Little Apple... BIG HISTORY

The story of Manhattan began with a steamboat... aboard the steamboat Hartford, which ran aground on the Kansas River in 1855. Passengers insisted on calling their new home Manhattan to recognize financial backers from Manhattan, New York.

With the formation of a downtown that still stands and thrives with redevelopment today, to the first shopping district in Kansas and the 2025 Visionary Plan for Kansas State University, look how far the little establishment of Manhattan has come. All because of steamboat Hartford!

K-State originally began as Bluemont College when in 1863, the Morrill Act opened the doors for land-grant institutions and created Kansas State Agricultural College.
The main administration building on campus was named after John Anderson, the university's second president. Bluemont Avenue transitions into Anderson Avenue adjacent to campus, and remains a primary access route.

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It All Started with a Steamboat

On April 27, 1855, the Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company left Cincinnati, Ohio, on the steamboat Hartford, bound for central Kansas. The plan was to head west via the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas rivers, which led to founding a community in Kansas Territory.

New York investors in the land company had insisted on an unoriginal name ... Manhattan, for the new town. Sandbars grounded the Hartford near present-day Manhattan, where a new town of Boston was being established. Bostonians liked the new arrivals, convinced them to stay and renamed the town Manhattan at the newcomer's request.

With Manhattan, N.Y., known as “The Big Apple,” it was natural for Manhattan, Kansas, to become known as “The Little Apple®.” Manhattan, Kansas was first called The Little Apple® as far back as 1977.


Goodnow House

The furnished home of Isaac Goodnow, a founder of Manhattan and Kansas State University, was built in 1861 and is a state historic site. Goodnow House is open Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Goodnow House Museum, 2301 Claflin Road.

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Kansas State University

As the first land grant university, K-State opened its doors in 1863 on the grounds of the old Bluemont Central College, which chartered in 1858. The university moved to its present site in 1875.


Konza Prairie

8,600 acres of tallgrass prairie are managed by the Konza Prairie Biological Station and research area just 7 miles south of Manhattan. Hiking trails of 1.5, 4.4 and 6 miles take visitors deep into the Flint Hills. The area is awash in prairie plant life, bison, white-tailed deer, quail and nature. Backpacker Magazine named the public trails among the top 100 day hikes in the country. Travel south of Manhattan on McDowell Creek Road.

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Pioneer Log Cabin at City Park

On October 12, 1915, the foundation of this lob cabin was laid. The stone came from the first building of the Kansas State Agricultural College and contains a box with historical papers. It was built to show the types of houses early settlers utilized, as this cabin features relics including farming tools, medicinal tools and ordinary household appliances of the period. Pioneer Log Cabin


Riley County Historical Museum

This museum features local history exhibits from pioneer to present day. The adjacent Hartford House is a restored, prefabricated cabin brought to Manhattan by early settlers in 1855 on the steamboat Hartford. Riley County Historical Museum hours of operation:
  • Tuesday - Friday
    8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday - Sunday
    2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Wolf House Museum

Built in 1868, this limestone dwelling was used as a boarding house and private residence. The museum is furnished with 19th century period pieces. Wolf House Museum is open 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and by appointment. Wolf House Museum, 630 Fremont St.

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Wild West in its heydays

The old West hearkens back to images of cowboys, cattle drives, and of nearby towns like Abilene and Wichita.
Chisholm Trail

Prominent Riley County residents, past & present

  • Del Close - Actor, writer and teacher to many of the best-known comedians and comic actors, considered great influence on modern improvisational theater.
  • Milton S. Eisenhower - Brother of Dwight D. Eisenhower and 1924 graduate of Kansas State Agricultural College, he became President of Kansas State College.
  • Helen Elsie Eakin Eisenhower - Wife of Milton Eisenhower and First Lady of Kansas State from 1943-1950.
  • Joan McInroy Finney - Graduated from Manhattan High School in 1942 and later served as the first female governor of Kansas from 1991-1995.
  • Albert Griffin - Born in New York, Griffin was an early abolitionist in Kansas in the 1850s; publisher of the Nationalist newspaper, he organized the anti-saloon republican movement in Kansas in 1885.
  • James M. Harvey - From Fort Riley, Harvey became the fifth Kansas governor from 1869-1873.
  • Gordon Jump - A K-State grad, Jump was known for his portrayal of affable boss Arthur Carlson on the 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati”.
  • Cassandra Peterson - Born in Manhattan, Peterson is best known for her sultry character, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, a late-night TV host.
  • Damon Runyon - Born in Manhattan in 1880, Runyon was a well-known reporter and newspaper columnist whose career centered in Manhattan, N.Y. One of his short stories was adapted into the Broadway play, "Guys and Dolls".
  • Eric Stonestreet - Eccentric Cameron on the hit ABC show "Modern Family", Stonestreet was born and raised in Kansas City, Kan., and attended K-State, where he was cast in a play after going to auditions on a dare. Graduated with a degree in sociology in 1996.