Revisiting history: Hays CVB holds tour to view restored historic plaques

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News
Tour guide Mary Ann Thompson talks about the historical markers during Wednesday's tour for people who played an instrumental role in the installation of the plaques in downtown Hays. The markers were restored over the summer.

Leo Dorzweiler, who was on the board of the Volga-German Society when the historical markers were first up in the downtown area in 1974, joked after seeing them on Wednesday if he could be restored to be put in as good shape.

“They look real good, you bet,” Dorzweiler said.

The Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau, in partnership with Downtown Hays Development Corporation, organized the tour for those who were instrumental in the plaques being installed, and for those who restored them this summer to their original pristine condition.

Now, the shiny bronze markers are there to be appreciated by history buffs both local and from far and wide.

“The historical markers are a popular tourist attraction, and now we are even prouder to send guests down to see them,” said Melissa Dixon, HCB executive director.

The Volga-German Society and the Ellis County Historical Society both were involved with putting the markers in place.

“We just wanted to preserve some of the history,” Dorzweiler said.

ECHS interim director Katie Annett checked on the plaques before the restoration process started and found a pair of additional markers, one honoring Volga-German immigrants and one for the Methodist Church. Once ownership of those markers is identified, Annett would like to see them also restored and included in a new walking tour brochure that will be available from both ECHS and CVB.

In addition, Phase 2 in the restoration process would include the repair of three frames. The damage was discovered while the plaques were being restored. Other markers needing to be put up is the one missing from Hangman's Bridge, a marker in storage at ECHS for the Opera House, and the Stone Church marker, which has been damaged.

Mary Ann Thompson, Kansas Room librarian at the Hays Public Library for 28 years until her retirement in 2012, also gave walking tours downtown for 12 years. She was asked to lead Wednesday’s tour, and had not seen the markers in their restored shape until just a few days before the tour.

“It was long overdue,” Thompson said. “They were amazing. Some of them, when I was giving the tour all those years ago, weren’t in great shape. It’s really nice that this has happened.”

Annett also was with Wednesday’s tour, which concluded with a German meal served and commemorative mini-plaques handed out to those who played an integral role in the installation of the markers. The commemorative mini-plaques were purchased and gifted by Downtown Hays Development Corporation.

“It was cool to see the people who were instrumental in putting it together originally,” Annett said, “and the people who led the restoration effort.”

A restored historical marker.