Celebrating Kansas by Car – Ellinwood Tunnels
By Stephanie Bergmann, Independent Living Sales & Marketing Director
Just like in the days of Prohibition, the best kept secrets (and the most fun) are often found underground! That’s certainly true in the town of Ellinwood — home to the ultimate man cave.
In the 1870s, German settlers dug tunnels that housed all of the men’s businesses, or at least those deemed “not fit for a lady.” Saloons, brothels, a barbershop, and a blacksmith all operated under the main streets of Ellinwood.
Local historians have recreated a few of the businesses and offer a fascinating walking tour. My family enjoyed learning about the barber, who doubled as a dentist and surgeon, performing tonsillectomies and using leeches to treat certain ailments. The bathhouse also made us laugh, with several metal tubs lined up and a sign advertising a discount on “used water!” The harness shop displays many of the tools from that era, like a beaded shawl for horses that would swing as they walked to shoo away flies.
The tunnels also run under the Historic Wolf Hotel, which has been lovingly restored by owner Chris McCord. Visitors can stay overnight in one of five rooms decorated with vintage furniture. They can enjoy a period-style lunch on Sundays or sample a Prohibition-era cocktail in the speakeasy, aptly named The Underground. Customers use code words like “juice” to order beer, “lemonade” for wine, and “coffee” for whiskey.
McCord has also preserved three other historic buildings in Ellinwood, including the Rice County jail. While the upstairs still has the original cell blocks, he converted the ground floor into a hotel property called The Slammer!
Even kids will find all this history fun! Ellinwood is just over 100 miles from Wichita, less than two hours by car, and tours run $6–$12 per person. Call 620-617-6915 for reservations or book online.