Kansas Statehouse restoration, Kansas town

(Frank) Today Around Kansas looks at the multi-phase Kansas Statehouse restoration that took 13 years and 300 million dollars to complete. Next learn what Kansas town boasts it’s location is at the center of the contiguous United States; and then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson. We’ll end today with a story about the Spring Burn, a surefire way to tell that Spring has hit Kansas.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.

(Frank) And good morning, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. And of course we’re coming to you from the historic Dillon House. So if you hear ambient sounds, it’s not ghosts, it’s actual people in here. (Deb) It’s a busy morning here. Lots of good things going on. People arranging events. You know Spring is in the air. (Frank) Ah ya. (Deb) So, lots of things happening. Welcome to March. (Frank) Welcome to March. Yes. (Deb) Can you believe it? Oh my gosh. (Frank) Oh my goodness. (Deb) I cannot believe it. Now do you remember the old saying about March coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion? (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Yea, that would….as kids remember… I feel like Chris Farley on Saturday Night, remember when you were like Paul McCartney and you were with the Beatles? Remember that? Remember when we used to in school, you would illustrate those things and put them on the bulletin board? (Frank) Uh huh. (Deb) Remember bulletin boards? They don’t do bulletin boards. (Frank) It was bulletin boards and black boards with chalk and erasers and… (Deb) You remember those things Frank back in the Stone Age? (Frank) And now it’s…. (Deb) Yea. Really. So we used to do those illustrations of the clouds blowing the wind for March and all that stuff? The lion and the lamb thing. That little illustration. I love those things. Putting ’em up on the bulletin board. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) That sounds about like Little House on the Prairie or something now, doesn’t it? So old fashioned. (Frank) The way the weather has been, it could come in like a lamb, but then the next day the lamb will eat it. (Deb) Exactly. It’s been a crazy weather year for sure. It really has. (Frank) When it’s 115 degrees this summer we’ll be glad we’re at least here in the nice air conditioning and all that. (Deb) We will, we will. (Frank) So… (Deb) I’m headed down to Wichita tonight. My friend Beccy Tanner, with the Wichita Eagle is teaching class and asked me if I would come down and speak to her class on something history related, I can’t remember what I’m supposed to talk about. But fortunately that’s never stopped me Frank. So, I just show up and talk. But looking forward to seeing Beccy and going to Wichita and… (Frank) All you have to do is throw out a year and you go, oh OK that year…. So, you’re like an encyclopedia. (Deb) So that reminds me I ran into Senator Roberts the other day and whatever your politics, Pat is a home grown Kansan. He’s got a great sense of humor. So, we were talking about the documentary we’re doing on Charles Curtis. And he’s like, ya we served together. (Frank) Oh my. (Deb) Yea, really. Not, of course they did not serve together. For the historically challenged out there they did not serve together. It was nice to see Pat and he was all at work on ag stuff. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) It was fun, it was fun. (Frank) I still have to kind of chuckle about the Charlie showing. Well, no I really shouldn’t even tell the story of the newsman that asked if Charlie would be there? And it was like, you’re serious? (Deb) Yea, so, yea, so there may be people out there that think Pat Roberts really served with Charlie Curtis. No he did not. He did not. He was long gone before Pat came along. Bless his heart. Yea, we do what we can to alleviate ignorance in the world, don’t we Frank? But it’s a tall order some days. (Frank) So, anyway I have nothing more to say. (Deb) We’ve got a great show though. Stay with us. (Frank) Let’s take a break. We’ll be back.

