Lindsborg, Kansas is a lovely community known as Little Sweden USA. I was invited to travel to experience the culture, art, and traditions of this great town. We had a wonderful time on this sponsored trip!
The History in Lindsborg
Lindsborg was settled in 1869 by a group of Lutheran Swedes led by 28-year old Pastor Olof Olsson. They traveled from the Värmland region of Sweden.
My husband Keith and I saw the later version of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethany Church. It was amazingly beautiful! The Swedish settlers built their first church in 1859. This year, Lindsborg celebrates 150 years!
Travel to Lindsborg
I was set to love Lindsborg before I even arrived. Last August I traveled to Kansas City, Kansas and fell in love with the history of this beautiful state. Then I watched fellow Midwest Travel Bloggers Sara Broers of Travels with Sara and Melody Pittman of Wherever I May Roam profile their Big Kansas City Road Trip up and down I-70. They made me want to stop at so many places along the way that my only problem was not stopping on the route to Lindsborg.
Then there was the whole Swedish background. Yes, I was in love before ever arriving!
The hills and topography of the area were surprising to me. I only remember a few hills and wheat fields as a kid traveling through Kansas on my way to Colorado. The expanse of rock, hills, and stretches of road and sky are awe inspiring. We really saw this when we traveled to the Maxwell Wild Life Refuge.
The Viking Motel – a quiet oasis in Lindsborg
We stayed at the Viking Motel in one of the recently renovated rooms. Our host Cindy said she has owned the hotel about a year and has renovated nine rooms. They are in the process of renovating them all. Our room was lovely with special details like flowers and candy making us feel especially welcome. The room had a lovely décor and was a quiet, cool, oasis from the hot temperatures outside!
After check in, we made our way downtown to historic Lindsborg to check out the art on main street and dinner at Farley’s Bar & Grill. We hoped to see a few shops open as well. Turning into downtown is a wonderful archway with the wording, “1869 Lindsborg”.
Art in Lindsborg
If there is anything that makes a town special, I think it is the art. Lindsborg, has this accomplished hands down. In their Art in Public Places Self- Guided Tour brochure they share, “Lindsborg’s love of the arts is deeply rooted. The Swedish born immigrants who founded this town planted a community that would foster and grow that loved for generations.”
The Dala Horses, one of the arts around town
Scandinavian heritage abounds in sculptures, on the buildings, and we loved seeing the Wild Dala horse sculptures that dot the landscape all throughout the town. In the brochure about the sculptures I counted at least 36 of these fun sculptures. They state that the Dala horse is, “perhaps Sweden’s best known icon, a bluntly rounded tail-free horse. It is thought that the Dala were first whittled out of wood by the fire during long, cold Scandinavian nights. Lindsborg adopted the Swedish folk craft Dala as a symbol of identity and welcome. You’ll see Dala horses on front porches, on coffee mugs and even on the side of police cruisers in Lindsborg.”
We loved the fact that each horse we saw was decorated differently and had a plaque explaining its story. And, they were right, we saw the Dala symbol everywhere!
Downtown we spied art and more
Before dinner we wondered a bit and spied many lovely things. Cindy at the Viking Motel had told us about the great sno cones at Tropical Sno. We headed that way while admiring the Dala Horses. Then Keith had the first of a few banana sno cones throughout the trip.
While there, we met up with a woman and her children. She was in town to register her son for college. He was going to play baseball at Bethany College on a scholarship. They were loving the beauty of the town and the sno cones! They hailed from Dallas.
As a reader, I was thrilled to find a little free library. I also saw one mural that was especially lovely titled Our Founders in Architectural Heaven. The mural includes historically significant buildings that are no longer around. The artist has recreated an entire story around the mural. It is almost like a one act play in stone!
The mural was located near Lucia Park. This is Lindsborg’s smallest park located next to City Hall. The little park is bedecked with flowers, trees, and lanterns.
The entire Lindsborg downtown is bright and cheery and decorated in color and art. It was closed when we were there, but I would have loved to enter the International School of Chess.
We found our way into the Small World Gallery. Keith was amazed by the pictures taken by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. We also enjoyed creations by his wife Kathy Richardson, a jewelry designer who works with unusual and vintage metals, glass and semi-precious stones. While neither of the Richardsons were there, Keith and I met the lovely Briana who also makes jewelry.
I purchased a neat piece that was made from a token that she and Kathy had created. Briana explained that these tokens were once used in small towns to help promote trade. My token was from the J.O. Sundstrum store in Lindsborg. The location is now the local Convention center. Jewelry is always my takeaway souvenir. I love that I could find a beautiful handmade piece with local history like this!
Farley’s Bar & Grill
We ate dinner at the fun Farley’s Bar and Grill. A cute diner in downtown Lindsborg. The restaurant is in an 1800’s building decorated in cool décor by the owner who is a Lindsborg native and her architect husband. I loved the round floral light when you walk in the door!
