Charles Curtis House, KBI

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas come along with us as we take a look at the Charles Curtis House in Topeka. Next we tour KBI’s $55 million dollar Forensic Lab on the grounds of Washburn University. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with the story of Kaw Point, the place where the Lewis and Clark Expedition landed on June 26, 1804. Stay with us!Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) Good Morning. I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. We’re in the Echo Chamber this morning. [Chuckles] (Deb) I remember when this was the catacombs, Frank. (Frank) Yes. We’re in the State Capitol on the lower level. (Deb) This is where the Visitors Center is, and this used to be, awesome, Frank. I can remember when the Secretary of State and some of the other offices had storage down here, and the stones were falling down. It was like you were going through the catacombs. What they have done, all this is beautiful, useful space, and when you have tons of school kids coming to visit the capital, believe me, every inch of this space gets used. It was, I think, a great investment for the State of Kansas. Come and see your capital. Now, this belongs to you. As Nick Von used to say, “This is the peoples’ house.” So come and see it. It’s spectacular. (Frank) Yes. This whole lower level is really quite interesting. There’s a lot of history on the walls. Where we are in the snack bar, there’s a lot of artwork here about different places around the State of Kansas. A lot of them we’ve already told you about in stories. (Deb) We sure have. Go back in our archives and take a look at the stories sometimes, which is exactly what we’ve done today. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) This is like you watched TV commercials like Johnny Carson – you can order the Best of Johnny Carson. This is like the Best of Around Kansas today. (Frank) [Chuckle] This is the oldies but goodies. Well, I own an oldie radio station so I thought, “Oh, let’s do an oldies show.” (Deb) We picked three of our favorite stories, ones that we really enjoyed bringing to you and we’re going to bring them back to you today because just in case you missed it. I don’t know how you might have missed it but I’m sure that every now and then somebody skips an episode somehow. They leave town or something and I know you don’t miss many, but every now and then, I bet you skip a few. (Frank) Well, they have been on for a while. (Deb) They have been on a while, so I want to share those again with you. If you’ve got story ideas, if you want us to cover something in your neighborhood, one of the attractions that you have, post about it and we’ll just get them on the air for you. (Deb) One of my favorite shows looking back, course it’s the people you get to meet, Frank, and when I got to sit down with the Band Kansas, and I got to sit down with Rich and Billy; Billy Greer and Rich Williams, we sat and I think we did two episodes of the show; two episodes with them, so go back in our archives and look for those. That was awesome. I sit and visit with them, and of course, they were so down to earth. Rich of course grew up right here in Topeka, and Billy Greer, it was so funny because he’s basically a hillbilly from Tennessee. We think we think we’re probably from the same gene pool, and we were sitting there and one night in White Concert Hall and Billy’s wife was actually just recording our conversation like the hillbillies back home from Tennessee, and she said I think Billy found one of his cousins here, and phenomenally talented and so honest about their kids and hard working. That was one of my favorites. (Frank) One of my favorites was when we did the Prairie National Park. We actually went there and shot on location and toured the facilities. If you’ve never been there, you should go there. I mean it’s your park. In the immediate area when you go in, there’s a lot of stuff to see. But if you want to take the family and camp out there and all that, you get over into the park itself and suddenly you’re in essentially the prairie or Kansas, the way it was. I mean they don’t mow it and all that. I mean, it’s the way it was. (Deb) That seems so beautiful. (Frank) Yes, that’s a beautiful, beautiful place and an interesting place to go and see too. (Deb) This is not the end of interesting places. Beautiful places, we love going to those places. People we love bringing that to you every week. We’re thrilled to share some of our favorites with you today. Stay with us.

