World's Largest Hand Dug Well


Greensburg, Kansas

Always a favorite stop, where else in the world can you fall down the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well?! (ok, walk, not fall...) Admission is still really cheap (under $2.00, I think...) and you just might find enough on the landing at the bottom of the well to recoup your expense!

And, Super Special Bonus Attraction at the WL Hand-Dug Well Visitors Center, in the back you'll find the World's Largest Pallasite Meteorite, dug out of a field nearby.

From the brochure: An Engineering Marvel of the 1800s.
The story of the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well began in the 1880's when both the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads were laying tracks across the plains of Kansas. A large supply of water was needed for the steam locomotives and for the people of the area. The only dependable source of water was from a well. In 1887, the city granted a franchise for a water works system to cost approximately $45,000, a huge sum of money in those days. But the Rock Island line won the rail laying race and Santa Fe used the water for only a short time. However, the well served as a source of water for the city until 1932.

Construction of the well was a masterpiece of pioneer engineering. Workers were engaged at sun-up and paid at sun-down, fifty cents to a dollar a day. Crews of 12 to 15 farmers, cowboys, and transients working for a stake to go on west, dug the well. The only tools that were used were a shovel, pick, half barrel, pulley, and rope. Other crews quarried and hauled native stone to be used as casing of the well. The stone was brought in wagons from the Medicine River 12 miles south of Greensburg over roads that were little better than cattle trails. Dirt from the well was hauled away by the same wagons which had slatted beds. By opening the slats and dumping the dirt in low spots, streets and roads to the quarry were leveled. An air of excitement surrounded Greensburg as the townspeople looked forward to fire protection and running water to their homes. Visions of a thriving, growing metropolis was incentive for all the hard work that lay ahead.

Harry F. Hall was foreman of the rail company's Bridge and Building Division at that time and was put in charge of the carpentry work necessary for construction of the well. A wide shaft was cribbed and braced every 12 feet with rough two by twelve inch planks that reached from wall to wall in a wagon-wheel type support as the digging progressed.

This was done for the safety of the workers as they shoveled soil into barrels and hoisted the barrels to the surface. The braces were sawed off after the stones were fitted around them. When the desired depth was achieved, numerous lengths of perforated pipe were driven horizontally at the bottom of the wall into the water bearing gravel. This served to increase the flow of water into the well basin.

When the well was completed in 1888, it was 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter. The well was covered and opened as a historic attraction in 1937.

In 1972, the United States Government designated the Big Well as a National Museum and in February of 1974 it was awarded an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association.

Over three million visitors from every state in the nation and many foreign countries have descended the metal stairway into the cavern of the "world's largest hand-dug well."


World's Largest Hand Dug Well Stats

Began 1887, estimated cost $45,000.
109 Feet deep, 32 feet in diameter.

315 South Sycamore,
(3 blocks south of US Hwy 54 on Sycamore St.)
Greensburg Kansas.
Summer: Memorial Day - Labor Day 8am - 8pm
Winter: Mon - Sat 9am - 5pm, Sun 1pm - 5pm


From an online reader, links and information on the REAL World's Largest Hand Dug Well:

I was reading your entry on the "World largest hand-dug well" in Kansas, and since you are the "Worlds Largest Things" site, and hopefully not from Kansas, I have to tell you that you are way, way off. In fact I am glad of this as only 109 feet deep for a well is very disappointing if you ask me.

Here is a real contender for the title, and as it is as deep as the Empire State is tall, I reckon that it probably is the largest too, by a long way , even if it is narrower: Woodingdean Well

On the same theme, I reckon that the good people in Kansas should have done their homework as my birth town (Dover, UK) has a castle built by William the conquerer that has a well that may have existed before the Normon conquest of England (1066AD), that is nearly three times as deep as the one in Kansas at 310' deep. (We used to light rags and drop them down when I was a small boy).

If you are from the USA, I hope that national pride does not stop you from considering these!

Best wishes, Mark


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