TOPEKA (KSNT)– At 21-years-old, Emily Cowan – a Kansas native – is living through decades of memories thanks to her camera and love for writing.
“It turned into, ‘well, let me think about this on a deeper level of what is the history of this building?’ People had memories here,” Cowan said.
You may have already heard of the website Abandoned Kansas. It’s a non-profit organization that’s brought us pictures of old, abandoned buildings like Menninger’s Clock Tower in Topeka, and most recently, the White Lakes Mall that is now going under demolition. Abandoned KS is ran in part by Cowan.
She was born in Meriden, not too far from Topeka and moved to Oklahoma as a kid but still found the Capital City had a piece of her heart. She joined the Oklahoma branch of the Abandoned Atlas Foundation, traveling across the state with other team members to help preserve history in Oklahoma. It was at this point that she started thinking about her home state when Abandoned KS was formed.
“I had made it a point pretty early on that I wanted to start up a Kansas division,” Cowan said. “I wanted to be able to dive further into my hometown history. Not only that but all over the state. So, thus, abandoned Kansas was born and since then it has given me the most amazing opportunities.”
It has helped bring attention to these historic buildings that may have been forgotten. Sometimes being saved from being knocked down and erased, especially in the case of Menninger.
KSNT News talked to Cowan back in 2020 after she published pictures of the hospital. Conversations were being made to tear the building down. But, with a little bit of help from her camera and other people around the town, it was saved.
“I’ve been able to morph it into something more than just a hobby and be able to create lifelong connections with Topeka city leaders,” Cowan said. “Leaders all over Kansas and Oklahoma.”
Emily Cowan is only 21 and most of the places she’s been to are more than twice her age. But, it’s the preservation, conversations and, most importantly, the memories that make it all worth it.
“You know, I’m learning its history and documenting it,” Cowan said. “Being able to hear from real people, their memories there is just one of the things that drive me to do what I do. Gives me all the fuel I need to do this.”
Cowan is a full-time college student getting ready to graduate.
If you would like to meet Cowan, you have a chance to on March 25. She is coming back home for a book signing at the Round Table Bookstore from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.