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Manhattan, Kansas
Riley County Courthouse (2005)
Riley County Courthouse (2005)
Flag of Manhattan, Kansas
The Little Apple, MHK
Location within Riley County and Kansas
Location within Riley County and Kansas
KDOT map of Riley County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
Counties Riley, Pottawatomie
Founded 1855
Incorporated 1857
 • Type Commission-Manager
 • City and County seat 19.91 sq mi (51.56 km2)
 • Land 19.85 sq mi (51.40 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.16 km2)
 • Metro
18.88 sq mi (48.89 km2)
1,024 ft (312 m)
 • City and County seat 54,100
 • Density 2,717/sq mi (1,049.3/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code 785
FIPS code 20-44250
GNIS ID 476378

Manhattan is a city and county seat of Riley County, Kansas, United States, although the city extends into Pottawatomie County. It is located in northeastern Kansas at the junction of the Kansas River and Big Blue River. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 54,100.

The city was founded by settlers from the New England Emigrant Aid Company as a Free-State town in the 1850s, during the Bleeding Kansas era. Nicknamed "The Little Apple" as a play on New York City's "Big Apple", Manhattan is best known as the home of Kansas State University and has a distinct college town atmosphere.


Native American settlement

War dance in the interiour of a Konza lodge
This 1819 illustration of a Kansa lodge at the current location of Manhattan is the oldest drawing known to be made in Kansas

Before settlement by European-Americans in the 1850s, the land where Manhattan sits was home to Native American tribes. Most recently, from 1780 to 1830 it was home to the Kaw people (also known as the Kansa). The Kaw settlement was called Blue Earth Village (Manyinkatuhuudje). It was named after the river the tribe called the Great Blue Earth River – today known as the Big Blue River – which intersected with the Kansas River by their village. Blue Earth Village was the site of a large battle between the Kaw and the Pawnee in 1812.

The Kaw tribe ceded ownership of this land in a treaty signed at the Shawnee Methodist Mission on January 14, 1846.

1854: Polistra and Canton

The Kansas–Nebraska Act opened the territory to settlement by U.S. citizens in 1854. That fall, George S. Park founded the first Euro-American settlement within the borders of the current Manhattan. Park named it Polistra (some histories refer to it as Poliska or Poleska).

Later that same year, Samuel D. Houston and three other pioneers founded Canton, a neighboring community near the mouth of the Big Blue River. Neither Canton nor Polistra ever grew beyond their original founders.

1855: Free-Staters

In March 1855, a group of New England Free-Staters traveled to Kansas Territory under the auspices of the New England Emigrant Aid Company to found a Free-State town. Led by Isaac Goodnow, the first members of the group (with the help of Samuel C. Pomeroy) selected the location of the Polistra and Canton claims for the Aid Company's new settlement. Soon after the New Englanders arrived at the site, in April 1855, they agreed to join Canton and Polistra to make one settlement named Boston. They were soon joined by dozens more New Englanders, including Goodnow's brother-in-law Joseph Denison.

In June 1855, the paddle steamer Hartford, carrying 75 settlers from Ohio, ran aground in the Kansas River near the settlement. The Ohio settlers, who were members of the Cincinnati-Manhattan Company, had been headed twenty miles (32 km) further upstream to the headwaters of the Kansas River, the location today of Junction City. After realizing they were stranded, the Hartford passengers accepted an invitation to join the new town, but insisted that it be renamed Manhattan, which was done on June 29, 1855. Manhattan was incorporated on May 30, 1857.

Early events

Early Manhattan settlers sometimes found themselves in conflict with Native Americans, and the town was threatened by pro-slavery Southerners. Manhattan was staunchly Free-State, and it elected the only two Free-State legislators to the first Territorial Legislature, commonly called the "Bogus Legislature." However, nearby Fort Riley protected the settlement from the major violence visited upon other Free-State towns during the "Bleeding Kansas" era. This allowed the town to develop relatively quickly. On January 30, 1858, Territorial Governor James W. Denver signed an act naming Manhattan as county seat for Riley County. Ten days later, on February 9, 1858, Governor Denver chartered a Methodist college in Manhattan, named Blue Mont Central College.

Blue Mont Central College building, built in 1859

The young city received another boost when gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains in 1859 and Fifty-Niners began to stream through Manhattan on their way to prospect in the mountains. Manhattan was one of the last significant settlements on the route west, and the village's merchants did a brisk business selling supplies to miners. Manhattan's first newspaper,The Kansas Express, began publishing on May 21, 1859.

