Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Changes at KU, Haskell influenced city’s past

Mount Oread’s effect on Lawrence stretches beyond economy

April 6, 2001


A frequently asked question is: Where did the title of Mount Oread come from in reference to Kansas University?

Originally, the "mount" was described as a ridge several miles long, between the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers. The rising land ("far above the golden valley") had one of the Oregon Trail branches crossing it as early as 1849.

The naming of the higher elevation, something like 800 feet above sea level, originated in 1854 with a group of New Englanders, founding settlers, who camped on the ridge. They thought it resembled the commanding site of the Oread Institute in their own home town in distant Massachusetts, thus the name Mount Oread, now nearly 150 years in use.

For decades, the Kansas University medical school location in Kansas City was often referred to as Bell Memorial Hospital. What was the source of such a label?

A KU School of Medicine was founded in 1899, 33 years after the opening of the university in Lawrence. The curriculum was expanded to four years in 1905 when Dr. Simeon Bell gave the university land for a campus in Kansas City, Kan. A larger site was presented to the university in 1920.

The Kansas Legislature provided funds to build the core of the modern KU Medical Center in 1924 and added to it in 1929. But for many years, the hospital was referred to as Bell Memorial and that name identity still dominates many a discussion of the facility by "old-timers."

"The Campanile" is one of the Kansas University landmarks with worldwide recognition. What is the background for the bell tower that stands in arguably the most scenic locale on the campus?

The Memorial Campanile, along with Memorial Drive on the north slope of Mount Oread, was constructed in 1951 in tribute to the 8,000 KU men and women who served in World War II. It is designed to honor the 277 Jayhawks who are known to have lost their lives in the conflict.

Concerts are played regularly by a carilloneur on the 54-bell carillon in the tower and in the recent past there was substantial revision and renovation of the bells and their equipment.

The site has become famous as the passageway at commencement-time for people "walking down the Hill" into Memorial Stadium for ceremonies honoring their efforts to earn various degrees and academic plaudits.

There currently are about 27,000 students on the Kansas University campus during a fall semester. How does that figure compare to enrollments of earlier days?

KU, the first state university of "The Great Plains," listed 55 students, 29 men and 25 women, when it opened on Sept. 12, 1866. There were three professors, a lecturer on hygiene and a janitor employed by the school.

KU enrollment was listed at 105 when Gen. John Fraser became "president of the faculty" in 1867. When he left in 1874, there were 259 students and a second building (North College was the first; Old Fraser Hall the second, completed in 1872).

In 1883, the university had a third building for its 582 students. It was tiny Chemistry Hall, which over the years included tutelage for medicine, journalism (The Shack) and anatomy. By 1894, the faculty numbered 45 and the student total was nearly 1,000.

Enrollment officially passed 1,000 in 1896, 2,000 in 1910, 3,000 in 1918 and 4,000 in 1925. In 1930, there was a peak of 4,301 and that would not be topped until the nation began to pull itself beyond The Great Depression in 1936.

Enrollment figures were boosted during World War II by the establishment of armed forces programs on the campus, making "4,000 or so" a common student total listing. Veterans returning from wartime service pushed KU enrollment close to 10,000 in the late 1940s. As they began to complete their work and depart, the figure at one time dropped back to 6,512. By 1960, however, enrollment set a record of 10,036. The student population has steadily grown to the current figure of about 27,000 in Lawrence and up to 2,000 at the medical center in Kansas City. There also are Wichita and Johnson County programs of considerable stature.

Many are familiar with Snow Hall on the Kansas University campus, and thousands have taken courses in that venue through the years. Few are aware that the hall is named after Francis Huntington Snow, whom some consider the leader who first caused KU to become a university in fact rather than just in name.

During Snow's tenure as chancellor from 1890 to 1901, he pioneered reorganization. He created the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the graduate school and the schools of engineering, law, fine arts and pharmacy. Another new addition during Snow's tenure was intercollegiate football. KU lost to Baker University, 22-9, in that first game. The first athletics field was built in 1891 during Snow's watch.

Other changes quickly followed. The KU Endowment Association, one of the oldest that supports a public university, was founded in 1891. Construction on Spooner Library, named for businessman William Spooner who donated the money, was completed in 1894. The physics building, later named Blake Hall, opened in 1895.

