We were so excited to learn soon after we moved to Kansas that Amelia Earhart’s birthplace is only a few hours from us. Michael and I are drawn to historic homes and get a sort of high visiting beautiful architectural landmarks. So a few months ago we made a little trip to see this gorgeous example of Gothic Revival and Italianate design.
Construction of the home initially began in 1861. The wood-frame, Gothic Revival cottage is perched high on the west bank overlooking the Missouri River. I am obsessed with the arched windows, particularly the pointed arch of the balcony’s french doors. The clapboard siding, traditional black and white color scheme, and large front porch give the front exterior an almost farmhouse vibe. In 1873, Amelia’s grandfather Judge Alfred Otis and grandmother Amelia Otis, owners of the home, added an even more ornate brick Italianate addition to the rear.
Amelia was born in the home on July 24th 1897 to Edwin Stanton Earhart and Amy Otis Earhart. Amelia’s father was a lawyer for the railroad which required him to travel a great deal. Consequently both Amelia and her sister Muriel were born and spent an abundance of their childhood with their grandparents in Atchison. The house seems like something out of a fairy tail with its ornate carpentry and its idyllic setting near the river. I can imagine Amelia having quite a wonderful childhood here.
Once inside the elaborate details continue, starting with a large entryway featuring a grand staircase.
On either side of the entryway are parlors. The parlor on the left was used by the ladies for music, sewing, playing cards and gossip.
A large curtained doorway connected the ladies parlor to the formal dining room beyond.
The second parlor on the right side of the entryway was used by the men for conducting business, smoking, playing cards and gossip.
The men’s parlor was more modestly adorned and led to a butlers pantry. However both parlors boast original lighting, moldings, windows, and restored pine flooring. The wallpaper throughout the home are copies of the originals. The butlers pantry and formal dining room connect at the rear behind the stairs in a large kitchen.
When you climb the beautiful staircase to the second floor you are greeted at the top by the site of the sun shining through the pointed-arch french doors. This wide landing served as a sitting room. What a great place for reading a good book or watching the sun set over the river just outside the balcony’s doors.
There were originally four bedrooms upstairs, two on either side of this sitting room. One has been blocked off and houses records for the museum. Another is part of a suite which also includes the entire Italianate back addition. This suite is used as living quarters for the museum caretaker. The two remaining bedrooms which are open to the public are the master bedroom that Amelia was born in and the room she and her little sister slept in growing up. The master bedroom showcases the actual bed where Amelia was born in 1897.
The transoms above all the doorways upstairs are not only beautiful, but also served as air conditioning when left open to circulate the air at night. In the little girls’ room toys that Amelia and her sister played with are on display. This small desk also held some of their beloved books.
The overwhelming amount of flying artifacts, letters, clothing, documents, and tributary artwork fill this museum with an interesting look at this heroic woman. Though the house is not set up exactly as it would have been during Amelia’s lifetime you get a pretty good sense of what the home looked like when she lived there. Despite living in many different cities, Amelia considered Atchison, Kansas her hometown, having spent more of her life in her grandparents home than anywhere else. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace represents the most tangible remaining link with the famous female aviator.
Amelia’s grandparents Judge Alfred Otis and Amelia Otis lived in the home until 1912, when they both passed away. Only two other families ever occupied the home. In 1984 Dr. Eugene J. Bribach, donated $100,000 to “The Ninety-Nines,” an International Organization of Women Pilots (to which Amelia not only belonged, but also served as their inaugural president). This allowed them to purchase, restore, & dedicate the Amelia Earhart Birthplace to this generation and future generations as a museum. Our family really enjoyed visiting this historic home and got lots of inspiration for the restoration of our own 1893 farmhouse. We hope you too enjoyed this little peak into Kansas history!
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To visit the official website of the museum click here.0