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Archive for Friday, March 19, 2004

Exhibit to celebrate history

March 19, 2004

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Ernie Fantini is adamant that Lawrence is every bit as important in Civil War history as Gettysburg.

"This is where the first battles were fought," Fantini said. "People came here specifically to make this a free state."

On Sunday the Murphy-Bromelsick House in Hobbs Park will celebrate Lawrence's rich history by playing host to an exhibition to highlight historical figures of the Bleeding Kansas era. Fantini is the general contractor working to restore the Murphy-Bromelsick House.

The exhibition, titled "First Blood: Prelude to the Civil War in Kansas," will consist of panels that narrate the lives of historical figures on both sides of the slavery issue. The exhibition was written and researched by Barbara Brackman, Lawrence historian.

The small stone house known as the Murphy-Bromelsick House originally was at 909 Pa. Moved 300 feet east to Hobbs Park in 2000, it serves as a memorial to Lawrence anti-slavery activist and newspaper publisher John Speer, whose homestead was located in what is now the park at 10th and Delaware streets.

Speer's home was targeted by Confederate bandits who raided Lawrence under the direction of William Quantrill in 1863, but Speer narrowly escaped death by hiding in a cornfield.

A $100,000 federal grant will pay to complete the exterior restoration of the building, re-create its surrounding grounds and install lights and plaques, which will tell about the history of the site.

Sunday's event is dedicated to the 52 businesses, groups and individuals who contributed $500 or more to the Hobbs Park Memorial. During the exhibition, a cast plaque bearing their names will be unveiled as a permanent memorial.

"We're trying to finds ways to demonstrate to the community that this space can be useful," said Mark Kaplan, project coordinator.

Hobbs Park Memorial is in the process of becoming part of a National Heritage Area. The area will span across much of Northeast Kansas and will include 24 counties.

"People around here are still connected," said Dave Evans, Hobbs Park Memorial volunteer. "There is a sense of activism that comes from the preservation of the eastern side of Lawrence."

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