A narrow metal stairway once took visitors down nearly 109 feet to see the world's largest hand-dug well. Today, however, a set of broad, well-spaced spiral stairs replaces the previously dodgy ones. They lead down to within about 10 feet of the water surface and climb to a glassed-in cupola at the top of the building. People can toss a coin and make a wish from exciting heights or stand in awe of the strenuous labor that went into digging the well and bracing the walls—done entirely by hand in 1888. The newly opened $3 million facility articulately tells that epic tale but also the story of Greensburg's origins, the 2007 F5 tornado that razed the town, and the remarkable rebuild that continues.
Natural light streams from above, even into the depths of the well. We liked feeling the temperature change as we stepped below ground; being down inside the well really lends perspective to the feat those men went through to reach the aquifer. Interactive, digital elements complement static copy panels, expertly bringing each story to life. From the entrance, the displays move chronologically through time, making it easy to follow Greensburg's evolution. At the top, accessible only by the stairs (a drawback for physically challenged visitors), a bird's-eye view caps the experience, thanks to labels on the windows explaining the view in each window, for example "Greensburg Boy Scouts Cabin, replaces the 1935 structure used by Greensburg's Scouts" or "Grain Elevator, one of three structures to withstand tornado." Admission charged.