Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Topeka site earns historical designation

Former home of Free State Legislature named to Underground Railroad network

May 30, 2001


— A two-building complex in downtown Topeka has gained national recognition for its role to end slavery and the state's role in the Civil War.

The complex, located in the 400 block of Kansas Avenue, was known as the Free State Capitol. It was recently added to the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Sites related to the Underground Railroad are linked through the network highlighting the history of the flight of slaves to the North seeking their freedom.

The history of the complex can be traced to 1856 when it was known as Constitution Hall, home of the Free State Topeka Legislature, which helped bring Kansas into the Union in 1861.

For years, the complex was threatened with demolition, but is finding new life with the national designation.

Margaret Bradshaw, of the Friends of Free State Capitol, submitted the application to bring the buildings into the national program.

"Without Kansas history, you don't have a Civil War story to tell," Bradshaw said.

Park service officials will add the complex to their Web site to heighten attention.

"People all over the country can know about it," said Diane Miller of the park service.

The designation qualifies the Free State Capitol for grants to assist with restoration.

Bradshaw said she hopes Friends of Free State Capitol will be able to refurbish the building and attract tourists to Topeka and Kansas.

She said the Free State Capitol now has the potential help educate the country about Kansas' role in the Civil War.

"It's an important story for all America," Bradshaw said.

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