(Deb) Welcome back. Frank doesn’t have any more to say so I guess I’ll take over from here. (Frank) This will be like Penn and Teller. (Deb) Yea. Really. Your turn now. (Frank) Anyway, the Dillon House is right across the street from the State Capitol Building and the Capitol is really….we did one of our opens there at Christmas because it was such a beautiful setting. (Deb) Wasn’t that pretty? (Frank) The tree and all of that. And so, anyway, we decided well, we should maybe do something about the Capitol. (Deb) You know the remodel is stupendous and now that the Legislative session is going on, of course a lot of people are coming in and it’s the one time of year where a lot of people do come to the Capitol for business and might not get there any other time. But we strongly encourage you to see it. It is spectacular. And I was showing somebody around the other day and pointing out so much that was done on the Capitol restoration was restoring things that had been covered up. It was really making sure it was structurally sound. There was a lot of work that went into it that needed to be done. You know, it’s a magnificent building. (Frank) Well, the public entrance when you come into the Visitor’s Center, it’s mind boggling. Cause it used to be the basement and now they’ve completely redone it. There’s a lot of stone. I mean, it’s…and there’s a lot of historical pictures on the wall. (Deb) It was not just a basement, it was like a dungeon. It was horrible, it was horrible. There were places you’d go back in there…like I remember Secretary of State used to store stuff down there, and it was horrible. And it is wonderful now. It is all useable space, so not just decorative, there’s some very worthwhile things in addition to being beautiful. (Frank) And of course, you can go up, if you’re not afraid of heights, you can go up the dome and of course, it’s March with the wind, so I don’t know. (Deb) I’m not doing that. (Frank) Out there…what is it 300 or some feet up there? (Deb) We’ll find out. Let’s take a look. Do you remember the last time you were in the statehouse? High school? Kansas Day ten years ago? During the remodel? Maybe before the remodel? It’s time to go back. The multi-phase Kansas Statehouse restoration took 13 years and 300 million dollars. It restored the first through fifth floors, rehabbed and expanded the basement, restored exterior masonry, the copper roof and dome. Treanor Architects carefully designed the phasing of the project to ensure that both the capitol and legislative chambers were open throughout construction. Work on the project included upgrading utilities and infrastructure, building a 550-car parking garage, and a new visitor’s center with a lass room and auditorium. The wings, including the House and Senate Chambers, were restored to their former glory. This preservation and restoration project successfully restored historic materials; maximized existing spaces by converting underutilized areas, such as the basement, into usable spaces; created new spaces, such as offices, mechanical vaults and parking in non-obtrusive sub-grade additions; and improved the building’s function and safety through the use of new building systems and computer technology. As former Kansas senator Dick Bond commented when the project was in its early stages, “This is the people’s house.” It is a tribute to the trials and sacrifices of generations who carved a state from the violence of Bleeding Kansas and sustained it through the trials to follow. It is unthinkable that the names of abolitionists were painted over in the House Chamber, that art was allowed to fade or covered up altogether. Of course, the most memorable image is that iconic John Steuart Curry mural of John Brown. The Steuart murals were cleaned and cared for and will inspire generations of school children for years to come. It is the most iconic and recognizable of Kansas images. The People’s House was abused and neglected far too long. May she weather the next century more grandly.

(Frank) And we’re back again. This is Around Kansas with Frank and Deb. And we tell you stories every week about things, and people, and places, all around Kansas. (Deb) Is that what we do? (Frank) I think so. So, we’re supposed to. Anyway, and she’s gonna be in Wichita talking about something tomorrow. (Deb) Tonight. (Frank) Tonight, OK. (Deb) My gosh Frank. (Frank) Hey, it’s early in the morning. We’ve got to put a little humor in to the day. If you think we’re humorous. (Deb) Well, I think we’re the center of the universe myself. And we have long been the center of the contiguous states. (Frank) Oh, that’s right. Yea. (Deb) And now we are…Kansas finds itself at the center of Google Earth. Is that not the coolest thing ever? (Frank) OK, but the geodesic center is I believe somewhere around Concordia. So now the Google center of the earth is where? (Deb) Chanute. (Frank) Chanute. (Deb) In Chanute, Kansas. Yea. Is that not awesome? I can’t wait to hear all about that. You know we’ve long been, we’ve talked about this before, how we’re the crossroads and just sort of the flyover, but when you talk about being the center and it’s the place where you mark everything from, you measure everything from this point, that is pretty cool. (Frank) Maybe they could change Greenwich Time to Google Earth Time or who knows? (Deb) Or Chanute time. (Frank) Chanute time. (Deb) We could just be, yea… (Frank) Chanute time is… (Deb) Chanute time. Yea, like light years. So, Google Earth and we’re smack dab in the middle of it. Let’s see. (Frank) It’s all about who you know. When surveyors wanted to find the center of the nation in 1918, it was simple. You just measure it. Before the addition of Hawaii and Alaska in 1959, Kansas boasted the center of the nation. After those two states were admitted, that honor shifted northward to South Dakota and Kansas had to qualify its claim to center of the “contiguous states.” The point is located a couple of miles from Lebanon, a few miles south of the Nebraska line. Locating the center of Google Earth was not so scientific. In fact, it was downright subjective. Software engineer and Chanute native Dan Webb programmed the zoom button to narrow down on his hometown, and voila, Chanute became the center of the virtual world. To mark this auspicious designation, Chanute has painted a 30-foot globe on the street with a pushpin marking the town, smack dab in the middle. It seems only fitting that this honor would come to Chanute. The Neosho County town was named for railroad engineer and aviation pioneer, Octave Chanute. The town honors him with a sculpture of an airplane suspended on a mobile. The work is dedicated to the city’s namesake and the Wright Brothers. Chanute was a mentor to Wilbur and Orville Wright and very influential in the early days of flight exploration. The sculpture measures 23 feet from wingtip to wingtip and 20 feet from nose to tail. It’s pretty amazing. Google Earth and go to the center to see for yourself. Or better yet, just drive on over and stand on the spot that one little boy who grew up in a small town decided was the center of the world.

