Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Ideas for 150th abound

April 6, 2001


There is a common goal among those planning Lawrence's 150th birthday party in 2004: They want to leave a legacy.

Like Centennial Park in 1954, celebration organizers want to complete a major project that would leave its mark on the community for future generations.

What that project might be -- like most sesquicentennial plans -- is undecided. But planners say they have three years to figure that out.

And they're open for suggestions.

"We tend to be today and tomorrow," said Steven Jansen, director of the Watkins Community Museum of History. "Sometimes it's important to use the past and think generationally. It's time for us to think, 'What can we do to make a lasting impression, like those before us have done?'"

In November 1999, the Lawrence City Commission appointed the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission ? which, for pronunciation reasons, many members just call "Lawrence 150." Plans call for special events throughout the year, and an emphasis on Lawrence history during other annual events.

Mary Burchill chairs the Horizons Committee, the group charged with completing a "legacy" project such as Centennial Park. Although the committee remains undecided, one project has emerged as a front-runner ? a combination library and museum, to be housed at the current Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth St., which will move out of the building next spring.

The building could be a center for local historians, genealogists and tourists, Burchill said.

"We see it covering Territorial Kansas, which would lead into Bleeding Kansas ... the Underground Railroad, all of that period of history," she said.

Another project could be a "memorial garden," where people could contribute money for plants and trees in memory of loved ones. One possible space could be city-owned property near Clinton Dam.

Committee members also have discussed a riverfront project with a footbridge connecting Burcham Park with the other side of the Kaw, and a downtown plaza area for gatherings such as the Farmer's Market.

"At 200 years ... they'll look back at 150 and say, 'They did this,' like we do looking back at 100 (years) and say, 'They did Centennial Park,'" Burchill said.

Events and education

Another group, the Festivals Committee, is focusing on events that likely will begin in May 2004, the month when the New England Emigrant Aid Society first settled Lawrence, and culminate in September 2004, the month when the city charter was signed.

There will be a parade, which likely will be held Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004. There also may be a gala concert that night, followed by a family concert that Sunday.

And Ann Evans, who is chairing the committee with Mary Doveton, said local arts groups may commission a new work to commemorate the occasion.

Evans, who is executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said performing arts groups also will be urged to incorporate the 150th birthday into their usual programming during the year.

Other possible events being considered by the Festivals Committee include a temporary sculpture garden and a mural featuring photocopies of early Lawrence residents.

The Education Committee has recommended two projects for helping people learn about Lawrence's history.

The first would be a children's book explaining the town's history, especially during the Civil War era.

The second would be compiling resources for the Internet. Bruce Flanders, committee chairman and director of the Lawrence Public Library, said artifacts such as diaries and letters could be scanned for online viewing.

A place in history

The Heritage Committee, which is charged with planning events of historical significance, has suggested creating heirloom gardens around town highlighting native wildflowers and various periods of history. The committee would like to stress Lawrence's early connections to Massachusetts, from where early settlers came.

Other suggestions include a commemorative stamp, a city band concert and reprinting posters from historical events.

At this point, all of the ideas proposed by planners are just ideas. The problem is that these events will require money ? something the commission doesn't have yet.

"How that comes together is going to determine all of these other things ? the scope of what we can do," said Clenece Hills, chair of the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission.

Stepping up

Treasurer Ron Hurst said he's hoping someone from the community will step forward to lead fund-raising efforts.

He said a mix of donations, sponsors, grants and memorabilia sales could pay for projects. Fund-raising will be easier when the events aren't so far off, Hurst said.

"I think they will get excited after they see some of the projects that may be coming forward," he said. "It's kind of hard to predict."

Jansen, of the Watkins Museum, said the 75th and 100th birthdays of Lawrence ? in 1929 and 1954 ? included pageants and historical displays in downtown windows. He said the 2004 event should build on history while adding a new flair.

"I think we're really trying to gear up for it," he said. "One could argue these things become more important and necessary the larger our community gets."

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