Plaque completed to mark little-known history of KU’s oldest building and its first owner, abolitionist Jim Lane
Current plans call for hanging marker inside Max Kade Annex, though original vision differed
The oldest building on the University of Kansas campus now has a bronze plaque noting its history, though the plaque isn’t planned to be mounted in a place passersby can see.
The marker presents a brief story of the small stone stable in the hillside at 1132 W. 11th St., now an annex for KU’s Max Kade Center for German-American Studies. That history starts with the fiery Civil War-era abolitionist who first built the stable on his land in 1862, and includes how he contributed to the early propagation of the term Jayhawk before it was adopted as the KU mascot.
The plaque’s inscription includes this little-known quote by James H. Lane, who said while rallying a group of Free-State men in 1857:
“As the Irish Jayhawk with a shrill cry announces its presence to its victims, so must you notify the proslavery hell-hounds to clear out, or vengeance will overtake them! Jayhawks remember, ‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,’ but we are His agents!”
Lane, the Jayhawk, the old stable and the Kade Annex plaque came together as a project of KU professor emeritus of German and retired Kade Center director Frank Baron, though the elements have little to do with German.
Baron was studying the autobiography of an Austrian immigrant named August Bondi, who joined the anti-slavery military after settling in the area, when he came across Lane’s rallying cry invoking the fierce Jayhawk. According to Bondi, Lane issued the midnight appeal in Linn County to a group of volunteer soldiers assigned to protect free-state settlers from pro-slavery Border Ruffians, Baron wrote in his booklet “James H. Lane and the Origins of the Kansas Jayhawk.”
Lane was one of the first elected senators of Kansas, and a charismatic yet controversial figure in the Free State movement. As a Union general, he led violent raids on Missouri including the sacking of Osceola in 1861. He also recruited the first African-American infantry to fight for the Union in 1862.
The plaque notes Lane’s significance along with the Jayhawk quote.
It also highlights the history of the Max Kade Annex.
Lane had the stable built on the highest point of his property in 1862, according to the plaque.
The structure had a number of other owners before 1927, when Mervin Sudler, KU School of Medicine dean and a private physician in Lawrence, built a limestone home next to it and used the stable as a garage, according to KU’s buildings directory. Sudler bequeathed his house and garage to KU in 1956.
The stable housed the KU student radio station, KJHK, from 1975 to 2010 — the period during which it came to be called “The Shack.”
“The Shack” was living up to its nickname when the Kade Center began efforts to take it over after KJHK moved out, Baron said.
“It was really a run-down place,” he said.
Under Baron’s leadership, the Kade Center annexed the stable in 2012. It was agreed that the building would house the archival materials of the New York Turner Society, which helped fund a renovation of the building along with the New York-based Max Kade Foundation, Baron said.
That’s when Baron researched the building’s history and decided a tribute would be fitting.
He said an exterior mural was considered but that it did not get approval from KU’s Public Art on Campus Committee. So Baron decided to pursue a plaque and raised about $3,000 in donations to commission it.
Baron retired as Kade Center director in 2013, and the plaque was completed and cast this summer, without prior approval by the art committee to be mounted outside the building.
The Kade Annex is not regularly open to the public, though scholars may visit to view the New York Turner Society collection by appointment.
Baron said he envisioned the plaque on the building’s exterior but no longer has much say now that he’s retired.
“The plaque, I think, is really beautiful as a work of art. It gives the fundamental information that you need to know about the building and then about the Jayhawk, because that’s not necessarily something everybody knows,” Baron said.
“If it’s inside and you have so little time or occasion to show it, it’s in a way lost. It’s sad for me to have it inside.”
Current co-directors of the Kade Center are academic director Lorie Vanchena, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures, and managing director Jimmy Morrison, lecturer in Germanic languages and literatures.
Vanchena said the plaque did not have approval through the appropriate university body for hanging on the building’s exterior.
“We are planning to mount the plaque on the interior, not the exterior,” she said. “This was initiated by Frank Baron years ago. We will follow through with that. The plaque was commissioned, it was completed, and so we will be hanging it in the Max Kade Annex.”
Vanchena said it will be a while before the heavy plaque is permanently hung.
It’s scheduled to be on view this month at the Carnegie Building and sometime next year at the Watkins Museum of History.
“We’re not going to mount it until everyone who wants the opportunity to display it has had it,” Vanchena said.
Lawrence artist Andy Foat, who works at KU as the university records custodian, was commissioned to create the plaque.
Foat estimated that the plaque, at 21 inches wide and 28 inches high, weighs somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds. It was cast at Eligius Bronze in Kansas City, Mo., from a relief Foat carved in redwood.
The plaque features an image of Lane on top of Mount Oread. He’s astride a resting horse with a panoramic landscape behind him. Lane’s stable can be seen in the distance at the left. The Old Dutch Windmill that once stood at what’s now Ninth Street and Emery Road is on the right.
Foat said he drew from a number of archival photos of Lane and an 1890s photo of the landscape to create the image.
Though Lane was known also for radicalism and violent acts, Foat said he depicted him in a watchful state for the plaque.
“It’s arguable that without him the pro-slavery forces would have prevailed,” Foat said. “When they were defending Lawrence during the Bleeding Kansas days, they were extra vigilant of threats from the east, so he probably would have been up on Mount Oread looking for signs of trouble.”
See the plaque
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area will display the Max Kade Annex plaque this month, along with a display about the history behind it.
It will be unveiled Thursday night during a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce after-hours event at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St., said Jim Ogle, executive director of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.
After that, the plaque and display will be on display the rest of the month during regular building hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We love anything that is associated with Jim Lane and our origin stories here,” Ogle said.