We had a big lunch and chose to eat light. Keith ordered the Asian salad and I got the tacos, the evening special. Both were fresh and tasty! Farley’s is the perfect downtown location and they offer music every Friday night!
A Walk through Lindsborg
Not quite ready to call it a night, we decided to stroll through the downtown and residential part of town. We walked along Main Street and came to Swensson Park. Students were practicing for a play under a beautiful bandstand. We learned that the band shell was built as a WPA project in 1935. This is a centerpiece on the east side of the park where they often offer concerts, special performances, and local Broadway RFD outdoor theatre productions.
There is also a Viking Playground, and a pavilion that Keith found was a great place to take a quick rest!
The walk then led us to the glorious Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church. This beautiful church also had a marker indicating the replica of the marker of the first church building organized by the “Swedish pioneers on August 19, 1869.” The original 24′ x 30′ church was built of sod and stone with a grass roof…”
Holly Lofton of the Lindborg Tourist and Convention Bureau shared with us how hard the first pioneers worked so that their families could attend church and school while living in dugouts. This hardworking community has certainly achieved amazing things!
Goodies from Scott’s Hometown Foods
We received a gift card to pick up a few Swedish snacks from Scott’s Hometown Foods.
Scotts Hometown Food is not only a full line grocery store, but they sell and ship Swedish and other Scandinavian foods to customers all over the country! Once Keith and located the in house Swedish foods, after a long deliberation, we chose some AMAZING chocolate. Then we took it back all back to our room and indulged! These wonderful treats lasted us our stay and on the way home. Yum!
The Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery
How cool it was to eat breakfast in one of the oldest buildings in Lindsborg, a former Blacksmith shop! Started by Jacob Christian in 1874, the current building was constructed in 1900.
The John Epping family and their daughter Molli purchased the building and opened the coffee shop. They incorporated the roastery which had been located across the street where Molli had worked and dreamed of having a local business. The Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery has been open since January of 2017, the building has been restored to most of its original luster.
Keith and I loved the wonderful persona of the building and the friendly folks we met there. I had the wonderful hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee girl)along with the daily quiche yum! Keith did enjoy the Arabica coffee that they roast, package and brew. He also enjoyed a delicious breakfast sandwich. Most of all though we loved the history and decor of this very cool place!
Walk on the Valkommen Trail
We had a bit of time before our next stop after breakfast so we walked part of the 2.5 Valkommen Trail that meanders through Lindsborg. What is so cool is along the trail are signs that share stories of Lindsborg people and places. By the time you have finished the walk, you know a lot about the town!
We saw grain elevators, old iron, read about Coronado Heights which fascinated me. I was glad to read about it because it was closed during our visit due to excessive rain during the spring. Our walk took us to the Smoky Valley Roller Mill and Heritage Park which we would tour later in the day.
We loved the cool bridge over the River and we walked off trail to see some of the lovely houses and brick streets along the way. This trail is a true treasure for both walkers and bikers!
Tour at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
The drive to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge was along a scenic drive. Every few minutes we were ready to stop and take pictures, but decided we had best arrive early and save that for on the way back!
Signs warned us to say on the road and that the animals could be dangerous. We saw the fences and finally the little road leading to the office. The volunteers on hand shared that in 1859, Henry Gault Maxwell drove a small herd of bison to the area. He established a homestead and later dreamed of preserving a piece of the prairie so future generations could explore what the region was like before it was settled. In 1944, 2,560 acres were deeded to what is now the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
The refuge has been deemed one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography because its midgrass prairie provides the only place in Kansas where both buffalo and elk can be viewed in their natural habitat by the public.
We boarded the tram after looking at the Stage coach, and items inside the office/museum. The tram pulled by a pickup truck went out right into the midst of the herd. Betty, our guide shared that there is also a herd of elk on the acreage as well, but they didn’t come out because of the warm weather. A truck with protein blocks had went ahead, luring the buffalo/bison to come out. It was so cool to see the mothers with their young as well as the bull who was definitely king of the refuge! What magnificent animals and how wonderful to get a chance to see them up close, yet from the safety of the tram.
To go to the refuge, you must make reservations ahead.
Photo Op in Roxbury
On the way back to Lindsborg, we loved the beautiful drive. We had seen two items in the hamlet of Roxbury that we had to stop and take pictures of. One was a memorial in honor to Robert G. Manning “Whose hardware store and civic reliability served this community from 1915 to 1958….” on top was a lovely sundial.
The other item was an old gas station with what Keith called, “a field dressed Allis Chalmers” sitting on display. Then on the way back we also saw the neatest scene of an concrete bridge in a pasture with cows beneath.
The Ol Stuga, a luncheon affair
The Ol Stuga which in Swedish means Beer Cottage. This was a great stop for lunch. This building that has been a mainstay in town was once visited by Mikhail Gorbachev who ordered vodka and cranberry juice. The drink is now called the Gorbatini!
