Curtis House, Kansas’s admission to statehood

(Frank) Today Around Kansas visits the Curtis House, the distinctive Topeka residence Charles Curtis bought in 1907 that is currently owned by Don and Nova Cottrell. Next learn about some issues that accompanied Kansas’s admission to statehood in 1851 and enjoy a poem by Ron Wilson. We’ll end with Kansas Day activities at the Kansas State Historical Society’s Museum.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Frank) Here it is Wednesday. Deep into the new year already, into January. (Deb) Can you believe it? (Frank) I know. (Deb) I can’t believe it. We’re talking about anniversaries that are happening this year. And you know, it’s a 150, 160 and whatever years since then. Oh my gosh. I never thought I’d live to see 2016. Like I had no concept of 2016. Here it is.(Frank) Yea. Well, a little bit of a commercial here. This is actually WREN radio’s 90th year. (Deb) Is it really? (Frank) Yea, went on the air in Lawrence in 1926. (Deb) I didn’t realize it went on in Lawrence first. (Frank) Yea, well yea. That’s where the call letters came from L-A-WREN-C-E. (Deb) All these years, I never knew that. (Frank) Yea, now you do. (Deb) Oh my gosh. (Frank) And it went on the air, so they could advertise Jenny Wren flour. (Deb) That’s the Jenny Wren connection. (Frank) Yes. And there’s still a Jenny Wren Farm over east of Lawrence, over by Eudora. (Deb) I did not know that. Well, happy anniversary! (Frank) Yes, 90 years. (Deb) So, are you going to be celebrating all year long? (Frank) Oh yea, we have lots of fun things. So, anyway. (Deb) Well I was gone over the 12 days of Christmas. I left the 25th and came back on the 6th and we marked, while I was gone and we’ll do an episode on this later, the 200th anniversary of the birth of General Meade. So, we did have champagne in the cemetery. And while I was gone, on email back and forth with folks in Topeka, and this summer, July 4th will mark the 160th anniversary of the Free State Legislature being kicked out of Constitution Hall on Kansas Avenue. So, they’re planning a huge, huge event for that. And maybe even events leading up to it. So, we’ll keep you posted on that as we progress during the year. But make your plans July 4th to be in Topeka, cause it’s going to be a big day. A big day in Kansas history. (Frank) And today we’re going to kind of talk about some Kansas history, because Kansas Day is coming up soon. (Deb) Yea, one of my favorite holidays. When I moved to Kansas, you know I grew up in Virginia. We don’t have a Virginia Day because Virginia is one of the original colonies. And its history is very different. So, to celebrate the day you became a state, is really unique. And I think it’s wonderful. I love it. I’m going to be out in Oakley that day. I’m going to be with Jane Pierce and we’re going to be doing programs with school kids all day long. But there’s gonna be a lot of events all over. We’ll talk about those a little later. Just have a cake with a sunflower on it. Do something! (Frank) Yee ha! (Deb) Yea, yee ha! To mark Kansas Day. But it is a big deal. So, we’re gonna share a bunch of that with you today. (Frank) Yea, OK. (Deb) We’ll be back.