In 1898, basketball inventor James Naismith was hired at KU to become coach and physical education leader. A new electrical and heating plant opened in 1898, and in 1900 a new chemistry building opened its doors.

Some historians say Snow had become "worn out" by 1900. Depressed by the death of a son, he took a leave of absence that year. Then he extended that into 1901 and tendered his resignation.

Frank Strong had eagerly sought the KU chancellorship and left the University of Oregon presidency in 1902 to come to Kansas. KU continued to grow under the leadership of Strong, whose "hall" is the noted administration building of today.

Lawrence and Manhattan in Kansas are two classic examples of communities where educational institutions have contributed greatly to their economic, social, cultural and political development. Imagine, for example, what kind of a city Manhattan might be today without the presence of Kansas State University and all things the school brings there, above and beyond mere heightened population figures and economic input. KU Chancellor Snow was instrumental in the school's early growth and major development.

Think, too, what modern Lawrence might be like, sandwiched between Kansas City and Topeka, without the massive input Kansas University has made since its opening in 1866.

In 1967, there was considerable local pride after an announcement that Lawrence would become the site of the tallest building in the state of Kansas and one of the tallest buildings in any college setting in America. What were the circumstances and whatever happened to that lofty dream?

The quick answer lies in the saga of Wescoe Hall, which some purists still consider the ugliest building on the Kansas University campus, (although there are some who now are inclined to shift that label to the Lied Center and Bales Organ Recital Hall complex).

Flash back to a Journal-World story on Nov. 20, 1967: "Kansas University officials this morning revealed plans for a $5.8 million, 25-story humanities building which will be the tallest structure in the state and one of the tallest buildings on any United States college campus.

"The building, to be located across Jayhawk Boulevard from Strong Hall, will add 51 classrooms and 11 undergraduate study rooms in two five-story wings. It also will have 487 faculty offices and 28 graduate seminar rooms plus 71 study rooms in a tower which will be 80 feet square and will extend from street level to its 25-story height. It will have 275,000 square feet and will contain about twice the floor space available in Strong Hall, the administration building."

At the time, there was nothing in the state, including in Wichita, which stood as high as the proposed humanities building here.

Nationally, the University of Pittsburgh, Pa., had its 42-story Tower of Learning and the Texas University administration building had 29 stories. For comparison, the famed Empire State Building in New York City boasted 102 floors.

Proponents of the KU "tower of power" stressed that the structure "will preserve and enhance the beauty of the hilltop campus." There was to be a "look-through" capability in the lower stretches of the new building. But even at a time when historical preservation was not a strong movement, there were immediate critics of the pending KU structure. Many had seen how KU had replaced scenic Old Fraser Hall with an unpopular edifice with "midget towers" and were skeptical.

Substance, however, overcame form and it turned out "preservationists" need not have worried about the height, at least.

The controversial four-story modern Wescoe Hall is the result of the maneuvering and practicality of more than 30 years ago. The name on the building is that of former KU Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe, who served from 1960 to 1969 and left to head Sterling Drug. Wescoe had been dean of the KU Medical School in Kansas City, Kan., before succeeding Dr. Franklin Murphy as chancellor. Murphy, too, came here after service as dean of KU Med.

Originally, the 25-story KU skyscraper was to cost $5.8 million. It soon became obvious such an estimate was at least $1.5 million too low. So on March 27, 1968, KU officials announced the tallest part of the "Wescoe" building not finished and dedicated until 1973 and 1974 would have only 15 stories due to cost problems. Bids for the shorter structure were received in August 1968 and were still too high in the eyes of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Eventually, another 10 stories were chopped off the hall on the site of the more scenic old Robinson Gymnasium and Haworth Hall buildings, which had been razed.

By the summer of 1969, a new set of architects had designed a four-story building with a small tower and parking on the lower levels. The tower was eliminated but even then the cost was estimated at $8 million and KU said it had only $6 million to spend.

The university tried to get students to help. The Student Senate in February 1970 approved a $7.50 per semester fee. Students were enraged, however, and voted 2-1 against paying it. Such a vote was nonbinding and beginning in the fall of 1972, a $2.50 fee was assessed on students. It was eliminated in 1982 but helped open the door to the establishment of Wescoe Hall.

It has become for many young people the location for "Wescoe Beach," where so many gather so often for so many things. But Wescoe remains unpopular for many reasons.

