Overland Park: A Place of Peace, Comfort, and Plenty

Overland Park Historical Society and Svadlanek Museum Consulting
Overland Park, KS

Overland Park: A Place of Peace, Comfort, and Plenty is the first large-scale exhibit project in the OPHS’s  twenty-year history and was shown in the newly acquired Historic Stanley Bank building. This 800-square-foot space has allowed the society to pursue their mission of preserving and sharing Overland Park’s history with accessible exhibits that reach their community.

The exhibit, designed by museum consultant Jean Svadlenak, focuses on the first twenty years of Overland Park’s history, from 1905 through the 1925.  It personalizes the story of William B. Strang, railroad man, entrepreneur, and city founder, and his vision for a quality life away from the dangers, smells, and noise of big city life. Strang bought and platted 600 acres, then marketed his real estate by staging flamboyant events which drew crowds of up to 25,000 people in a weekend. He then auctioned lots in the community he named Overland Park. Visitors to the exhibit will meet the people who lived and worked in the new community — from drugstore owner Fern Jessup and school teacher Ora Mae Robbins to banker Charles Pincomb and fireman John Mills. It also tells the story of the interurban railroad line Strang built to connect Overland Park to Kansas City and Olathe, the county seat.

The exhibit features photographs, artifacts, and interactive elements that provide visitors with a glimpse into early life in the small but growing community. Large‐scale photographs in the Bank’s front windows grab the attention of visitors and passersby, while the “Meet the Neighbors” section invites visitors to open doors and meet families who built new homes. Maps and a 1911 birds-eye view photo provide context for these stories and show locations of businesses and homes in the town. Visitors can also add their own story in a guest book that asks questions including, “When and why did you/your family come to Overland Park?”

This project was an important step in showcasing some of the rich stories in Overland Park’s history and demonstrating how they can be exhibited in a larger museum space in the future. This exhibit has heightened the society’s visibility in the community with community leaders, stakeholders, and citizens, and will help build support for developing a history museum for Overland Park.