn’t go there.
Later we drove by the Federal Prison at Leavenworth which is huge. This prison first accepted inmates in 1910 and has 1870 beds. On the day we drove by (quickly) it was Saturday and it appeared that there were a lot of visitors. Outside of the prison there was a herd of bison who seemed unaffected by it all and continued to graze lazily on the pasture adjacent to the prison yard.
Back inside the base we visited the starting point for the Santa Fe Trail which dates back to the early 1800’s and the Oregon Trail that was established around 1840. Settlers were ferried across the Missouri River and disembarked on the western bank then loaded on to their carts and wagons or walked up a bank to begin their journey. A deep cut was made in that bank by those brave souls as they climbed up the slope and is still visible today. You can make it out in this photograph, although I’m pretty certain that the cut was not grass covered at the time it was created.
One of the duties for soldiers at Ft. Leavenworth was to provide escorts for supplies and travelers moving west as far as the Pacific Coast. Additional duties included maintaining peace on the frontier, and protecting trading activities in the region. This outpost was truly the edge of the frontier.
In 1881 General William Sherman established the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. Most of our distinguished Army Generals have passed through here including General Dwight Eisenhower who graduated at the top of his class in 1926.
After our tour, we began to search for a place to eat. Food is always a big part of Easin’ Along and we love to explore the offerings that are available wherever we land. As usual Helen began her search on Trip Advisor where the number one listing for Leavenworth, Kansas was Marfield’s. Bear in mind that the town of Leavenworth is a two stop light town so the choices were not exhaustive. We asked the young desk clerk at our Army Lodge for his opinion of Marfield’s and he sort of rolled his eyes and said he much preferred a place called Grinder’s High Noon. We passed his suggestion off as a place for the younger set and set out for Marfield’s. It turned out that Marfield’s was about the size of a phone booth and barely large enough for the beer neon in the window. We went to Grinder’s High Noon. Good decision.
Grinder’s served burgers, sandwiches, and salads. It was a lively place and really crowded for an early evening in a small town. We were seated promptly and handed menus. At the suggestion of our waitress, I ordered the Philly cheesesteak because I LOVE cheesesteak. Helen ordered a Reuben sandwich and a pear salad. Once again, she won. My Philly was really good, but her Reuben was the best I have ever had anywhere. The tender corn beef was served on a marbled rye bread that was exquisite. The corn beef was tender and flavorful, and the sauerkraut was flavored with jalapeño…awesome. Her pear salad was on fresh greens and the pears tasted fresh, not canned. We landed on our feet here.
Well, Helen is ready to head for Minnesota Lake Country, so we’ll be Easin’ Along for now. Come back next week and we will take you to Minnesota and to most lovely small town on a beautiful small lake. Retirement is so good…