History on the Hill
On a gentle hill, just slightly west of Abilene on a winding curve of old U.S. 40, stands a small grove of skyward pines. Their roots sink deep into the hill made famous, almost legendary, by one women, one determined woman, named Lena.
Although Lena made her life's work out of her restaurant on the hill, her plan at the early age of 16 was far from that. At that tender age, and considered to be much of a tomboy, she longed to be a physical education instructor. But as fate would have it, on a weekend outing to Kansas City, she found herself believing the words of a fortune teller, who told her she should be in a place selling "foodstuffs" to the public. A kitchen was the last place she wanted to find herself, but soon she was there.
First there were other ventures, all in different locations, but again as fate would have it, one day in a restaurant just on up this very curve of old 40, Lena was in the process of tarring a roof when her hair caught fire and she found herself trapped. She jumped out a window and screen to safety only to turn and look up to the farmhouse on the hill. It is said at that moment she knew where her destiny lay. So, as history goes, she bought the house on the hill, and on Friday the 13th, 1939, she opened her farmhouse with a stag party for 100 men and "foodstuffs" were served from that day on, until 1974 when she closed for retirement. Lena fed tourists from coast to coast, high ranking White House officials, secret service men, foreign diplomats, governors, and Abilene's Favorite Son, President Dwight David Eisenhower.
Although many a story has circulated about this place, none are more fascinating or humorous than the one which occurred when, in 1965, President Eisenhower came face to face with a long honored tradition at Lena's.
It was the day the 34th President became "just an ordinary Abilene citizen." While dining at Lena's he watched a first world series game on television with friends and received an early 75th birthday paddling from Lena and one of her trademark paddles, which was signed and hung on a wall for all to see.
The history books will always spin the tales of Abilene's more famous citizens, such as U.S. Marshals Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, Tom Smith and even the humble beginnings of Dwight D. Eisenhower through war time heroics and political fortunes. But there shall always be a place reserved for one determined woman named Lena and her "farmhouse on the hill."
In the fall of 1994, with Lena in failing health and wanting to sell her life's work, fate would find Ed and June Kuntz, longtime restaurateurs in Abilene. While driving to Salina one day on old U.S. 40, they would spot a "For Sale" sign on the property. By January of 1995, Ed and June purchased the tract known as Lena's. Shortly thereafter Lena passed away. But through Lena's sister Nellie, Nellie's daughter Beverly and husband Al, and along with lifetime employee and friend Walter, they were able to bring back to life the "Farmhouse on the Hill," after nearly 20 years of dormancy.