(Frank) Hey. We’re back again. This is Around Kansas. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m still Deb. (Frank) We’re doing all these new goodies today. (Deb) One of my favorite places, and it has been ever since I moved to Kansas, is of course the Charles Curtis House. If you recall, we did a 15-minute documentary on Charles Curtis a few months back. That is available online at the Kansas Humanities Council website. If you go to their website and look at films you could find our Charlie listed on their films and you can watch it. We encourage you to do that, share it with students if you’re a teacher or in club meetings. If you want one of us to come and talk about it, we’d be glad to, with your group. The Curtis House is just a treasure, and God bless Don and Nova Cottrell for saving it. It is open for tour by appointment. In the meantime, you can go back with us, and take a look at it. Pretty, pretty home, very significant, historically, and thankfully one of those big homes that was saved because we knocked a lot of them down, sadly. But this is one that’s still here, and still in its building. Charles Curtis was born in a cabin that no longer stands on the north side of the Kansas River in 1860. He lived in various homes, and maybe even a tipi, throughout his colorful life. In 1907, as he became more successful as a lawyer and politician, he purchased a mansion on the corner of 11th and Topeka Boulevard, a home possessing a fine view of the Kansas statehouse. His neighbor on the corner to the north was Arthur Capper, publisher, governor, and U. S. Senator. The Charles Curtis Home is an example of a rather unique and distinctive residential architecture incorporating bulbous domes, Romanesque arches, and Renaissance massing. It is an early example of Eclecticism in Kansas building. Though he did not originally design the house, famed Philadelphia architect Seymour Davis made later alterations. The mansion has exceptional chandeliers, ornamental plaster, a grand staircase, parquet floors, stained and jeweled glass windows, and four fireplaces: two white oak, one solid cherry, and one of Italian marble. According to the State Historical Society, the house has more intact parquet flooring than any other historical house in Kansas. It was once described as “not surpassed by any residence in the city.” Its purchase by Don and Nova Cottrell likely saved it from the fate of many of its sister mansions along the boulevard that have fallen to the wrecking ball. The mansion has a large collection of historical memorabilia and artifacts. It is furnished with antiques, some from the Curtis family, as well as some of the Curtis memorabilia. The Cottrells maintain the house as a museum to Curtis’s legacy. It was placed on the National Register in 1976.

(Frank) Here we are again. One of my favorite stories too was when I got to tour the new KBI Forensic Science Building on the campus of Washburn University in Topeka. It’s a huge building. I believe it cost $35 million to build, and I thought “What! What could they possibly put in there?” Well, as you’re going to see in this story, you’ll know what it was. I mean, the unbelievable scientific equipment that’s in there. It’s a fascinating place. Yes, you can take a tour of it. If you do have an opportunity, you should go and see that new building in Washburn. (Deb) Oh, God. That’s one I have got to do. So jealous you guys got to go view that, and I didn’t get to go because I wasn’t in town, had to help doing something else. My first real media job, I started writing for the local paper when I was 15. But then a full-time job for the newspaper in Mayberry, not even North Carolina. I covered court. I was the court reporter. Full-time. Loved it. Only thing I’ve loved as much was doing media training in Fort Leavenworth. I loved that. But it’s the same, and not that I don’t love working with you guys just as much. Crime and drama as TV is a great reflection of real-life crime drama. There’s nothing that touches it. Setting in a courtroom, sitting there when they’re rolling out that evidence, and they’re arguing these cases. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. But when you get to the hard, traumatic scenes, there’s nothing like it. I covered several death penalty cases, several first-degree murder trials. That forensic evidence, like you said it, it’s so important. The advances in science and technology now that enter in, is just phenomenal. That was a desperately needed facility. Desperately needed. (Frank) Then, there’s a state of the art facility right here in Topeka on the campus of Washburn University. Let’s take a look. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, KBI, opened a $55 million forensic lab on the grounds of Washburn University. The 100,000 square foot building houses the Bureau’s state-of-the-art crime lab and replaces the existing facility located in the basement of a former Topeka school building. According to KBI Lab Director Mike Van Stratton, there are 70 scientists and technicians working in the facility. The new building has specific areas reserved for each department of the lab including biology, DNA, toxicology, chemistry, firearm/tool mark, latent prints, trace evidence and digital forensics. There is also an area for processing vehicles. In addition to housing KBI’s forensics operation, the new building houses an expanded forensics program for Washburn University. In addition to the existing forensic chemical science degree – which includes an emphasis on forensic chemistry and biology – the university recently added concentrations in digital forensics and forensic anthropology as well as forensic investigation to the Washburn course offerings. The students will work in labs similar to those used by the KBI forensic scientists and they will share common space including a crime reconstruction space and a 100-seat auditorium. KBI scientists will be guest lecturers and experts in Washburn’s classes and faculty members will be available to provide their expertise to KBI as needed. It is expected that some of those same students will transition to KBI forensic scientists and technicians. This new building is the result of a partnership between the university, KBI and the City of Topeka. The Topeka Public Building Commission financed the project and rent paid by KBI will eventually retire the bonds. This lab is one of only a handful of working forensic labs on university campuses and the only one where the lab and the university share space to help educate students, according to a Washburn spokesman.