The current Wescoe Hall was built for an announced $7.8 million and its four floors and other venues have had many uses. There is frequent criticism by faculty and students about the problems the facility poses for them, not the least of which is its appearance. And there is crowding that is troublesome.

As for the Mount Oread skyscraper dreams of those 1967 Wescoe Hall proponents, it almost certainly never will become reality. "Anything beyond six stories, if even that high, seems out of the question forever," said one weary campus official after Wescoe Hall was opened in 1973 and formally dedicated in its namesake's honor in 1974.

Why were so many Kansans upset when the old Robinson Gym on the Kansas University campus was razed, along with equally nostalgic Haworth Hall, and their site was surrendered to the presence of controversial Wescoe Hall? And what was the relationship and interaction between James Naismith and Forrest "Phog" Allen?

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball, had orchestrated the construction of Robinson Gym which was designed to appear like the Springfield, Mass., YMCA where Naismith brought basketball into being.

The Robinson facility was an outstanding facility for its day: There were 1,500 lockers, a swimming pool and 3,000 seats for spectators.

Robinson Gym was dedicated in December 1907, a time which also marked the debut of Forrest C. "Phog" Allen as KU's head basketball coach. In Allen's first game, the Jayhawks posted a 66-22 victory over Ottawa University and Allen inaugurated a 39-year KU coaching career that saw him retire as an athletic icon.

Naismith, however, felt basketball should be played rather than coached and never had much affection for his basketball brainchild. He coached at KU for nine seasons through 1907. With a 55-60 record, he is the only KU coach ever to leave the job with a losing record.

Naismith was more interested in physical education and spiritual guidance of young people and sometimes didn't even take road trips with his teams. At other times, he would referee for KU road games when there wasn't sufficient officiating personnel. He never regarded himself as a coach even though he and Phog Allen remained close and often discussed the game. Basketball had been played at Kansas University prior to Naismith's arrival but only by women. The inventor's first coaching victory at KU came on Feb. 10, 1899, when KU walloped a visiting Topeka YMCA team.

After Naismith moved Allen into the coaching job in 1907, he turned his attention to physical education and helping youngsters in religious pursuits for the next 30 years. He retired from KU in 1937 and died in 1939.

Over the years, Naismith often was cast in the shadow of the gregarious and highly successful Phog Allen, a genius at maintaining a high profile. But Naismith is buried in Lawrence's Memorial Park Cemetery and the court in KU's fabled Allen Fieldhouse now bears his name.

Kansas University's Allen Fieldhouse is known far and wide nowadays as a scintillating basketball venue. But the fieldhouse has been in such a storied role only since its dedication in 1955. Where else have the Jayhawks played home games through the years?

Coach James Naismith had his teams playing in the old Snow Hall basement from 1898-1906, in a roller skating rink at 807 Ky. from 1898-1901 and in the Lawrence YMCA at 937 Mass. from 1898-1902.

In 1907, Kansas moved into then-impressive Robinson Gym, which had a capacity of 3,000. Later, KU practiced in Robinson Gym and played home games in Hoch Auditorium with its hardwood floor set on concrete. Under Phog Allen, KU seldom practiced at Old Hoch due to the unforgiving floor and the danger of injuries. Visiting teams also hated Hoch, which later was put out of commission by a fire some years after KU had shifted its basketball to Allen Fieldhouse.

Many visitors to the Kansas University campus are quite taken by the impressive bronze statue of Moses kneeling before a spectacular stained glass window signifying the "burning bush" of biblical legend. Smith Hall, across from the main Kansas Union building, is the site for the statue and window which remain so popular with so many. How long has a "religious" location of this nature been in operation at KU?

According to "The Bible on Mt. Oread" by William J. Moore and Dwight Metzler, the Kansas Bible Chair was established in Lawrence and its work begun by Mr. and Mrs. Wallace C. Payne in 1901.

It was the result of interest by the Kansas Christian Woman's Board of Missions, which at a state convention in 1899 focused on teaching and religious education, especially the study of the Bible at Kansas University.

In 1901, a farm house at 13th Street and Oread Avenue was purchased from the Rush family to house the Bible Chair. KU registrar George O. Foster was influential in selecting and purchasing the property.

In May 1907, Myers Hall was dedicated, and in 1913, Myers Hall had been expanded to include a library and 500-seat assembly room. A special class was started for black students and black professionals.

