90 years later, ‘Manhattan Hill’ prepares for accessible updates

Bluemont Hill provides a panoramic view of the city. The area features a parking lot and multiple picnic tables. (Madison Jahnke | Collegian Media Group)

In addition to cooler weather and more colorful leaves, this fall will also bring change to Bluemont Hill.

Almost a century after building the iconic Manhattan lettering on the face of Bluemont Hill, which is commonly known as Manhattan Hill, the Manhattan Kiwanis Club is preparing to update the scenic overlook with the Bluemont Hill Outlook Project.

“It’s rocky, it’s treacherous,” said Kitty Pursley, secretary of the Manhattan Kiwanis Club. “If you have any sort of disability, you really can’t enjoy it at all, and it’s a beautiful sight looking over the town.”

In solution, Kiwanis members designed a $70,000 handicap accessible viewing platform to rest above the current outlook. Pursley said construction is expected to start in the fall and take 60 to 90 days to complete, finishing before the end of 2018. The outlook will still be open to the public during construction.

The Delta Upsilon fraternity refreshes the Bluemont Hill letters circa 1967. Photo courtesy of the Riley County Historical Society and Museum.

Pursley said the project may bring more people to enjoy the “underutilized” outlook and trails above Manhattan, leading to future projects with the Manhattan Parks and Recreation in the area including a children’s park and, possibly, improved facilities.

“Right now, that’s just in discussion stage, but we have discussed the more utilization that gets, we’ll want to make it nicer,” Pursley said.

In the past year, the Manhattan Kiwanis Club has raised $42,000 to support the project. As fundraising continues, the club plans to paint the letters on the hill purple to reflect the level of funding.

The club built the sign in 1927 and has maintained the sign over the last 91 years. The project is a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Kiwanis International.

“Our mission is saving the world one community and one child at a time, and the quality of life issues matter so much in a community,” Pursley said. “By making this a family type thing for handicapped accessible, pregnant mothers, strollers, that type of thing — it’s not something that will benefit just one group. It will benefit everybody.”

Hey, hi, hello! I’m Rachel Hogan, the copy chief for The Collegian. I’m a senior in journalism from Olathe, Kansas. When I’m not at work in the newsroom, I like to spend my time cuddling with my dog, working as a barista and laughing with my friends.