In 1861, when the State of Kansas entered the Union, Isaac Goodnow, who had been a teacher in Rhode Island, began lobbying the legislature to convert Manhattan's Blue Mont Central College into the state university. The culmination of these efforts came on February 16, 1863, when the Kansas legislature established Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) in Manhattan. When the college began its first session on September 2, 1863, it was the first public college in Kansas, the nation's first land-grant institution created under the Morrill Act, and only the second public institution of higher learning to admit women and men equally in the United States.

By the time the Kansas Pacific Railroad laid its tracks west through Manhattan in 1866, the 11-year-old settlement was permanently ensconced in the tallgrass prairie. Manhattan's population has grown every decade since its founding.

20th century

The town was named an All-American City in 1952, becoming the first city in Kansas to win the award.

21st century

In 2007 CNN and Money magazine rated Manhattan as one of the ten best places in America to retire young. In 2011, Forbes rated Manhattan No. 1 for "Best Small Communities for a Business and Career."


Manhattan's location is 39°11′25″N 96°35′13″W / 39.19028°N 96.58694°W / 39.19028; -96.58694 (39.190142, −96.586818), or about 50 miles (80 km) west of Topeka on the Kansas River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 18.79 square miles (48.67 km2), of which, 18.76 square miles (48.59 km2) is land and 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) is water.

Geographic features

Manhattan is in Kansas' Flint Hills region, which consists of continuous rolling hills covered in tall grasses. However, the downtown area – Manhattan's original site – was built on a broad, flat floodplain at the junction of the Kansas and Big Blue rivers. Manhattan is largest town in the Flint Hills, and is home to the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

Tuttle Creek Reservoir is 5 miles (8 km) north of Manhattan. The lake was formed when the Big Blue River was dammed for flood control in the 1960s, and it is now a state park that offers many recreational opportunities. South of the city is the Konza Prairie, a tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University.


Kansas is not known for earthquake activity, but Manhattan is near the Nemaha Ridge, a long structure bounded by several faults, and which is still active. In particular, the Humboldt Fault Zone lies just 12 miles (19 km) eastward of Tuttle Creek Reservoir.

On April 24, 1867, the 1867 Manhattan earthquake struck Riley County. Measuring 5.1 on the Richter magnitude scale, the earthquake's epicenter was by Manhattan. It remains the strongest earthquake to originate in Kansas. The earthquake had an intensity of VII (Very strong) on the Mercalli intensity scale, and was felt over roughly 193,051 square miles (500,000 km2). It caused largely minor damage, reports of which were confined to Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, according to the United States Geological Survey.

While Kansas is not seismically active, a strong earthquake could pose significant threats to the state. If an earthquake had occurred along the Nemaha Ridge prior to 2010, it could have destroyed the dam on Tuttle Creek Reservoir, releasing 300,000 feet (91,440 m) of water per second and flooding the nearby area, threatening roughly 13,000 people and 5,900 homes. A study in the 1980s found a moderate earthquake "between 5.7 to 6.6 would cause sand underneath the dam to liquefy into quicksand, causing the dam to spread out and the top to drop up to three feet." To address this threat, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a project in July 2010 that replaced the sand with more than 350 concrete walls and equipped the dam with sensors. Alarms are connected to these sensors, which would alert nearby citizens to the earthquake.


Manhattan lies in the transition between the humid continental (Köppen Dfa) and humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) zones, typically experiencing hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 29.1 °F (−1.6 °C) in January to 79.9 °F (26.6 °C) in July. The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 58 days a year and 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 10 days. The minimum temperature falls to or below 0 °F (−18 °C) on an average 5.3 days a year. Extreme temperatures range from 116 °F (47 °C) on August 13, 1936 down to −35 °F (−37 °C) on February 12, 1899.

On average, Manhattan receives 35.7 inches (907 mm) of precipitation annually, a majority of which occurs from May to August, and records 102 days of measurable precipitation. Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 9.6 days per year with 6.1 days receiving at least 1.0 inch (2.5 cm). Snow depth of at least one inch occurs an average of 22 days a year. Typically, the average window for freezing temperatures is October 12 through April 21.

