Hatteberg's People - Richard Casagrande

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

On Hatteberg's People, history in Kansas small towns is everywhere. In Ellinwood, it's right under your feet. Richard Casagrande had been coming to Ellinwood for years. Now he owns, not only a building, but the history below.

"I own the Ellinwood Emporium, which is an antique and consignment shop.

There is history in his store antiques, but most people just driving by, would never know, that under Richard Casagrande's store, is something quite amazing.

"I don't think people realize there was a whole community underground."

"This would have been active from about 1887 to1920."

Underground, cowboys and anyone else, men mostly, could barber, bank, bath and brothel without attracting much attention.

"I think there is a wonderful sense of history down here, most of what is here is original to the period and much of it is original to the location."

"This was Tom Drake's Harness Shop and it's set up pretty much as it would look between1890 and 1900. We have woodworking and metal working tools down here that were original to the harness shop."

Then, the tour continues towards the amazing tunnels that used to branch out all over town. Now, surrounded by musty, dusty history, some of the past is saved for the present.

"We had eleven saloons underground, we had the harness shop, the boot makers shop and of course, we had brothels.

"To my left is the tunnel that went over to the Wolf Hotel, but of course it's been bricked off. To the right is William Young's Barber Shop.

No replica's here. Real stuff in real rooms underground where cowboy life was lived, but not seen.

"While you waiting your turn, you could have a smoke, play some cards or have a drink or two with your friends."

"Well, I don't know if anybody was actually shot, but we've counted about twelve bullet holes, over there by the pheasant there is a bullet lodged in the wall, a 40 caliber bullet, so I guess it got kind ofwild down here from time to time.

The tunnels were found years ago by Ellinwood resident Adrianna Dearolf, whose family had owned the buildings for years. She's gone now and Richard now has the business whose history becomes more important with every passing day.

"This was William Young's Bathhouse and Ellinwood Steam Laundry. Most of what is here is original to the period and much of it is original to the location. You really get a sense of what life was like in the nineteenth century in central Kansas."

"When I sweep down here, and it gets awful dusty, then I'm working, but other than that, it is great to bring the people through."

"Yeah, I think I was meant to be here."

"Oh, it's definitely not work. It's mostly fun."

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