Lawrence was founded in 1854 for the New England Emigrant Aid Company by Charles Robinson, who later served as governor of Kansas. The city was named after Amos Adams Lawrence, a prominent politician and abolitionist and the son of famed philanthropist Amos Lawrence.
In the Bleeding Kansas era, Lawrence was a center of anti-slavery sentiment. On May 21, 1856, a pro-slavery posse led by Sheriff Samuel J. Jones burned the Free-State Hotel, destroyed the equipment of two anti-slavery newspapers, and looted several other businesses; no loss of life was recorded. Abolitionist John Brown's nearby Pottawatomie Massacre is believed to have been a reaction to this event. On August 21, 1863, during the American Civil War, Confederate guerrillas led by William Quantrill burned most of the houses and commercial buildings in Lawrence and killed 150 to 200 of the men they found in Lawrence. Of historical importance is KU's Pioneer Cemetery, perhaps best known for being the final resting place of Thomas Barber, a free-state settler, and Elmer McCollum, KU alumnus who is credited with discovering Vitamin A. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, is buried in East Lawrence in Memorial Park Cemetery.
The University of Kansas was founded in Lawrence in 1865 by the citizens of Lawrence under a charter granted by the Kansas Legislature, with the donation of 40 acresof land on Mount Oread by former Kansas Governor Charles Robinson and his wife, Sara, and a small monetary gift from Amos Adams Lawrence. As a college town, Lawrence is known for its liberal philosophy and distinctive culture.
Lawrence also holds the distinction of having been the site of operation for the state's first railroad in 1871 and the city where the state's first telephone was installed in 1877. In 1989, when the Free State Brewing Co. opened in Lawrence, it was the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. The restaurant is in a renovated inter-urban trolley station in downtown Lawrence. The city also contains the state's only hydro-electric plant.
In the early 1980s Lawrence grabbed national, and later, world attention because of the television movie The Day After. The TV movie first appeared on ABC, but was later shown in movie theaters around the world. The movie depicted what would happen to average Americans, particularly those living in Lawrence and surrounding communities, if the United States was destroyed in a nuclear war. The movie was filmed in Lawrence with help from many people in the community.
Early History of Lawrence
By Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
See also Cutler's Early History of Lawrence
Lawrence, the county seat of Douglas county, an incorporated city of the second class, is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Kansas. In June, 1854, a few days after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the New England Emigrant Aid Society sent Dr. Charles Robinson and Charles H. Branscomb to select a location for a colony. Some years before that Dr. Robinson had passed the place where Lawrence now stands on his way to California, and that spot was finally chosen as a site for the proposed settlement. The first party of emigrants arrived on July 31. Not a house had been erected and 25 tents were pitched on the north end of Mount Oread, where the state university now stands, to afford shelter while the first rude cabins were being built. The second party of 114 persons arrived on Sept. 9, and a meeting was held on the 18th to organize a town company. Two days later an organization was effected, and on the 25th the work of laying out the city was commenced. The new town was named Lawrence, in honor of Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston, Mass., who had been active in the movement to colonize Kansas with people opposed to slavery.
About the time the survey of the city began, a boarding house was opened by Mrs. Levi Gates and Mrs. William Bruce, two women who came with the first party of colonists. A little later a second hotel, called the "Astor House," was opened nearer the Kansas river. By cold weather Lawrence had a population of 750.
The fact that Lawrence was settled by free-state men drew forth the wrath of the pro-slaveryites against the prospective city. In fact, before the first settlers arrived some Missourians had crossed over into the territory and gone through the form of taking claims under the preëmption laws, but very few of them complied with the provisions of the law with regard to occupancy. The first emigrants from New England found two of these men—John Baldwin and a man named Sears—on the site of Lawrence. The latter had improved his claim of 160 acres to some extent. Mr. Branscomb bought this claim for $500, which was paid from the treasury of the society, but Baldwin refused either to sell or to submit the question to the courts or to an arbitration committee. Associating with him a lawyer and a real estate speculator, the three proceeded to lay out a rival town, which they named Excelsior. They attempted to remove a tent belonging to the aid society, but were prevented, and Baldwin threatened to call to his aid 3,000 Missourians, who would expel the free-state men. This did not intimidate the Robinson party and Baldwin finally withdrew.