(Frank) And we’re back. And today, of course, we do this in the Dillon House, which of course, is right across from the Capitol. You can see the Capitol behind us, isn’t it gorgeous? (Deb) Still there, still there. (Frank) Come visit it. I mean it really is. But anyway, the Dillon House is also a beautiful, beautiful historic house, but it’s available for all kinds of events that you want to have. So, you can talk to the people here about that. (Deb) Have a party for your lobbyist, yea, right here. (Frank) Yea. But anyway, I’m talking about that because there are a lot of great historic houses around town. And I know that you’ve been doing some stuff on the Vice President Charles Curtis, who of course was from Kansas, was from Topeka. And you went to visit the house. You know that all the time…(Deb) Right down there. Just right down the walk. (Frank) I know. And I’m ashamed of myself because all of the time that I have lived in Topeka, I have never been in that house. (Deb) Well, you’ll have to go with us. And this is your opportunity to go Frank. Because January 25th which is the Vice President’s birthday, they have an open house. So normally where they charge for tours, this will be free and an open house. So, that is your opportunity to go. Monday, January 25th. So, y’all come to Topeka and you come and see the Curtis House. Like Frank said, it’s just down the block from the Capitol Building. Curtis had a beautiful view of the Capitol from his home and within walking distance. And of course another WREN connection, the house next door to Curtis when he was a U.S. Senator was the home of Arthur Capper, who was also a U.S. Senator. So, you had, I think it’s reported to be the only corner in the nation at that time where you had two senators living side by side. And so there’s a wonderful photo of Capper and Curtis standing there in front of their houses. And then that of course became WREN radio later on right? (Frank) Right. (Deb) Or WIBW, what was….? (Frank) WIBW was on Topeka Boulevard. WREN when it moved from Lawrence over to here was on 10th Street… (Deb) OK. (Frank) …in an upstairs studio and then they moved, of course on down the road on 10th Street. You know, sometime we might do a story on the power brokers of Kansas at that time. Because you’re right, there was Arthur Capper, there was Charles Curtis, there was Alf Landon. (Deb) Huge. (Frank) I mean… (Deb) William Allen White. (Frank) I mean, Kansas.. (Deb) It was huge. (Frank) Yes, it was. (Deb) It was huge. Had a tremendous impact on the nation. And that’s one of the things we’re talking about with the documentary film that we’re working on on the life of Charles Curtis. But in the meantime, let’s take a look at his beautiful home. 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 Cottrell’s maintain the house as a museum to Curtis’s legacy. It was placed on the National Register in 1976.

(Frank) And again, we’re back. Aren’t you happy? (Deb) -Laughs- Lord knows I am. (Frank) Well, we’re talking about Kansas because Kansas Day is coming up. And the “ad astra per aspera” of course means, “to the stars through difficulties.” And my story is going to be about Kansas. (Deb) The difficulties. (Frank) The difficulties. Because people think well, the Civil War started when Fort Sumpter got fired on and all that. Well, the Civil War really started in the 1850s between Kansas and Missouri. (Deb) I’m so proud of you Frank. I’m so proud of you. (Frank) It really did. Kansas was known as Bleeding Kansas. That’s when the Jayhawkers and the Border Ruffians, they were constantly fighting and clashing and… (Deb) High times. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) The old Chinese curse, may you be blessed to live in interesting times. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Well, they were really interesting times. (Frank) And then of course, Kansas came in as a free state and that was really the thing that finally sparked the fuse. (Deb) Yea. (Frank) And a lot of people think really? Yes. (Deb) Well, when I was back in Pennsylvania over New Year’s honoring General Meade, who won the battle of Gettysburg, and one of the reenactors at the celebration was Abraham Lincoln. And it’s really interesting because Lincoln, you know who now is this great, iconic figure, this person who freed the slaves, who kept the nation together was the most divisive president we have ever had. You know, we all have said during one election or another, so and so’s elected, I’m leaving the country. Lincoln was elected and half the country left. (Frank) Half the country left. (Deb) That’s what succession was, they left. They’re like, we’re not part of it anymore. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) So, it was divisive. And so Kansas is at the heart of that whole story. So, it’s yea, we’ve got a wonderful place in history. And this next piece is a really interesting side to that. (Frank) To the stars, through difficulties. After its being opened as a Territory in 1854, there was no doubt that Kansas would one day be a state. What kind of state was always the issue, and seven years of fighting on the Missouri border earned the designation, Bloody Kansas. At last, the bill for statehood passed Congress and on January 29, 1861, the territory joined the not-so-united states just as Southern states began pulling out. While there was much relief and celebration at the news, there is another side of the story. The Leavenworth Herald, took a momentarily realistic view of admission in its issue of January 30. The paper reported that those celebrating were mostly state office holders who would be drawing salaries from the new government. It was estimated that the cost of statehood was about $400,000 the first year, money that would have to be raised through taxes. The Herald compared the situation to the man who bought the elephant and spent all he had just feeling the animal. But, the Herald concluded, the thing is done, and “it is useless to worry over spilled milk.” So, as joyous as statehood was, the reality of increased taxes was on the minds of many Kansans. I guess some things haven’t changed in 155 years.