Climate data for Manhattan, Kansas (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 75
Average high °F (°C) 40.7
Average low °F (°C) 17.5
Record low °F (°C) −31
Average precipitation inches (mm) .67
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 5.0 5.6 8.0 10.0 12.5 11.7 9.6 10.1 8.6 8.1 7.1 5.5 101.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.8 2.3 1.0 .1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .7 2.6 9.6
Source: NOAA (extremes 1893–present)


Manhattan 2008 Tornado Damage
The 2008 tornado damaged an industrial area on the west side of Manhattan before hitting the KSU campus

The state of Kansas falls within an area sometimes called Tornado Alley. The most recent tornado in Manhattan touched down at approximately 10:30 pm on June 11, 2008. Thirty-one homes and several businesses were destroyed by the EF4 tornado. Kansas State University's campus incurred about $20 million in damage – a number of university buildings sustained significant damage and the tornado's winds destroyed the Wind Erosion Laboratory's garage. No one was killed.

Previously, the most destructive tornado to hit Manhattan was on June 8, 1966. The 1966 tornado caused $5 million in damage and injured at least 65 people in Manhattan.


Manhattan was built on a floodplain at the junction of the Kansas and Big Blue rivers, and it has faced recurring problems with flooding during times of heavy precipitation. The largest floods in the town's history were the 1903 and 1908 floods, the Great Flood of 1951 and the Great Flood of 1993.


Seven Dolors Catholic Church Manhattan Kansas
Seven Dolors Catholic Church, added to the U.S. Register of Historic Places in 1995
Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 1,173
1880 2,105 79.5%
1890 3,004 42.7%
1900 3,438 14.4%
1910 5,722 66.4%
1920 7,989 39.6%
1930 10,136 26.9%
1940 11,659 15.0%
1950 19,056 63.4%
1960 22,993 20.7%
1970 27,575 19.9%
1980 32,644 18.4%
1990 37,712 15.5%
2000 44,831 18.9%
2010 52,281 16.6%
2020 54,100 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

Manhattan is the principal city of the Manhattan metropolitan area which, as of 2014, had an estimated population of 98,091. It is also the principal city of the Manhattan-Junction City, Kansas Combined Statistical Area which, as of 2014, had an estimated population of 134,804, making it the fourth largest urban area in Kansas.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 52,281 people, 20,008 households, and 9,466 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,786.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,076.0/km2). There were 21,619 housing units at an average density of 1,152.4 per square mile (444.9/km2). The racial makeup was 83.5% Caucasian, 5.5% African American, 0.5% Native American, 5.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.7% from other races, and 3.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.8% of the population.

There were 20,008 households, of which 22.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.0% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.7% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.82.

The population was spread out, with 15.3% of residents under the age of 18; 39.1% between the ages of 18 and 24; 24% from 25 to 44; 14.2% from 45 to 64; and 7.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23.8 years. The gender makeup of the city was 50.9% male and 49.1% female.

Sites of interest

Manhattan is the site of Kansas State University sporting events, Aggieville, performing arts, lecture series and the annual Country Stampede Music Festival – the largest music festival in Kansas.

Bill Snyder Family Stadium WSC wide
Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan seats 50,000 spectators

The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art[1] and the Kansas State University Gardens are on the campus of Kansas State University. Next to campus is Aggieville, a shopping and retail center with enough bars to satisfy the college crowd.

Manhattan's Sunset Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Colbert Hills Golf Course, which is annually ranked by Golf Digest among the best in the state, is home to the Earl Woods National Youth Golf Academy and a host site for The First Tee program. Manhattan is also the birthplace of Damon Runyon, the "Inventor of Broadway," and his Manhattan house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The buildings which house The Flint Hills Job Corps Training Center west of the city were once used as a nursing home and orphanage operated by the Fraternal Order of Odd Fellows.

The first capitol of the Kansas Territory is preserved nearby, on Fort Riley grounds. The Fort Riley military base covers 100,656 acres (407.34 km2) between Manhattan and Junction City, KS. Since 2006 it has, once again, become home to the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division of the United States.

As the largest municipality in the Flint Hills region, Manhattan is host to the Flint Hills Discovery Center, a heritage and science center dedicated to the education and preservation of the Flint Hills and the remaining tall grass prairie.



Culture in the city of Manhattan is impacted by Kansas State University students. The city is normally full of activity while school is in session. Due to the city's vitality, the city was rated by CNN Money as one of the top ten places to retire young. There are a number of cultural hot spots around the city.

