Midwest Living Review
Located on a back street hemmed between the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum campus and Old Abilene Town, the Heritage Center is a pleasant surprise worthy of an hour's visit. It's amazing how small-town Abilene has impacted American life. Set up in chronological order, dioramas quickly cover Dickinson County history, starting with fossil beds and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's Kansas quest for El Dorado. The region's Native American history, prairie settler emigration, Abilene's cow town beginnings and the shaping influence of the 1866 Union Pacific Railroad are all covered. Within the Heritage Center is the Museum of Independent Telephony, tracing the birth of non-Bell telephone companies. The start-ups sprung up "so towns could talk" when Bell's patents expired in 1884. In 1911, Kansas independents merged, forming Abilene's United Telephone Company, which later became today's Sprint Corp. Exhibits show the telephone's technical evolution and its revolutionary impact on American culture. Out back, preserved pioneer-period buildings house a blacksmith shop, general store and barn of antique buggies and tractors. Take a whirl on an original wooden 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel (a national landmark). In 1890, Parker opened his business in Abilene, growing it into the nation's largest manufacturer of carnival and amusement devices. Admission charged.