From Civil War raids to ‘All-Electric House,’ new Johnson County Musuem tells history of community

The huge "Becoming Johnson County" display greets visitors when they enter the new Johnson County Museum location at the Arts and Heritage Center.
The huge “Becoming Johnson County” display greets visitors when they enter the new Johnson County Museum location at the Arts and Heritage Center.

On Saturday, Johnson County’s new Arts and Heritage Center will open to the public after more than a year of renovation work, and with it the new Johnson County Museum. With its new home inside the former King Louie bowling center at 8788 Metcalf, the museum has greatly expanded its exhibits, telling the history of Johnson County from its formative days as a series of sparsely populated agricultural communities to the present-day economic engine of Kansas.

As part of tomorrow’s grand opening, access to the museum and the rest of the Arts and Heritage Center will be free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We got a sneak peek at the new museum space ahead of tomorrow’s opening.

Among the first of the exhibits in the new museum is a examination of the Bleeding Kansas-era border battles that saw raiders traversing through the area:


Next is a series of exhibits telling the story of the agricultural market communities that developed in the southwestern part of the county, with cities like Gardner springing up to provide the infrastructure for farmers to sell their product:


Also prominently featured is an exhibit exploring the rapid creation of the Sunflower Ammunition Plant following the Pearl Harbor attacks. After war was declared, the federal government quickly began building armament factories across the country. It seized the land south of De Soto via emminent domain, and told the farmers who owned it they had 30 days to vacate the premises. The plant was up and running 10 months after the process began:


At the center of the museum is the “All-Electric House.” Built in 1954 by Kansas City Power & Light to showcase the host of new labor-saving technology available to post-war homebuyers, it was moved from its original location at 4602 Homestead Drive in Prairie Village to a the museum’s previous home on Lackman in Lenexa. Now, the home rests inside the Arts and Heritage Center and serves as the focal point of the new museum. With updated interior displays, it provides a rich accounting of the artifacts of Johnson County’s boom as a bedroom community in the 1950s:






Outside sit displays of the vehicles of the era – for people large and small:



And, of course, there’s the famous White Haven Motor Lodge sign, now totally restored and fully operational:


Again, admission to the museum, and the associated KidScope play area, are free as part of the grand opening ceremonies tomorrow.