The Kansas School of Religion began to function in 1921 with Dr. Arthur Braden as dean. In 1922, KU approved Kansas School of Religion courses and allowed three credit hours toward graduation.

The Kansas Bible College was organized in 1928 as an expansion of the Kansas Bible Chair. Financial and administrative problems occurred from time to time but people such as Dr. Harold G. Barr were instrumental in keeping the operation alive. In 1947, Barr was chosen dean. By 1950, only one state university in the Big Eight Conference family enrolled more students in religion courses than did KU.

In 1966, a contract was granted for a new building, to be named Smith Hall, and the Kansas School of Religion began a graduate program. Students numbered 915. The new building was dedicated in October 1967. Harold Barr had retired in 1960 and Dr. Will J. Moore came in as the new director of the Kansas Bible Chair and dean of the Kansas School of Religion. In 1961, church leaders agreed to support an expanded program for the Kansas School of Religion. The local Jewish community began regular participation and plans were made to raise funds to replace aging Myers Hall. Myers was dedicated in 1907 and expanded in 1912, but no longer could meet the needs of the operation.

Moore retired in June of 1970 and Lynn Taylor was named the new dean. There eventually were controversies over the use of Kansas Bible Chair funds and the maintenance of Smith Hall. By 1973 the executive committee of the Christian Church in Kansas was designated the Kansas Bible Chair Board of Trustees. Eventually the entity became known as the department of religious studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In 1978, the library was named in honor of Moore and wide interest in that event was used to "stir the pot" to promote the Moses sculpture by Professor Elden C. Tefft, a noted KU artist. Tefft had formed a plaster cast of the completed work.

When the cast was to be moved, a wall had to be knocked out to accommodate it. Because of the site, the figure of Moses had to be poured in sections, the last section being poured the night before the dedication. The bronze was allowed to cool and after the dedication, Moore and Tefft led a group in an examination of the plaster cast and in breaking the mold from the still-hot bronze section of Moses.

The familiar great seal of Kansas University depicts Moses at the burning bush with a Latin inscription that means "I will see this great sight, why the bush is not burned."

The stained glass "Burning Bush" window had been installed at the time of Smith Hall's construction and was a memorial to Pastor Lemuel E. Laybourn and his wife, Susan, who had served churches in Kansas.

The widely admired Moses statue, of filigreed bronze and about 10 feet tall, was donated by Mrs. Corinne Woten Miller of Tonganoxie. She had planned it as a memorial to her husband, Charles Edward Miller, but when she died a year before its completion, it was dedicated to the couple.

The location for the statue had been chosen when plans were prepared for Smith Hall 17 years earlier.

Before Smith Hall was built, test borings were made to assure a firm foundation, but no test was made of the designated place for the Moses statue's foundation. This was done, fortunately, in time to locate a covered-over cistern which could have led to a collapse of the statue into a gap in the ground. As it was, the statue was firmly set on a 15-foot shaft of concrete resting on the cistern bottom.

On May 12, 1982, the statue was dedicated and Chancellor Gene Budig expressed pleasure that this particular depiction of the university seal stood at such a significant place. But all was not sweetness and light.

The Moore-Metzler book notes: "For the KBC (Kansas Bible College) this was a bittersweet occasion. The long-pursued goal for the completion of Smith Hall with the sculpture had been achieved. However, the program and the remarks of the Kansas School of Religion (KSR) representatives at the dedication seemed to give the impression that Smith Hall and the Moses sculpture was a contribution of the KSR. The program listed "capital building expenses of Smith Hall" as funded by the school in 1981-82. This continuing effort of the KSR to claim something not its own merely confirmed recommendations of the April 1972 commission and it signaled difficult days ahead for ecumenical cooperation in the teaching of religion at Kansas University."

Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence was named after what public official?

In 1880, incumbent U.S. Rep. Dudley Haskell of Douglas County returned to Congress for a third term and became chairman of the Committee of Indian Affairs.

He also held a high-level spot on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Haskell began to work for establishment of an Indian school in the community and called on local people to help. The Lawrence citizenry raised $10,000 and offered 280 acres of land for the school in the summer of 1882. Lawrence was designated as the location in December 1882 and the school, with modest facilities, opened in September 1884 with an enrollment of 24.

After a long series of changes from grade school to high school to junior college to the current four-year university status, Haskell now has an enrollment of about 1,000 students with American Indian heritages.

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