(Ron Wilson) The mid to late 1800’s meant a huge change in the culture of what would become Kansas. Homesteaders came into the state of Kansas following the Homestead Act. With them, they brought fencing. This poem is based on the true story of the invention of barbed-wire fence. The poem is entitled the Death of Open Range. Let me tell you of a time when Open Range was in its prime. Cowboys rode their horses forth and drove the herds of cattle north. We could ride all over this great land, unfettered by the human hand. Then a farmer over on Illinois way invented something that’s used today. His name was Mr. Joseph Glidden; he was doing the homesteaders bidden. He took a pair of heavy pliers and wrapped barbs around a long piece of wire. The barbs’ sharp points kept stock in or out, it could be used for fencing all about. For the open range, it was a turn of events because barbed wire made it easy to string a fence. Barbed wire succeeded more than Glidden had planned soon fences crisscrossed the open land, the old west changed with Glidden’s invention and it caused the cowboys apprehension. No more could we ride over a free open range and the cowboys’ role would be forever changed. Homesteaders and nester’s scarred this land and changed the role of the old cowhand. The cowboys’ work continues on, but the days of open range are gone. The open range would have no more hope that’s why cowboys called barbed wire, “The Devil’s Rope”. Happy Trails.

(Deb) Frank. Our videographer here, Michael Goehring is a special young man and he looks to us for guidance, you realize that. We do what we can for Michael and I’ll bring in stories, Frank will bring in stories and because he’s what? 10-12 years old? He’s never heard of these things, we do our best to educate him, when I was telling him about Kaw Point and how incredible it was, well not taking my word for it he had to go see it for himself and he’s been back, I think he said four times since then – (Frank) He got lost the first time. (Deb) – well, we do what we can. But it is one of the most unique and beautiful scenes in Kansas because you’re right there on the river in Kansas City. You’re in a little bit of nature right there. It’s a little bit of rocks and woods and a little corner of nature that’s still there, but you’ve got that incredible city skyline across the river behind you, and it is something, it really is something. I did Lewis and Clark events there a while back and whatever you’re doing there it’s something everybody has got to check out at some point. The Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Kaw Point, the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, on June 26, 1804. The expedition camped there for three days to rest, repair their boats, and explore the surrounding countryside. They had been traveling up the Missouri almost two months. On the day the explorers first saw the Kansas River, Clark wrote that they had encountered a great number of Parra Queets. a bird that is now extinct. The explorers also saw their first buffalo. Kaw Point is now surrounded by industry and development. In 2001, the point itself still existed in an overgrown and neglected state. Volunteers began the process of building and improving the park in preparation for the Bicentennial commemorative event held on June 26-29, 2004. The Wyandotte County Lewis and Clark Task Force, in partnership with the State of Kansas, Unified Government, local Convention and Visitors Bureau, various community organizations, and private funders, worked together to improve the site. Donations from local business and literally thousands of volunteers provided site cleanup, trail enhancement, infrastructure restoration, signage, historical interpretation, and visitor support services for the Bicentennial events. Since 2004, a renewed effort by the newly organized Friends of Kaw Point Park has resulted in significant improvements and additions to this legacy project. Today, Kaw Point is located in the center of metropolitan Kansas City with a great view of downtown, but the Point itself remains in a natural state with beautiful wooded trails, wildflowers, and wildlife. This accessible park has an infrastructure to support a large number of visitors, and has an outdoor amphitheater equipped with electricity for performing arts and special events.

(Frank) We’ll be enjoying the oldies but the goodies, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere, (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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