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Oldest Bar in Kansas: Hays House, Council Grove

Hays House is the oldest bar in Kansas. Established in 1857 in Council Grove by Seth Hays, Hay’s House has served double duty as both a bar and other things such as a trading post, court house, post office, and even a church on Sundays (the bottles were covered for services).

The outside of Hays House looks pretty much as it did back in 1857, save for a renovated roof made necessary by the fire of 1886.

Seth Hays, the great-grandson of Daniel Boone, had the thirst of adventure in his blood. He was one of the first settlers in the region, setting up a trading post in 1847 to sell goods such as guns, blankets, flour, and tinware to the local Kaw (Kansa) Native Americans. 

Business was good and Hays decided to build what is now known as Hays House in 1857. Council Grove built up around it and did a brisk trade with not only the Kansa but also with settlers on the Santa Fe trade route between Missouri and New Mexico.

Ok, when you get to enter through swinging doors, it just takes your experience up to the next level. And the ladies who greet you on the other side are about the friendliest ones you’ll ever meet.

Hays House narrowly averted disaster in 1886, when a large fire destroyed much of downtown Council Grove. Embers actually few onto the Hays House roof and it started to burn. But the townspeople ran to the rescue and put out the fire and saved their local watering hole. 

That fire served as the impetus for the major renovation that is visible today: the old A-frame roof was replaced by a flat roof and the second story became rooms for let.

Hays House is more than just a bar — it’s a community gathering place. With a history dating back to 1857, it’s a huge part of Council Grove.

Today, Hays House still serves the community well. With a full-service restaurant downstairs and multiple dining rooms upstairs (not to mention a kick-ass deck to survey the town from), Hays House is the place to be in Council Grove. 

This is one of many dining rooms upstairs at Hays House. All of these rooms and the downstairs cellar can be viewed by guests.

If you show up on a fall Saturday like we did, come dressed in purple and be prepared to root hard for your favorite local college football team (K-State, guys). Because the place will be PACKED with diehard Wildcat fans.

Hays House provides a wonderful history on its menu.
Seth Hays was an adventuresome badass and astute businessman. As you can see, Council Grove looked a lot different in 1868… except for Hays House!