Set atop a knoll at 1128 Fifth Avenue, the Edward Carroll house witnessed and has been a part of Leavenworth’s history for over a hundred years. It is the perfect place for a Leavenworth history museum as well as the home for the Leavenworth Country Historical Society (LCHS). Such was the sentiment found in a history written in 1979, for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the LCHS. Also noted, that in 1964 the dream of opening a public museum was realized when Miss Ella Carroll gave her ancestral home to the Society. The Carroll family lived in this gracious Victorian home for almost a hundred years. The generosity of Miss Ella is a tribute to her sense of history and love for our community.
An editorial in the Leavenworth Times in July, 1958 stated that, “museums cost money to acquire and they are expensive to maintain. . . .That the Leavenworth area, rich in history as the cradle of Kansas, could in time develop such a museum, few doubt, but it would cost heavily in the development.” Just six years later, after the Carroll gift, furnishings that had been temporarily displayed at the Fort Leavenworth Museum since 1959 were moved to the new location and Leavenworthians began making generous donations from their attics and family heirlooms to fill the house with Victorian antique paintings, silver, china, period costumes, and furniture.
The LCHS history continued, “Recognizing the museum as an asset to the area, the county and city provided financial support to maintain the museum and enable the Society to make necessary improvements and repairs. A new roof, exterior paint, electrical and heating system modernizations, a security system, insulation, air-conditioning, and storm windows were project accomplished in subsequent years.
“Thanks to the dedication of many volunteers, these 25 years have been fruitful. Looking back, the Society can take great pride in its accomplishments. Looking ahead, the opportunities to discover and preserve our local history with innovative programs are endless. The challenge is great if the Society of the future is to match the accomplishments of the society pioneers of the first quarter-century.”
As the LCHS recognizes the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Edward Carroll House as a museum, it is the hope of the directors of the LCHS to increase awareness of the historical treasure the Carroll Mansion Museum represents not only for Leavenworth but our county and region. Toward that end, the museum was open free to the public on Saturday, June 20, from 1 to 4pm. Volunteers were stationed throughout the 16-room house, dressed in period costume. A Proclamation from the Leavenworth County Commissioners was read, followed by a re-enactment of the presentation of the house deed and keys to 1965 LCHS President Edward Chapman made by “Miss Ella”, portrayed by Society member, Betty J. Ludwig. Also present for the festivities were the Leavenworth’s P.A.S.T. performers and the Leavenworth Cruisers. Gloria Sturgess, Leavenworth County Master Gardener, offered informative tours of the Victorian Herb & Heirloom Gardens and of course, there was free cake and ice cream.
A charter member of the Society, Louis Cuthertson declared in 1954, “Leavenworth cries for a historical society to accomplish cooperation and interest in the preservation of the diminishing remains of our great heritage, to honor and cherish the past, to make everyone keenly aware of our history, and to study our traditions so that upon them we may build a better future, and thereby preserve that future which is so soon to become the past.”
The Carroll Mansion Museum may sometimes be thought of as Leavenworth’s best kept secret, but for such an entity to have remained a viable institution for 50 years, and especially at a time when other small museums are closing for lack of volunteers and funding, a great debt is owed to all past and present volunteers, members and supporters.