GRAHAM COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — A new museum in western Kansas is bringing in loads of visitors and drumming up business for the small town of Hill City.
“We have had over 1,100 people come through this museum since we opened up in April of 2021 and
that’s 1,100 people, some of them are townspeople, but that’s many people who are coming into our community and either spending money at the gas station, at a restaurant, or downtown shopping,” said museum secretary Phyllis Weller.
The Graham County Auto & Art Museum is a one-of-a-kind venue with dozens of classic cars, antique tractors, and vehicles that have graced movie sets like “Paper Moon” and “Tucker.”
“We have got cars from the 20s to the 70s, and they all got character, class, and style,” said museum board member Rick Roberts.
The museum is a labor of love. Several townspeople thought of the idea in 2017.
“Basically on a dream and a prayer,” Weller said.
When a building came up for sale in 2019, Weller and a few others started searching for donors. Dozens of businesses stepped up, as did Hill City native and Boulder, Colorado business icon Stephen Tebo.
“This is the Tebo room because Stephen Tebo was a major donor to us. He has these vehicles on display from his own collection,” explained museum president Cory Simoneau as he gave KSN a tour in November.
Simoneau and others connected to the museum credit Tebo for making the museum what it is today.
“We would be open, but we wouldn’t have this caliber of cars. He’s got amazing quality of cars, big collection, and he is our main contributor,” explained Roberts.
The museum features about 30 classic cars, including a handful from Tebo’s collection. The vehicles are on loan and are traded in and out every few months. In addition to Tebo’s cars are local vehicles from Hoxie, Hill City, Plainville and Hays.
“We have people who own cars that want to come in, but they are on a waiting list,” explained Weller.
That’s good news for Hill City and the surrounding area. Weller said the more cars they rotate in and out of the museum, the more likely they will drive visitors to the town.
“That’s what any small town needs, and that’s one of our key things we want to do is bring people to our community,” she said.
“That’s what we are striving for, to help our community. All the board members were raised here, grew up here, and we don’t want to give up. We like what we are doing. We enjoy it,” Roberts said.
The Graham County Auto & Art Museum is located at U.S. 24 and U.S. 283. Admission is $5.