The historic Franklin Sidewalk connects two communities in Crawford County, Franklin and Arma, and was built in 1936. After school consolidation, the communities wanted to provide safe pedestrian travel between the two towns. Its history reflects the trends due to changes in jobs, education, and transportation. It is believed to be the longest sidewalk connecting two towns in the United States.
Before the sidewalk was built, Arma was a small town with typical businesses and services. Franklin was smaller than Arma and was hit hard by a decline in the mining industry in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Franklin residents and students relied heavily on the services and schools in Arma. High-speed traffic increased when U.S. 69 was paved as part of two federally funded projects through the Kansas Highway Department in 1922 and 1923.
The Arma Record reported the consolidation of the Franklin and Arma high schools in August 1929. Arma donated the use of its high school building for the consolidated school, which reopened as a branch of the Crawford County Community High School. Of the 270 students enrolled in school that first year, 114 lived outside of the former Arma district boundaries with 54 residing in the former Franklin district. Franklin students had to travel (often by foot) the nearly two miles north to school in Arma.
Several accidents and deaths were reported in the Record as students and others walked along the edge of busy thoroughfares. A small child was hit in March 1928, “as the younger children were going home from school in Franklin, Enid Gardner a six year old girl was almost instantly killed by a motor car,” the Record reported. “Two teachers and several of the children were walking along when the little girl darted out in front of the motor car which caused her death.”
“Work will begin sometime this summer,” the Record reported on May 14, 1936. “This road has always been dangerous because of the many pedestrians who are forced to walk on the pavement when coming to Arma.” The Pittsburg Headlight identified the project contractor as F. H. Freeto. By early November the sidewalk was nearing completion, and was expected to help with the “safety of pedestrians who transact business in Arma.”
The sidewalk spans 9,361.5 feet long (1.7 miles), parallel along the east side of Business U.S. 69, with Arma to the north and Franklin to the south. Included in the project were improvements to ditches and drainage, bridges, and extended culverts, grubbing hedges, grading, surfacing, seeding, and signage. The plans specified a 3-foot wide sidewalk that was 4 to 5 inches thick.
In 1970 a bus route was established between the two communities when the Franklin Elementary School closed, and the students’ use of the sidewalk for daily transportation declined. By this time, most residents had alternative forms of transportation and were not as dependent upon the sidewalk for transportation purposes. In recent years the sidewalk has been used for recreational purposes as a walking path.
The Franklin Sidewalk was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 under Criterion A for its associations with local transportation history. The sidewalk maintains nearly all of its original length except for a small portion about one block long at the southern end that was re-laid when the highway was rerouted.
Entry: Franklin-Arma Sidewalk
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: September 2014
Date Modified: September 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.