(Ron) Howdy folks, I’m Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat. The cowboy really came alive in legend at the time of the great cattle drives. And the goal of the Texas drovers was to get to Abilene. This poem is in honor of the “First Cowtowns.” One of the first cowtowns the world had ever seen, was the little community known as Abilene. It all began after the Civil War here, with demand for beef from the western frontier. A livestock dealer named Joseph McCoy, helped bring about the American cowboy. He saw Longhorns in Texas running free and he knew what an opportunity these could be. McCoy looked for a place with grass and water abiding where he could build a big railroad sighting. He traveled through Kansas on a railroad route west, in search of a town that would suite his request. And when he got to the city of Abilene, he found a place which he had foreseen. It became a cattle shipping point hence forth for Texas drovers bringing cattle north. Thousands of Longhorns came up the Chisholm Trail to the city of Abilene to meet the rail. The money flowed and cowboys got wild until the local folks got riled. So in time the cattle trade moved west and the Texas cattle rancher’s quest. But in the history of the west, the name still resounds Abilene, Kansas, one of the first cow towns. Happy Trails.

(Deb) Welcome back and talking about Kansas Day, we wanted to give you plenty of time to find out what kind of celebration was going on in your neighborhood. And if you don’t have anything going on for Kansas Day, start a party or you could come to Topeka. Kansas State Historical Society has lots of kids activities going on. We’re gonna take a look at some of those. We’re gonna take a look at some of things that are going on. You know in a former life, we used to have Kansas Day parties. And we would have people just come as their favorite Kansas characters. And of course, the people I know, a lot of Missourians, we would invite people to come dressed as their favorite character from the border war, like you were talking about. So, one of our friends from Osceola, Missouri, comes over and he’s portraying Quantrill. And so, he comes to our door and he’s wearing a blue coat and we’re like, a Union soldier? And I’m like, what is up with this? And he said, how do you think I got across the border and he rips it off and he’s got this red gorilla shirt, like Quantrill’s guys would have worn underneath it. Those were the best parties. Rod Beemer would come as Buffalo Bill and his wife came as Carrie Nation. And we had Amelia Earhart and we had just all kinds of wonderful characters. Jim Lane, Tim Ruis as Jim Lane and yea, it was a great time. (Frank) Yea, I lived in Lawrence for a time and we had a home in Old West Lawrence and in Old West Lawrence, if you ever have time, go walk around because there are stone markers where various citizens were killed. (Deb) Right. (Frank) The house that was a block over from us, the front door of that house still had a musket ball in the door. I don’t know if it’s still there or not. (Deb) And if you go to the Visitor Center in Lawrence, the old train depot, they have a map, a walking tour of Quantrill’s raid there in the Visitor Center. So, you can pick one of those up and you can do exactly what you’re talking about you can follow the trek. I do tours for Benedictine College and I did the staff ride for Plan and General Staff College on the Lawrence Raid. So, there’s a lot of ways to learn about that unique piece of history. And as you’re marking Kansas Day, it’s just another thing to remember about how interesting it was. (Frank) You know I had a thought too we ought to have a General Grant Party. (Deb) Yes. (Frank) And we have cigars and whiskey for everyone. (Deb) Randy Durbin. (Frank) There you go. (Deb) Randy, yes. We’re calling you. January 29 marks the 155th anniversary of Kansas statehood. There are activities all over the state so check locally to see what is happening with your community or historic site. I am looking forward to spending the day in Oakley, but will miss the goings on in Topeka that day! On Kansas Day, admission is free to the Kansas State Historical Society’s Museum, and there are tons of hands on activities perfect for the kids to experience days long past, and just past! Besides activities, there are performances by Storyteller Joyce Slater and the Standing Bear Intertribal Gourd Society. Joyce’s presentation, Plain Eating, will explore the foods brought to Kansas by pioneering settlers and talk about the ones they had to leave behind. A nationally recognized and award-winning storyteller, she has been sharing stories for more than 25 years. The American Indian traditions will be shared by the Standing Bear Intertribal Gourd Society. They perform for schools, scout groups, veteran’s organizations and others to share and keep alive the culture. Events run from 9 to 3 and the Museum asks you to visit their website and register if you have ten or more in your group. Happy Kansas Day!

(Deb) We’ve got one more Wednesday before Kansas Day, but now you’ve got time to make your plans. So, let us know real quick if you’ve got something going on. (Frank) Yes. So, anyway. I guess that’s it for today. So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. TheSoybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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