The real estate agent felt a caveat was necessary before they went into the basement of the brick cottage at 205 E. Culton St.
“I gotta warn you, it’s kinda weird down there,” Shad Magann recalled.
By “weird,” Magann thought “selling point.” He enjoys the old, chipped Pertle Springs mural probably as much as he enjoys hosting friends in this cozy basement with a sweet bar in one corner. Some of his friends suggested it should be painted over and a few ladies found it creepy.
But Magann, an A-10 pilot at Whiteman Air Force Base, wants to do all he can to preserve the folksy painting, which covers each wall, including a portion of the stairwell wall, from floor to ceiling. Even the windows still have traces of paint.
The mural depicts scenes of classic 1890s Pertle Springs, starting with the Minnewawa Hotel and the footbridge that took visitors some 28 feet off the ground to the Tabernacle on the other side.
Every inch of the mural is interesting, from the monkey cage to the guy getting booted from the refreshment stand for drinking – his bottle of XX booze in one hand. A band is playing on the second floor of the springhouse, and the Dummy Line is ready to steam passengers back to the Estes Hotel in downtown Warrensburg.
And just beneath the painting of the hotel is a (misspelled) “Hotel Minnawauwau Register,” where visitors to this curious little basement could sign their names.
In fact, that whole section of wall is filled with signatures, some dating back to 1954 and many faded beyond recognition.
And if you look closely near the bottom right section you can read the name Kinky Robinson – the artist who painted this cool mural in the 1950s.
Valerie Whiteman said Mr. Robinson, whose full name was Hickory Dick Robinson, was a well-known local artist who was hired by the owner of the house at the time, Ralph Martz, to paint the mural for his game room. Dr. James and Valerie Whiteman bought the house from Mr. Martz in the mid-1980s and lived there until about 2002.
The mural has certainly seen better days, but Magann wants to preserve what’s left. A good first step was sealing the leaky basement windows as water damage is evident in some places.
Also, Magann recently welcomed Mike Shaw, president of the Johnson County Historical Society, into his home to start the process of documenting this historical work.
Shaw looked over each wall, soaking it all in while noting that the historical society has photos of Pertle Springs but none quite like this.
J.H. Christopher bought the 200-acre park in 1884 and built the Minnewawa Hotel in 1887, which eventually expanded to accommodate 300 people. It was a resort with cottages, boating, a zoo, bowling alley, convention hall and bandstand.
The Dummy Line was dismantled in 1922 and a fire destroyed the hotel in 1926. A home was later built on the hotel site, and the university bought Pertle Springs in 1959. The home, later known as the “Walnut Lodge,” was used for a variety of activities but was demolished in January 1986, according to the spring 1986 issue of Alumni Today.
Interestingly, I met Stella Christopher several years ago when she lived in the apartment building just across the parking lot from the cottage with the mural. Stella’s husband, John Lewis Christopher, was a relative of the springs’ founder. And Stella was a descendant of Martin Warren, the founder of Warrensburg.
Time has erased nearly every trace of the Pertle Springs resort. So, it’s nice to know there are people like Magann out there interested in preserving pieces of local history. That mural is a real gem.