On Oct. 9, 1854, Dr. Robinson, S. Y. Lum, John Mailey, A. D. Searle and O. A. Hanscomb were elected trustees of the town association, and on the 30th another party of 230 people arrived from the East. On Jan. 16, 1855, the first free school was opened in a room in the rear of Dr. Robinson's office with P. P. Fitch as teacher, and by Feb. 1 three newspapers had been started—the Herald of Freedom by George W. Brown, the Kansas Pioneer by John Speer and the Kansas Free State by Miller & Elliott.
In March, 1855, a census was taken, the district in which Lawrence was situated reporting 369 voters. With the opening of spring a number of new buildings, including a hotel and several business houses, were commenced. Three mail routes were established, connecting Lawrence with Topeka, Leavenworth, Osawatomie, Fort Scott and Kansas City. Great progress was made during the summer and early fall, but late in November came the Wakarusa war (q. v.) which kept the people of Lawrence in a state of siege for over a week, causing them to fear for the safety of their lives and homes. The Free State hotel, built by the Emigrant Aid company at a cost of some $20,000, was completed in the spring of 1856. It occupied the site of the present Eldridge House, and it was badly damaged by a posse under Samuel J. Jones, sheriff of Douglas county, on May 21, under pretense of serving some writs. At the same time the newspaper offices were dismantled, the presses broken to pieces, the type thrown into the river, stores and dwellings were looted and Dr. Robinson's residence was burned.
Although Lawrence was incorporated by the first territorial legislature. the citizens never organized under that charter, because they refused to recognize the authority of a legislature elected by alien votes. For the same reason they also refused to accept an amended charter at the hands of the second session of the legislature. In 1857, realizing the need of a better municipal government, the citizens adopted a charter for themselves. This brought them into direct conflict with the territorial authorities and for a time serious trouble was threatened. The free-state legislature of 1858 passed a charter bill, which became effective on Feb. 11, and on the 20th was held the first city election.
C. W. Babcock was elected mayor; Caleb S. Pratt, clerk; Wesley Duncan, treasurer; Joseph Cracklin, marshal; Robert Morrow, P. R. Brooks, L. C. Tolles, E. S. Lowman, John G. Haskell, M. Hartman, Henry Shanklin, A. J. Totten, S. W. Eldridge, A. H. Mallory, L. Bullene and F. A. Bailey, councilmen. The legislature of 1860 "amended and consolidated the several acts relating to the city of Lawrence" into one act of 114 sections which was approved by Gov. Medary on Feb. 27. It defined the corporate limits of the city as follows:
"Beginning in the middle of the Kansas river, opposite a point where the east side of Maryland street intersects the south bank of said river; thence south to the shore, and in the east line of Maryland street 4,290 feet to the south side of Adams street; then west 5,310 feet, to the west side of Illinois street; thence north 3,380 feet, to the south side of Warren street; thence west 4,560 feet; thence north 5,500 feet; thence east 5,620 feet, to the Kansas river; thence continuing to the middle of the same, and down said river to the place of beginning."
The first state legislature passed a bill submitting to the people the question of the location of the permanent seat of government, and on Nov. 5, 1861, Lawrence received 5,291 votes for the state capital to 7,966 votes for Topeka.
The legislature of 1863 located the state university at Lawrence, and on Aug. 21 of that year occurred the most disastrous event in the city's history, when the guerrilla leader, Quantrill, with a large force of ruffians, made a raid on the town, destroyed a large amount of property, and killed a number of citizens.
The progress of the city during the Civil war was comparatively slight, but the year 1869 marked the beginning of great improvements in Lawrence. The Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad was completed; a city hall and court-house was erected on the corner of Vermont and Henry streets at a cost of $32,000; new school buildings were projected, and a number of a new private dwellings were erected. Since then the growth of the city has been steady, and, while the population has never reached the figure predicted by some enthusiasts, in 1910 Lawrence ranked tenth in the state, with a population of 12,374
Lawrence has 5 banks, 2 daily newspapers (the Journal-World and the Gazette), 3 weekly newspapers (the Gazette, the Democrat and the Germania, the last named printed in German), besides publications by the University of Kansas, the city high school, Haskell Institute and the Fraternal Aid Association. It also has 29 churches, 10 public school buildings, a free public library, founded in 1865 and now located in the new Carnegie building erected in 1904, beautiful public parks, an electric lighting system, natural gas for light and fuel, one of the best waterworks systems in the state, a street railway system, excellent sewers and drainage, etc. Railroad transportation is furnished by the Union Pacific and two lines of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and this, in connection with the water power supplied by the Kansas river, is making Lawrence a manufacturing center. Among the products turned out by her factories are flour, cement plaster, brooms, vitrified brick and tile, bicycles, pianos, paper, leather, cigars, cooperage, horse collars, vinegar, metal cornices, canned goods, shirts, egg cases and mattresses. The city also has novelty and iron works, planing mills, a telephone exchange, telegraph and express facilities, and an international money order postoffice with ten rural routes. A new postoffice building has recently been erected by the Federal government.
