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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Restoring a Legend
The Hotel Beaumont, located in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas, has been a pilot favorite for 50 years. After all, who could resist stopping for lunch, or for the night, at a place that involves taxiing your plane along the town’s main street?
By Travis Atwood and Gerrit Paulsen

The directions for getting to the Hotel Beaumont from its adjacent private grass runway are not the typical taxi instructions – “After landing on the prairie airstrip, exit the airfield and taxi down the paved county road, stop at the stop sign on Main Street, then park right next to the hotel.”

Obviously, the Beaumont caters to aviators. This, however, is only the beginning of your adventure in this historic town.

Situated in the east central portion of Kansas, the entire Flint Hills area is a piece of living history. Old railroad lines, depots, and the nearby Santa Fe Trail beckon exploration, as does the endless tall grass prairie surrounding the many-thousand acre working cattle ranches. The tiny town of Beaumont, in Butler County, sits in the middle of it all, and is an ideal base of operations for enjoying the beauty of the area and exploring frontier history.

Frontiersmen and westbound pioneers founded the city of Beaumont in the 1870s. In 1879, the Beaumont Hotel was built to serve as a resting point for travelers coming into town on the stagecoach or the new St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. Back then, the town went quickly from no residents to hundreds as ranchers settled and cattle barons came to town. In its heyday, the town’s cattle trade center bustled "Like the New York Stock Exchange," according to one Beaumont old-timer. While the population of Beaumont has now dwindled from more than a thousand in the late 1800s to 84 today, there is still plenty to see and do, both in Beaumont and in the surrounding area of Butler County.

The 124-year-old Beaumont Hotel continues to play a prominent role in the region, and still serves as a welcome rest stop for weary travelers and adventures alike. Pilots have been flying in to the adjacent airstrip since the early 1950s for a meal or a rest. In 1953, the hotel’s longtime owner, J.C. Squires, carved the airstrip out of the nearby prairie to allow traveling cattlemen another way to get to the area. Ever since, the hotel has been popular with both cattlemen and private pilots, who like to fly in and enjoy a quiet stay away from the hubbub and hustle of city life.

The hotel was extensively renovated in 2001 by the new owner, Stephen Craig, President and CEO of S.J. Craig Enterprises, bringing the property to the high standards of an upscale Bed and Breakfast Hotel. An avid pilot, Stephen operates five other hotels across the country, and his experience in the business shows at the Beaumont. The new rooms are spacious, very comfortable, and include modern conveniences such as 25-inch televisions with VCR (with complimentary movies available at the front desk) and brand new private baths in each room. Additional amenities include a bountiful breakfast, evening hors d’ourves, and — of course — aircraft parking right out the front door. Rooms range from $79 for a standard deluxe room to $149 for a King Executive Suite. Each of the 11 rooms feature wonderful views, but some of the best are in the hotel’s five roomy suites, some of which allow you to gaze out the window at the retired railroad line, the rolling Flint Hills landscape, or the planes parked next to the hotel. A conference room is available for group meetings, which is perfect for fly-ins or business retreats (620-843-2422, or

The entire hotel is filled with photographs and vintage plane advertisements attesting to the Beaumont’s longtime popularity amongst the private pilot set. One Beech Aircraft magazine ad from the 1970s shows a photo of a Baron stopped at the stop sign on Main Street, just in front of the hotel, and talks about the fried chicken pilots fly in to sample. Stephen Craig said the Beaumont was one of the first places he flew after getting his pilot’s license in 1968, and he’s been coming back ever since. Craig continued, "I’ve got friends from California and elsewhere around the country who fly planes and they know about Beaumont." A quick peek at the hotel’s pilot sign-in log confirms this, listing visitors from New Jersey, New Mexico, and everywhere in between since the hotel reopened in 2001.

The Beaumont Hotel is also popular with drop-in pilots, who like to come for some fabulous fried chicken, catfish, or for a delicious chicken-fried steak with lots of gravy. The hotel has two restaurants, a 50’s style café and a more formal dining room. Either way, you’ll get good stick-to-your ribs home cooking. On Friday and Saturday nights, diners come from across the surrounding area to enjoy the Prime Rib special. In Kansas — a place where beef is always in supply — the prime rib is especially good.

The knowledgeable, helpful Beaumont Hotel staff knows how to cater to aviators. They will help you with ground transportation, rental cars, and can even arrange local activities like ranch tours and horseback riding excursions.

Rental cars can be delivered directly to the hotel, or the staff can arrange transportation to the El Dorado airport where cars may be rented. Many pilots prefer to simply fly to the surrounding cities for sightseeing, returning to the Beaumont before nightfall. Just some of the nearby cities with public airports include Augusta, Andover, El Dorado, and Wichita.

Beaumont and the surrounding Flint Hills is a place where the whole family can "get away from it all," yet still have plenty to do. Most of the available activities are adventures that will give participants a good history lesson of the pioneer days gone by. Horseback riding, hiking, or fishing at the nearby El Dorado State Park are just a few of the activities for those who want to enjoy the outdoors (316-321-7180). For those looking for a literal trip down memory lane, there are tours of Ferrell Ranch, a real working 12,000-acre cattle ranch adjacent to the Beaumont Hotel, which can be scheduled by the staff at the hotel. Golfers might also appreciate being able to boast that they played Augusta — the public Augusta Country Club 9-hole course in nearby Augusta, Kansas, that is (316-775-7281).