  • Aggieville – Aggieville is the hub of Manhattan's nightlife. Due to its large number of bars and shops, the district is frequented by college students and citizens alike. Aggieville's bars play host to numerous bands on a nightly basis. Nearby, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the K-State campus is home to the university's permanent art collection and traveling art exhibits. Entry to the museum is free of charge. Kansas State's McCain Auditorium, which draws major performances and tours from across the globe, is also near Aggieville.
  • Downtown – Downtown Manhattan, and the Manhattan Town Center Mall, is an anchor for shopping and entertainment in the eastern portions of Manhattan. Art galleries, fine dining options, and shopping are all major daytime draws to the area. The Manhattan Town Center Mall was built in the late 1980s on downtown's east edge.
  • Kansas State Sports – Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium, Bramlage Coliseum, and other sports venues relating to the university host events every week in their respective sports seasons, drawing fans from across the country. The facilities are also used for lectures, concerts, and other non-sporting events.
  • Fake Patty's Day – Every Year, usually a week or two before St. Patrick's Day, Aggieville becomes a scene of festivity, celebrating 'Fake Patty's Day'. The event has been around for many years, and was adopted by the licensed venues of Aggieville to avoid missing out on revenue garnered from St. Patrick's Day, which usually falls on the weekend before or during spring break.
  • There are also other events and conventions held every year, such as Juneteenth Celebration, the Country Stampede Music Festival and the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave.


In 2009, the Manhattan, Kansas, metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked as the fifth highest in the United States for percentage of commuters who walked to work (8.5 percent).


Manhattan Regional Airport New Terminal
Manhattan Regional Airport New Terminal (2021)

Manhattan Regional Airport (MHK) is located 4 kilometres (2 mi) west of Manhattan on K-18, and is the second busiest commercial airport in Kansas. The airport is served by American Airlines subsidiary American Eagle, which offers multiple flights daily to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as well as handling general aviation and charter flights. The nearest larger commercial airports are in Kansas City (MCI) and Wichita, Kansas (ICT).


Manhattan Kansas Union Pacific station
The former Union Pacific passenger depot has been repurposed as an event space

Domestic passenger rail service to Manhattan began on August 20, 1866, on the Kansas Pacific Railroad line. A mainline of the Union Pacific Railroad still passes through the city, but all passenger service to Manhattan was discontinued after the Amtrak takeover of passenger rail in 1971.

The Rock Island Railroad also formerly served Manhattan as a stop on Rock Island's Kansas City–Colorado Springs Rocky Mountain Rocket service. The Rock Island depot was located between Fifth and Sixth streets, along former El Paso Street (now Fort Riley Boulevard). The former railroad right-of-way was converted to Manhattan's main southern east-west arterial road, Fort Riley Boulevard, as well as a rail-trail, linear park up the Wildcat Creek valley through Manhattan's west side.

Intercity bus service

Intercity bus service, previously provided by Greyhound Lines and KCI Roadrunner, was discontinued years ago. However, Arrow Stage Line operates charter service out of local facilities on McCall Road.

Public transportation

Within the City of Manhattan, limited mass-transit is provided by Riley County's subsidized paratransit service, ATA Bus. ATA Bus recently started its first set-route bus route in Manhattan connecting an apartment complex and an office campus, and is currently working with the city to develop a feasible mass-transit system. ATA uses four small buses and a number of minivans in its fleet. Five twenty-passenger transit buses have been purchased for fixed-route service and the agency is awaiting operational funding from Kansas State University and the City.

Historically, the city operated a streetcar system from 1909 to 1928. The trolley tracks were torn up and replaced by bus service in 1928, which was later also discontinued.


Manhattan is served by several highways:

  • I-70 / US-40 runs about 9 miles (14 km) south of Manhattan. Three exits have a direct connection to Manhattan.
    • Exit 313 – K-177
    • Exit 307 – McDowell Creek Road
    • Exit 303 – K-18
  • US-24 runs through Manhattan. East on 24 is Wamego, west is Clay Center. US-24 comes in from Clay Center, runs north of the city, turns into a four-lane highway near Tuttle Creek State Park and travels south into the city as Tuttle Creek Boulevard until an intersection with East Poyntz Avenue, and then turns northeast towards Wamego.
  • K-177 runs north from I-70 as Bill Snyder Highway until the Kansas River viaduct. A half-leaf interchange with K-18 (Tuttle Creek Blvd. and Ft. Riley Blvd.) and officially ends at the intersection with U.S. Route 24 in Manhattan.
  • K-18 is a major connector in Manhattan. It begins about 18 miles (29 km) east of Manhattan, at K-99. It runs through Wabaunsee and Zeandale to K-177, crosses to Kansas River, and runs west toward the Manhattan Regional Airport and Ogden. It then travels south to I-70 as a major gateway to Manhattan.
  • K-113 (Seth Child Road) runs from K-18 in southern Manhattan to US-24, passing through the western areas of the City.

