Historic Hotspot: Lawrence, KS
Sometimes a Midwestern history-lover can feel left out. American history books and professors tend to focus on the coasts, not the so-called fly-over states. Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and California pretty much always get their names printed in big font on the playbill while places like North Dakota and Wisconsin usually get bit parts. Even Illinois doesn't get much attention in the average high school history course. Despite their few spotlights on the main stage, Midwestern states have nonetheless helped make “America: The Musical” the ballet/rodeo show it is.
Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery Free-Staters, Lawrence has exciting Antebellum and Civil War histories. The Sacking of Lawrence—a pro-slavery group's attack on the Free-State Hotel and two abolitionist newspapers—came in 1856. Not far from the town, abolitionist John Brown led the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856, as well. In 1863, the Lawrence Massacre, headed by Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill, resulted in the burning of many local buildings and the death of 150 men. Then in 1865, Lawrence residents established the University of Kansas with the help of a charter granted by the Kansas Legislature and land donation by Kansas' former governor. And these events are but the early highlights! During WWII, the federal government even set up an internment camp for German and Italian prisoners in Lawrence.
Lawrence lays claim to not one, not two, but several historic districts: Downtown, Pinckney #1, Pinckney #2, North Rhode Island, South Rhode Island, Hancock, Old West Lawrence, Breezedale, East Lawrence, and Oread. (For a population shy of 88,000, that's quite a list.) These districts have been recognized by the Lawrence Register of Historic Places, the Register of Historic Kansas Places, and the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Lawrence ranks among the “Dozen Most Distinctive Destinations” for well-preserved, diverse historic communities. The city's main strip lies on Massachusetts Street, where you can see Liberty Hall, Eldridge Hotel, Miller's Hall, The House Building, Sunflower, Ernst Hardware, Watkins Community Museum, and the Douglas County Courthouse. On Alabama Street, you'll also find the boyhood home of black poet Langston Hughes.
Apart from visiting these historic sites, Quail Bell(e)s should see any of the city's 12 art galleries, grab a meal at Johnny's Tavern, watch a show at Jackpot Music Hall, attend a Kansas basketball game, or check out the university's highly regarded performing arts center. In the summertime, you might catch the Downtown Lawrence Film Festival or Lawrence Busker Fest.
With so much history and art peppering the city, Lawrence, Kansas is a must-see for any Quail Bell(e).