Keith got a half sandwhich and oysters and was in hog heaven! I got an Italian sandwich with chips, yum!
Smoky Valley Roller Mills Museum & Heritage Square
Now we come to Keith’s favorite part of the entire trip! The McPherson County Museum is part of the Roller Mills Museum and offers exhibits of central Kansas history and genealogy research, as well as a gift shop. Jim Maln kindly provided Keith and I a guided tour of the Smoky Valley Roller Mill that was built in 1898 and was in operation until 1955, sending flour to places nationwide. “All the big pieces of equipment are all original,” Jim shared.
“Ninety-nine percent of the grain was stored underground and augured to the basement,” Jim said. The grain was then moved to the 3rd floor and had foreign matter removed and eventually the grain ran through the rollers until they ended up pounded into milled white flour!
Jim took us through all three floors showing us the machinery and the process. More details will be outlined in an article for Heritage Iron!
Once a year, the machinery of the historic mill springs to life during Millfest held the first weekend in May.
We loved also visiting Heritage Square. The square is home to seven historic buildings, Santa Fe Locomotive #735, a wooden windmill and Heritage Center containing business exhibits, a livery stable and farm machinery. The farm machinery building had an extensive collection of machinery. We were especially impressed with the beautiful Oil Pull!
I would have loved to tour the Swedish Pavilion located at the north end of the square. This beautiful building was brought over from Sweden for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Hemslojd and a Quad cycle ride
We packed a lot into our day. Following our tour, we headed to the Hemslojd, which in Swedish means handicraft. Besides being a Swedish gift shop, they are also the Dala Horse factory! Here we were able to see an artisan working on the beautiful Dala horses there. Hemslojd is the foremost Swedish store in the U.S. specializing in Swedish imports and Scandinavian gifts of all types.
At Hemslojd Holly Lofton had reserved us a quad cycle bike and we got the opportunity to ride one around town for the first time! When I asked about where they could be rode, the owner said, anywhere on the street! She showed us how to operate them and away we went!
It was really hot out so our ride wasn’t real long, but it was great fun and a unique way to see the town!
With the heat index and humidity up, we took a little Siesta at the cool, calm of the Viking Motel before heading to the Brickhouse Grill for dinner.
The Brick House Grill is located in the historic former Standard Oil Station. The building is much larger once you get inside than it appears from the outside. The building has been renovated and is a hangout place in town.
While they offer great burgers, they are also famous for their deep dish and hand tossed pizza which we couldn’t pass up. We ordered a sausage and mushroom version with green pepper and onion on my side. We ate every bite! We loved the casual atmosphere and friendly staff!
Broom making at Bethany College
Recently Bethany College has added Swedish Crafts as part of their course choices. Award artisan winning broom maker Justin Burton shared information about this craft with us. The broom making studio is across the street from the college proper and we met Justin and student Areanna who showed us how she was braiding the head of her broom.
Justin came to Lindsborg from Berea College in Kentucky. Broom making has been part of the Lindsborg history as well as part of its future with the college bringing this art back to town. “This was part of the early Swedish Lutheran heritage and one of the sources of income,” Justin Burton said.
“It was a big income. There were five broom factories. Swedish immigrants came and had their hand in it,” Justin added.
At the college they were growing a small amount of broom corn, but he said they use most of their corn from Mexico. They make three variations of colors of broom in classes, based on the blue and yellow colors of the Swedish flag. There is natural, Blue, and mixes. The students and Justin make the brooms, then sell them in the Bethany College Swedish Crafts marketplace.
This work study program offers students a chance to relive stress. The program also includes painting, digital art and sculpture.
Justin has a beautiful personal collection of brooms on display at the college showing the wide variation of broom types. He took the time to show me how to make a broom and I came home with a turkey ring broom that sits in a place of distinction in my kitchen!
Breakfast at the White Peacock
Wednesday morning before heading on to Abilene we stopped for breakfast at the White Peacock Coffee Company because we heard they had Swedish Pancakes. When we checked out that morning from our hosted stay at the Viking Motel I admired the picture of Stockholm in the lobby. Cindy told us that earlier a woman from Sweden staying there had pointed to the picture and said, “I was born there!”
She then went to get her daughter and showed the picture to her. When we were ordering at the White Peacock, we struck up a conversation with a woman and her daughter and lo and behold, they were the same ones Cindy had been talking to earlier! The daughter turned out to be a musician that played with Johnny Cash’s band. They were delightful and they said they travel to Lindsborg every year to buy Swedish gifts.
The Swedish pancakes were perfect even though our new friend Lillemor told us that we should only eat them with the lingonberries not with the syrup!
Lindsborg in the rearview mirror
There is so much to admire about this beautiful Swedish town. As we were heading out we along with some other tourists took pictures of the 150 year sign. With this sesquicentennial now is the perfect time to make plans to travel to Little Sweden USA.