Historically, Manhattan was located on the national Victory Highway, one of the original 1920s auto trails. With the creation of the numbered federal highway system in 1926, the highway became U.S. Route 40. From 1926 to 1935, Route 40 diverged west out of Manhattan into "40N" and "40S" routes; the two routes met again in Limon, Colorado.

In the 1950s, Route 40 was rerouted nine miles south of Manhattan, due to security concerns that originally arose during World War II about the highway passing through neighboring Fort Riley. The new route followed a more direct line between Topeka and Junction City, and in 1956 it was designated as Interstate 70.

Twin towns/sister cities

  • Czech Republic Dobřichovice, Czech Republic (2006).
    In August 2004, the Manhattan City Commission established an advisory committee to explore and foster a formal partnership with an international city. In 2005, following a lengthy planning effort guided by Dr. Joseph Barton-Dobenin, a Czech native and now-retired professor at Kansas State University, then-Commissioner Ed Klimek visited Dobřichovice to initiate a partnership with that city. After Klimek's visit, Dobřichovice community leaders visited Manhattan to continue the effort towards establishing the formal relationship. In 2006, the Committee recommended, and the City Commission chose, the City of Dobřichovice as its partner city, and in April, then-Mayor Ed Klimek signed a Partner Cities Agreement to formally make the two cities partner cities.


Manhattan's economy is heavily based on public entities. Kansas State University is the largest employer in town, and its approximately 24,000 students help support the retail and entertainment venues in the city. The second-largest employer in Manhattan is the city school district. Additionally, many civilians and military personnel employed at nearby Fort Riley also live in Manhattan and support its economy, including more than 3,500 civilian Fort Riley employees. Finally, most of the 150 employees in the Kansas Department of Agriculture work in a new office building in Manhattan, next to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF).

Large private sector employers in Manhattan include the Via Christi Hospitals, CivicPlus, and Farm Bureau. Manhattan also features a small industrial base. Manufacturing and commercial businesses include: GTM Sportswear, Florence Corporation, Manko Windows, Parker Hannifin, the McCall Pattern Company, Ultra Electronics-ICE, and Farrar Corporation.

The Steel & Pipe Supply Co. began in Manhattan in 1933, and it maintains its corporate headquarters in the city although it has moved its fabrication and distribution to other locations.

Future growth

In 2009, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced that it would locate the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan. The NBAF is scheduled to open in 2022, and will be a federal lab to research biological threats involving human, zoonotic (i.e., transmitted from animals to humans) and foreign animal diseases. It is expected to employ between 250 and 350 people, including researchers, technical support and operations specialists.

Historic businesses

Manhattan's Tallgrass Brewing Co was the largest brewery in Kansas until it ceased operations in 2018. The former Dickinson Theatres chain began in Manhattan in 1920, and grew to operate in seven states before it was purchased in 2014.


Colleges and universities

KSU Campus
Northern KSU campus in fall (2005)
Bill Snyder Family Stadium WSC wide
Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium seats 50,000 spectators

Kansas State University is the largest employer and educational institution in the city of Manhattan with nearly 24,000 students. KSU is home to Wildcat sports and to nationally recognized academics. It has ranked first nationally among state universities in its total of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Udall scholars since 1986.

Manhattan is home to Manhattan Christian College, Manhattan Area Technical College, the American Institute of Baking, The Flint Hills Job Corps Training Center, and the Kansas Building Science Institute.

Primary and secondary education

Manhattan is served by Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 public school district and has one public high school with two campuses (Manhattan High School), two middle schools (Susan B. Anthony and Dwight D. Eisenhower), and eight elementary schools (Amanda Arnold, Frank V. Bergman, Bluemont, Lee, Marlatt, Northview, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson). The city also has two private school systems: Flint Hills Christian School (Preschool – 12th grade) and the Manhattan Catholic Schools. Manhattan Catholic School contains two buildings, the grade school building (K-5)and the Luckey Jr. High building (6–8), formerly called the Luckey high building dedicated to Monsignor Luckey. The school's mascot is "Luckey the Cardinal".

Notable people

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Manhattan (Kansas) para niños

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