For those looking to take home a little piece of history, there are a host of great antique shops in Butler County, from the Black Squirrel on Main Street in Beaumont (620-843-2787), to the huge Benton Antique Mall in Benton (316-778-1700). Nearby El Dorado is also home to a number of great shops, including North Ward Junction Antiques, which accepts credit cards and is conveniently open 7 days a week, a rarity among small town antique shops (316-321-0145).

Kansas is also home to a plethora of destinations for aviation history buffs. Just a short distance from Beaumont in Augusta is the Augusta Air Museum, home to a diverse collection of aviation machines including a Penquin (a German submarine helicopter), and helicopters from the Vietnam War (316-775-1425). Only a short flight away is the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, which has great exhibits including an SR-71 Blackbird and the Apollo 13 command module (800-397-0330,

If you do decide to rent a car, one drive you shouldn’t miss is the scenic byway journey on K-177 north from Cassoday to Council Grove. The drive offers some spectacular views of the beautiful Flint Hills landscape. Along the way you can view the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City (620-273-8494, When you get to Council Grove, you can visit 10 sites along the original Santa Fe Trail, or shop at one of the city’s many antique stores (800-732-9211, Be sure to stop in for a great meal while you’re there at the Hays House at 112 W. Main (620-767-5911).

If you are more interested in enjoying a little culture, you can catch live music or a variety show at the El Dorado Dinner Theatre (316-320-4444, You might also like a visit to some of the unique museums in El Dorado, including the Baseball Hall of Fame (316-321-3150), the Kansas Oil Museum (316-321-9333,, or the Coutts Memorial Museum of Art (316-321-1212). A nearby place you definitely shouldn’t miss is the Augusta Historic Theatre, a 1935 Art Deco movie palace (316-775-3661).

You won’t go hungry while on your excursions; the surrounding area offers many different restaurants. In nearby Towanda, you can enjoy fresh catfish from the local Corbin Fish Farm at the M & M Country Café, (316-541-2688), or home cooking at the Rusty Bucket Café & Antiques (316-536-2221). Another great place to eat and be entertained in Butler County is the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper, the Midwest’s largest chuck wagon supper, located in Benton (316-778-2121, The nearby cities of Augusta and El Dorado also offer a variety of choices, including excellent steakhouses serving the local specialty, prime cut beef.

While Beaumont is always a great place to go, one of the best times to visit is in June. This is when the town hosts the annual Beaumont Water Tower Festival (June 6 & 7), a weekend event that attracts more than 4,000 visitors. The festival includes a parade, barbeque, street dance, and other activities in addition to tours of the town’s infamous wooden water tower. The Frisco wooden water tower, located directly across the street from the Beaumont Hotel, was built in 1881 to serve the town and provide water for steam locomotives and cattle. The tower is now one of the oldest wooden water towers in the US, and is listed on the National Register Historic Places (

Another fun activity in the summer is the Flint Hills Overland Wagon Train Trips, which takes visitors back in time to the 1840s era. As part of the trip, you’ll leave modern conveniences behind and travel overnight in an authentic covered wagon complete with four meals along your journey. Trips run on weekends from June through September. Cost is $150 for adults, $75 for children ages 4-12, and no charge for children under four (316-321-6300,

Things really heat up in September, with the Beaumont Blazin’ BBQ Championship & Fly-in (Sep 12 & 13). This annual event is sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society, and offers cash and trophies to the top contestants. If you can’t wait that long for a fly-in, the Beaumont also hosts a Pancake Fly-in Breakfast on the second Saturday of each month through September.

For more information about local events and tourism in Butler County, contact Tour Butler at 800-278-3697 or visit Information about Kansas tourism is available at

Whether you bring your family for a weekend of frontier fun or just fly in for a good steak, taxiing down Main Street to the Beaumont Hotel is definitely an experience worth adding to your travel log.
Beaumont, Kansas is located about 45 miles east of Wichita, home to both Cessna and Boeing. The Beaumont Hotel’s native grass airstrip (SN07) is 2600 feet long, with a field elevation of 1617 feet (pattern altitude 2417). This private strip is kept in good condition by the hotel, but it is always a good idea to call for current conditions (620-843-2422). On arrival, announce your intentions on 122.9, and use left traffic for either runway 18 or 36. The runway is unlit, so takeoffs and landings are suspended at dusk. GPS coordinates are N 37-39.5, W 96-31.6, or DME off the 086 degree radial Wichita VOR (ICT) at 49 nautical miles. Most returning pilots say they just watch for the big 30-foot-tall wooden water tower. There are no fuel facilities at Beaumont, but you can stop for fuel at the nearby El Dorado, Eureka, Augusta, or Wichita public airports. There are no tie downs at the airstrip or the hotel.
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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