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Archive for Wednesday, November 18, 1992

HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKING PLANS FOR FUTURE OF CONSTITUTION HALL

November 18, 1992

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— Kansas State Historical Society officials say money is available to complete renovation of Lecompton's historic Constitution Hall, and they hope to see the community take an active role in planning the interpretive center to be housed there.

Ramon Powers, historical society executive director, said the association has allocated $108,000 from the capital outlay fund and an additional $80,000 was collected from lottery revenue earmarked for economic development. He said the money will fund exterior work, such as new siding, roof repairs and reconstruction of a stairway.

"There will also be quite a bit of work on the interior to make it look like it did in the 1800s," Powers said.

The first phase of the project was wrapped up in the spring of 1991. Dan Rockhill and Sons, Lecompton, constructed a basement, reassembled the original rock foundation and regraded the site to shift drainage away from the building. Powers said the historical society hopes to finish most of the renovation by next summer.

UPON COMPLETION, the building will be used as a resource center for interpreting the Kansas territorial period. Constitution Hall, first constructed in 1856, is the site of the state's first territorial capital, where the Lecompton Constitution was written. The document would have made Kansas a slave state when admitted to the Union.

Powers said the state hopes to solicit assistance from the Lecompton community when developing the interpretive center, something that should be under way during the next few months.

"When you have a historic site, you have to decide what story you will tell and how will you do it," he said. "A team from the historical society will contact people in the community to get input into the story and how they view the historic site in their town. The community needs to have some role in it."

A group of Kansas University architecture students has completed a series of detailed drawings of the building as it looks now to be used as a basis for the development plans, he said. And the historical society intends to hire an architect soon to design the specifications.

IN ADDITION to seeking community input during the interpretive center's development, the state will encourage residents to continue to support the facility in the future by volunteering time or expertise. Powers said the historical society is considering scaling back the number of sites it maintains and will urge communities across the state to take on more responsibility for the sites.

For example, the interpretive center at Constitution Hall will need docents to lead programs and other volunteers to help operate the center, he said.

"There are going to be limited resources and we need to be careful about spreading ourselves too thin," Powers said. "In the future, we'll be looking for greater community support for these sites, maybe partnerships with the communities."

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