By Don Lowe
When it comes to enjoying so many of the picturesque sites that help make Pittsburg, Kansas, such a terrific place to live and work, there’s likely nothing more enticing than the Pittsburg State University (PSU) Walking Tour, which brings together virtually everything residents and visitors find appealing about this area.
Chris Wilson, who serves as marketing and communications manager for Explore Crawford County, believes what helps make this a desirable destination is “in addition to its charm, the PSU campus is compact and walkable. It’s ADA compliant, so it’s easy to get around.
“The variety of things to see is what I think helps make it an attractive place for anyone to visit. There’s architecture, art, history, music, nature, science, sports and whatever else interests you. You’ll find something intriguing here.”
As for what specifically makes this walking tour so important, Wilson says, “The PSU campus is very charming. There’s a blend of historic buildings and state-of-the-art new ones, all with interesting architecture.
“There are numerous murals and statues, including a lot of gorillas, of course, and an amazing veterans memorial, which is highlighted by a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.”
While the walking tour provides an impressive look into Pittsburg as a whole, it is just a glimpse into what makes this entire area so special.
Wilson provides historical context in saying, “That principal of variety applies to the community at large, as well. Southeast Kansas communities once thrived because of mining, and everything revolved around that industry for decades.
“When the mines closed, it hurt. Mining-related factories closed, and retailers soon followed. But that has changed because Pittsburg and surrounding communities have become more versatile.”
Indeed, Pittsburg has so much to be proud about, and Wilson says, “With a university and six high schools in one county (Crawford County), we’ve always been known for our sports. We’ve also been known for our outdoor recreation – hunting and fishing. Now, we’re also seeing gravel riders, kayakers and others.
“There is now a variety of retailers and industries. There are numerous restaurants with every flavor you can imagine. Even the boutiques have diversified. Pittsburg has a children’s boutique, as well as a ‘shop for dudes.’”
That’s not all. “You even see it in the live entertainment: Jazz, punk, orchestra, country polka, rock and roll, heavy metal and more can be heard any given weekend.”
Whether it’s the walking tour at PSU, along with a wide-ranging possibility of so many other activities, it’s easy to see why Wilson raves about all Pittsburg has to offer. “There’s something nearly every week. Okay, maybe not during the winter. But there is so much happening, people forget to tell us about some things.
“Our communities are business friendly. If someone needs help, all they need to do is ask. Plus, on the rare occasion there isn’t something going on locally, we’re a day-trip drive from Joplin, Branson, Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa, Wichita and Kansas City. That means those communities are a day trip away from us, as well.”
Wilson believes Pittsburg is a perfect place, and he says, “Why would they (visitors from larger cities) want to come to us? Because we have festivals, live entertainment, dining and shopping you might only see in much larger communities, all at a more affordable price and with less traffic.”
See more photos in the February 2022 print or digital editions
Pittsburg State University Walking Tour Fast Facts
What: Looking for a place to walk that will take you past lovely landscaping, works of art, a scenic lake and a beautiful blend of historic and modern buildings? The Pittsburg State University Walking Tour is it.
Created by: Pittsburg State University
A few examples of what you’ll see on the tour…
• One of the oldest buildings still standing in Pittsburg and beautifully preserved, Russ Hall was built in 1908 and named in 1912 after the university’s founder and first principal.
• Senior Walk, completed and dedicated in 2012, was made possible by a gift from the Student Government Association and features plaques for each Outstanding Senior Award recipient.
• Porter Hall is home to the PSU Art Department, including three art galleries. Built in 1927, it was named for a state legislator, Ebenezer Porter, who sponsored a bill in 1903 that paved the way for PSU to be built and helped get the funding.
• On the east side of Porter Hall, in a picturesque, shaded area is Night Song, a bronze sculpture of a Native American playing a flute, designed by professional artist and PSU graduate Joe Beeler (class of 1957).
• The Wooster Gorilla has overlooked the Oval from its position at the main south doors of the Overman Student Center since 1965, when it was installed there as a gift from the 1965 Senior Class.
• The Centennial Bell Tower, located between the Axe Library and Carnie Smith Stadium, was a gift from the Senior Classes of 1993-1996.
• Gorilla Village encompasses several structures east of Carnie Smith Stadium, including the Gazebo, the East Shelter and the West Shelter.
• The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts is a premier destination for the region. Peek inside whenever the building is open to see the stunning architecture and learn more about upcoming performances.
• The Robert W. Plaster Center is a state-of-the-art facility that hosts a variety of university and community events, including national track and field championships, career fairs, Special Olympics events and commencement.