Historical Attractions in Topeka

Topeka is not short of things to do for those wanting to learn a little more about the history of the surrounding area which, at various times, has played a pivotal role in the development of the USA as a nation. One of the best places to go and get a flavour of this rich heritage is The Kansas Museum of History located on 6th avenue. Among the museums many award winning attractions are the 1914 Longren biplane (based on the 1911 model, which was the first Kansas made craft to successfully fly), the howitzer cannon belonging to James Burnett (who was a key figure in the fight to make Kansas a free state) and, the centrepiece, the oldest surviving locomotive from the Atchison-Topeka- Santa Fe railway. Children under the age of five can get into the museum for free as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Full price tickets are $8 but there are concessions on offer for senior citizens, students and military personnel. The museum is open from 9am-5pm from Tuesday to Saturday and from 1pm-5pm on Sundays. You can check these details by visiting the museum’s website here. If you want to get an even more immersive experience, you could head to the Old Prairie Town, which, as well as featuring a stunning expanse of botanical gardens, also has a replica of a log cabin from the mid 1880’s complete with a blacksmith’s workshop and a Victorian Prairie Mansion which you’ll find listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’ll give any visitor a great impression of what Topeka would’ve been like as place to live in the early days when the pioneers settled at this advantageous crossing point on the Oregon trail. Guided tours are available for just $4.50 for adults and $2 for children aged between 6 and 12 (those under six get in free). Of course, Topeka is also home to sites that have proved to be of great importance in much more modern history. There are many places throughout the city that were of great importance to the civil rights movement. Chief amongst these would be the Brown V. Board Historical Site which was opened to commemorate the Supreme Court’s decision to end segregation in schools. The site consists of what used to be the Monroe Elementary school, which was established to serve the black population of Topeka when, in the aftermath of the civil war, there was an influx of newly freed slaves to the area. In 1951 a group of parents filed a class action against the City of Topeka’s Board of Education calling for an end...

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A Brief History of Topeka

The capital city of Kansas, Topeka has a rich history as one of the most important areas in the region’s foundation. Formally founded in 1855, the city’s name, as you may have guessed, is of Indian origin, and is believed to have been suggested by Joseph Names, a man whose heritage was rooted in the Kansa tribe (from whom the state, as you may also have deduced, takes its name). Topeka has, from its founding onwards, been steeped in the struggle for personal freedoms. For many people the name is associated with the civil rights movement, thanks to the famous Brown Vs The Board of Education case (more on which later) but even before that Topeka was a central location in the historic battles for equality that run through the history of the USA. It was one of the first ‘free state’ towns in the country and once the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened up the area for settlement, there was an influx of anti-slavery men who wanted to live in a territory where the practice of slave ownership would be illegal. Of course, as slavery was not only ongoing, but vigorously supported elsewhere, those in favour of it also moved into Kansas hoping to sway the tide of opinion in their favour. (The concept of popular sovereignty meant that it would be down to those living in any particular territory, to vote on the issue, with there being no federal law to dictate on the matter.) This conflict between those who were for and those who were against slavery was not left to the ballot box. Indeed, it was the basis for a bloody civil war that earned the state the nickname ‘bleeding Kansas’. The depth of the division between pro-slavery and abolitionist factions in early Kansas cannot be understated. Indeed, at one point, there were two governments vying for legitimacy there. Topeka’s role in all this was as a stronghold for those looking to put an end to slavery and join with the union (the states to the north.) This is why most of the first inhabitants of Topeka were ‘Yankees’ from New England. The ‘Topeka Constitution’, which was drawn up by these men, was declared an act of revolution by its opponents and helped to spark the open violence that ran from 1855-1859. Eventually, the state was admitted to the union in 1861 (it was the 34th). This, of course, was not an end to the conflict. Just three months later the entire nation was thrown into civil war. Once the war had been won, Topeka went from strength to strength. Washburn University was founded, the...

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