(Ron) Howdy folks, I’m Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat. There is one element of Kansas life which is found in the stereotypes that people have about the state of Kansas. And there is an element of truth to it folks. I’m talking about wind. This poem is entitled, “Blowing in the Wind.” The railroad train stopped at a station out west, out stepped a city dude in bowler hat and fancy vest. The wind was a howling as Kansas’ winds sometimes do. And off went his hat as one particular gust blew. This wind is just horrific the easterner said, is it always like this, he wondered with dread? So he looked around and what caught his eye was a Kansas cowboy who was waiting nearby. He approached the cowboy saying, young man I say, does the wind clear out here always blow this way? Nope, said the cowboy. Thank goodness, said the dude. But his relief was short lived, with the comment that ensued. For the cowboy offered this further correction, you see out here the wind blows half the time in the other direction. Happy Trails.

(Deb) OK, so the other day I was driving to Lincoln, for Lincoln Days. So it was a couple of weeks ago. And I passed a pasture that’s on fire and so I immediately stop and get out to take pictures cause it’s the first burn I had seen this Spring. So, there was a guy in his pickup there and I said, “I just wanted to take a picture.” And he said, “Yep, fine.” So in a few minutes he comes back by and he says, “You want to get closer? ” (Deb) And I’m like, “Yea!” So, I hop in. So, these guys are Fire for Hire and so they do Spring burns for people. And if you are from Kansas, it’s burning season and as you go down through the Flint Hills especially you have to watch for the fires and everything. But there’s a whole science and art. And some photographers and painters have done some wonderful things with those scenes. And the burns have been going on forever and it’s just a really cool topic. (Frank) Well when the Native Americans they burned the prairies on purpose so that then the tallgrass would come back up and the buffalo of course, would return. (Deb) Yea. (Frank) And feed and what have you. Now the thing is though is I’m one of the complainers. OK? Because here in eastern Kansas especially in the Spring and this time of the year, the wind is mostly from the southwest. So, when they start the burns in the Flint Hills, we get the smoke. And me being one of those guys with allergies, I’m like, “Oh gee! Here we go again.” Anyway, but I know you have to do it and it is ecologically something that you do. (Deb) Yea. So, we have to live with it. (Deb) So despite Frank’s whining we’re going to take a look at the Spring burn in Kansas. (Frank) I will be wearing a mask from now on. (Deb) Stay with us. In Kansas, it’s not the robin that is the messenger of spring, it’s the torch. I headed west along Highway 18, probably nearing Bennington, when a cloud of smoke began growing in the sky to the south. It was the first burn I had seen this season and I pulled over to take pictures. I said hello to the young man who appeared to be supervising and told him I just wanted to snap a few pictures. He said sure and drove to the other side of the field. Just a couple of minutes later, he was back. “Want to get closer?” he asked. I jumped in the cab. Nathan Brunner is a partner with his uncle, Leonard Jirak, in Fire 4 Hire, a company that does prescribed burns for cleaning and revitalizing pastures, crops, and native grasses. I had caught them on their third burn of the season and they have dozens more scheduled. The prairies have been set fire for thousands of years, by natural causes like lighting, by the Plains tribes who lived here, by farmers and ranchers. Prairie grass seeds have not only adapted to fire, they’ve actually evolved to benefit from it. The fire helps remove dead plant material enabling prairie grass seeds to more easily find their way down to the soil. A prairie fire also eliminates competition from other plants that might take nutrients and resources from fledgling prairie grasses, like the cedars you see taking over some pastures. Tradition has dictated a controlled burn during the spring when humidity and moisture levels are just right. It is also thought that the charred, blackened debris helps to capture heat from the sun, which tends to warm the soil more quickly. This is a catalyst for accelerating the germination of new prairie grass seeds during spring months. The science of the prescribed burn has become more sophisticated. Red Dragon Torches and Equipment in Lacrosse manufactures the propane torches used by folks in the burns, making it much easier to control. The billowing smoke and short, rapid flames are mesmerizing, and Nathan commented about the winds and updrafts created by the fires. Sometimes, he said, a little tornado actually forms. With such destructive forces in play, it is little wonder that lots of folks are hiring their burns.

(Frank) OK. I think we’ve done all the damage we can this week. So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m pretty sure we did. 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 agpromosource.com.

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