Colby: Continuity & Change
Pairing our 1907 panoramic photograph of downtown Colby with a 2021 version, the exhibit explores how the town has changed over time. The advent of the automobile changed livery stables to gas stations; the completion of Interstate 70 eventually pulled restaurants, gas stations and other businesses away from downtown toward the highway, transforming the downtown area.
At the same time, key decisions made to invest in the community through a community college, events center, and hospital among others have enabled Colby's population to remain stable when other towns of the same size are struggling. A touch screen feature will help visitors explore these changes and decisions.Exhibit by Ann Miner
Colby Panorama 1907
Colby 1907 is a 22-year-old largely treeless town with rutty dirt streets, railroad tracks bordering the north and south, windmills galore, livery stables, horses and wagons. Its streets also sport the very first cars -- an invention that will have enormous impacts on the town over the next 100 years.
In the 114 years since the first panorama was taken, the town has filled out with homes, businesses and lots of trees. Some of the original buildings can still be identified. There is one remaining railroad, carrying freight only.
What cannot be seen in the 2021 panorama is how the nature of downtown has changed. Interstate 70's completion in 1970 gradually lured restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores to the south end of town, making it a challenge to keep downtown buildings occupied.
Change at 185 E 4th Street: 1907
The OK Livery Stable dominated this spot on East 4th Street from the time of Colby's beginnings in 1885 until 1920, when it was torn down to build a Standard filling station.
Change at 185 E 4th Street: 1950
There had been a Standard gas station at this spot since 1920, and it continued to host either a gas station or car dealership until 2003.
Virtually all gas stations in Colby are now located in close proximity to Interstate 70.
Change at 185 E 4th Street: 2021
Downtown Colby today is dominated by businesses that cater almost exclusively to local and area residents, while the south part of town also serves interstate travelers. This former gas station and auto dealership has been creatively transformed into a popular flower shop.
Colby Community College
Interstate 70 has changed the configuration of Colby, but its traffic has also helped keep the town's population relatively stable when other rural towns are struggling.
Though not without controversy, early decisions to support a community college that has created jobs and educational opportunities, build a new hospital that now serves as a regional medical center, and more recently to construct an event center and regional justice center have helped Colby continue to be a community to which people come for services and entertainment.
The decision to construct a new event center in Colby is a recent example of a decision meant to make it possible for Colby to survive and, hopefully, thrive.
Colby: Continuity & ChangeThe full exhibit is on display at Prairie Museum of Art and History
1905 S. Franklin Avenue
Colby, Kansas 67701