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How the center of the KU campus has moved over 140-plus years

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I don't know about you, but I've read just about enough words for today, so this blog entry will be a mostly visual one.

For our KU Today edition (coming in August!) I'm learning right now about the process of forming KU's new master plan, a map for how the KU campus might change over the next 10 to 15 years. KU is paying a planning firm about $1.2 million to go through the process, and folks at KU and the firm, as well as a variety of subcontractors, are poring over a wealth of information.

Jim Modig, KU's director of Design and Construction Management, shared some of that stuff with me last week. And I thought I'd share one piece of that with you: these maps that show in a simple but interesting way how much KU's campus has changed over the past 140-plus years.

Each one includes the boundaries of the campus, shown in blue, at a certain point in time, laid over a current-day map. Modig wasn't immediately able to fill me in on exactly what year each of these maps corresponds with, so I've included some rough guesses based on when buildings were built.

In each one, pay attention to where the red "plus" sign falls. That's the campus's geographical center. And as you'll see, it's moved a lot over the years.

When the first KU buildings were built in the late 1800s, the center (and the entire campus, really) was in the northeast, where Corbin and GSP residence halls are now:

The beginning.

The beginning. by Matt Erickson

In this map, which must be from around 1900, you can see things moving toward the south:

Somewhere around 1900.

Somewhere around 1900. by Matt Erickson

By this time — the 1920s or '30s, as far as I can tell — the campus still only stretched southward to Jayhawk Boulevard:

The '20s or '30s, I think

The '20s or '30s, I think by Matt Erickson

Next is one from, I think, around 1950. Now the center was right on the current site of Wescoe Hall:

No Allen Fieldhouse yet.

No Allen Fieldhouse yet. by Matt Erickson

By what seems to be sometime in the 1960s, the center was near Murphy Hall, on a part of the campus that didn't exist 30 or 40 years earlier:

Still no West Campus.

Still no West Campus. by Matt Erickson

And now, with the addition of KU's West Campus, the center is near the Burge Union and the nearby athletic complex:

Today.

Today. by Matt Erickson

And officials project it to continue to shift to the southwest as more development happens on the West Campus, where space is much more plentiful. And this is why this exercise is important for the master planners. The campus's center is nearing Iowa Street — and that's a point where, right now, it's pretty tough to cross from one side of the campus to the other by foot. That's not exactly ideal, so one of the problems the planners are considering is how to do more to merge the two campuses into one.

That's quite the obstacle they have to overcome. But for you, it's an excuse to look at some pictures late in the afternoon. Thank me by sending a KU news tip to merickson@ljworld.com.

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  • Comments

    gccs14r 10 months ago

    So if they already know they need to make it easier to cross, they could have dropped an 8' box culvert in a trench across Iowa at 15th while they have it torn up for construction. Put in stairs, a ramp, and maybe an elevator on the east end, and have the west end come out at grade. Would have been easy and relatively cheap while they had the street torn up. Now someone is going to propose an overpriced glass-enclosed overhead walkway that will be difficult and expensive to maintain and hard to use and cause problems for road users.

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