WHITEWATER — Darryl Claassen's collection of historic artifacts is continually growing and the Whitewater resident is offering to share it with others by hosting free tours of the Whitewater Photo Museum, Whitewater Jail and dozens of antique walk-behind garden tractors.

The Whitewater Photo Museum is located at 119 S. Main. Claassen hung pictures of Whitewater's early years on its walls and soon donations of other photographs, newspapers, promotional items from local businesses and other historical artifacts started pouring in.

"It contains a lot of stuff, the history of this town," Claassen said. "It was easy to assume that position of historian."

The museum features collections of early law enforcement-related items, fire department equipment, arrowheads, walking sticks and knives.

Whitewater's jail, a cement structure used until the mid-1950s, is located behind the museum's building.

The city of Whitewater purchased the lot on which the jail was to be constructed in 1910.

"There was a date etched on the roof — 1911," Claassen noted. "I took a picture of it, then covered it up."

The concrete of the jail's exterior walls is 12 inches thick, while the inner walls are eight inches thick.

"They just poured as much cement as they could mix up by hand in a day," Claassen said. "It's really a very secure building."

The jail has no plumbing and is not wired for electricity.

"It was meant to be a deterrent, and so it was very crudely built," Claassen said.

Claassen made keys for the exterior metal door and two interior cells, created new door frames and replaced all the building's windows. From an inscription on the end of a bolt, he learned the iron doors and locks of the jail were made by the Pauly Jail Building Company.

The only original furnishing still in place was a fold-down metal bed frame in one cell, which Claassen duplicated for the other cell.

"More than likely, they had a corn husk mattress or, later, a cotton mattress to go over that," Claassen said.

Items typical of the early 1900s were brought in to be displayed in the jail building, including a wood stove, enamelware dishes and a shotgun. A wooden roll-top desk used in the Missouri Pacific Railroad train depot and the Kirkwood Lumber Company was donated by Rex Newcom.

With no early pictures or record of the jail, much of its story is a mystery.

"We've found no newspaper articles about when it was completed, when it was first used, anything like that," Claassen said. "...There were two log books. We know they existed 20 years ago, but we haven't been able to locate them."

Claassen has had no trouble locating walk-behind garden tractors — 25, to be exact.

"Some of them are very unique and unusual," Claassen said.

The collection has models from different manufacturers in varying conditions.

"Some of them are complete restorations ... some have original decals and you don't want to touch those," Claassen said.

Claassen said his interest in history stems from his childhood and his ancestors — he is the great-nephew of Charles Kauffman, founder of the Kauffman Museum in North Newton.

"We just called him Uncle Carl, and we would often spend Sunday afternoons there in the museum. It was just him and our family and he would take us on tours," Claassen recalled. "He would point out things that you didn't usually see in the museum. I have no doubt in my mind... that's what started my interest in history and collections."

That heritage taught Claassen to look beyond what something is to what it could be.

"I see things that other people don't, maybe," Claassen said. "It's just been in my blood for a long time."

To schedule a tour of the Whitewater Photo Museum, Whitewater Jail and Claassen's garden tractors, call 316-558-2896. Groups should be limited to 15 individuals.