Special to The Hays Daily News
TOPEKA — At its meeting Saturday, the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review voted to nominate the Steele House at Lake Scott State Park to the National Register of Historic Places. The action sends the nomination to the National Park Service for their consideration and final action. It also adds the home to the state’s Register of Kansas Historic Places.
The Steele House was built in approximately 1894 by Herbert and Eliza Steele on the west bank of Ladder Creek in what later became Lake Scott State Park. They were among the earliest Euro-American settlers in the county. The seven-room, two-level limestone house was built into the side of a hill so the lower level is partly recessed into the hill.
The nomination also includes a crude limestone spring house built by the Steeles over a still-active spring and a decorative pond and bench built with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 after the Steeles had passed away.
Lake Scott State Park is located in Ladder Creek Canyon, approximately13 miles north of Scott City in Scott County. Before Euro-American settlement, the canyon was home to several Central Plains Native American groups, dating to proto historic and early historic times. El Cuartelejo, the remains of the northeastern-most pueblo in the U.S., are located a short distance north of the Steele House. The El Cuartelejo Archaeological District National Historic Landmark established in 1964 — a concentration of remnants from these cultural groups — surrounds the Steele House and was made possible by the Steeles’ willingness to have their land investigated by archeologists beginning in the late 1890s.
The Steeles were aware their picturesque property was an ideal setting for a park. In 1928, they sold 640 acres of their land to the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission — a forerunner of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, with the stipulation they be allowed to live in their home until their passing. In May 1930, the commission completed a dam across Ladder Creek and created the 100-acre Lake McBride, which later was renamed to Lake Scott.
Herbert Steele died in September 1929, having never seen the lake and park he helped create. Eliza Steele died in July 1930, one month after the park opened. Today, the house is a museum operated by volunteers.