Lawrence is preëminently a city of homes, and the well kept streets, the handsome residences surrounded by beautiful lawns, the numerous shade trees, never fail to awaken the admiration of visitors.
Lawrence is located at 38°57'36N, 95°15'12W (38.959902, -95.253199). This is about 25 miles (west of Kansas City, and about 20 mileseast of Topeka. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 74.3 km² (28.7 mi²). 72.8 km² (28.1 mi²) of it is land and 1.5 km² (0.6 mi²) is water, including Potter Lake on the KU campus. The total area is 2.06% water.
Google Earth, software that allows the user to "fly" over the surface of the earth, mapped with high-quality satellite photography and accurate topographical data, has a default position when started up that is centered exactly on the town of Lawrence (specifically on Meadowbrook Apartments, lying between Compton Square and Regency Place). This may be verified by running the software and zooming in from the default start position without rotating the virtual globe at all. This location was set by Brian McClendon, a 1986 graduate of the University of Kansas and director of engineering for GoogleEarth.
Over the course of a year, temperatures range from an average low of almost 20°F in January to an average high of over 90°F in July. The maximum temperature reaches 90°F an average of 49 days a year and reaches 100°F an average of five days a year. The minimum temperature falls below the freezing point (32°F) an average of 96 days a year. Typically the first fall freeze occurs between the mid-October and the second week of November, and the last spring freeze occurs between the last week of March and the third week of April.
The area receives nearly 40 inches of precipitation during an average year with the largest share being received in May and June; the April-to–June period averages 32 days of measurable precipitation. During a typical year the total amount of precipitation may be anywhere from 27 to 54 inches. There are on average 100 days of measurable precipitation each year. Winter snowfall averages almost 18 inches, but the median is less than 10 inches. Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 10 days a year with at least an inch of snow being received on six of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 18 days a year.
As of the census of 2000, there were 80,098 people, 31,388 households, and 15,725 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,100.2/km² (2,849.4/mi²). There were 32,761 housing units at an average density of 450.0/km² (1,165.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.80% White, 5.09% African American, 2.93% Native American, 3.78% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.36% from other races, and 2.97% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.65% of the population.
Of the 31,388 households, 25.1% included children under the age of 18, 38.0% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.9% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city the population was spread out with 18.6% under the age of 18, 30.7% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 15.1% from 45 to 64, and 7.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 98.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,669, and the median income for a family was $51,545. Males had a median income of $33,481 versus $27,436 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,378. About 7.3% of families and 18.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.6% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.
Politics and culture
While Kansas may be a heavily Republican state, Lawrence is reliably Democratic. Douglas County, where Lawrence is situated, was one of only two counties in Kansas whose majority voted for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Douglas County has supported the Democratic candidate the past four presidential elections. Douglas County was the only county in the state to reject the amendment to the Kansas Constitution prohibiting both gay marriage and civil unions in April 2005. (The vote against the amendment was primarily in the city of Lawrence; outside the city, the amendment carried in the rest of Douglas County.) The city commission is currently considering enacting a domestic partner registry, which would provide unmarried couples -- both same-sex and other-sex -- some recognition by the city for legal purposes. The proposed registry ordinance has been approved by the Kansas Attorney General, and the commission is expected to vote on it by early June.
Lawrence also features the customary staples of college-town liberalism, such as a radical library and infoshop, two microbreweries, a half dozen locally-owned coffeehouses, and a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The city is known for a thriving music and art scene; Rolling Stone named Lawrence one of the "best lil' college towns" in the country in its August 11, 2005, issue. They had previously named the local commercial radio station, KLZR 105.9 FM, as one of a top ten "Stations that Didn't Suck" in 1998. The station, which was independently owned at that time, was soon after sold to corporate buyers and the format changed to Top 40. The New York Times called Lawrence "the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver" in a travel column on February 25, 2005.
The Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival is a four-day weekend music festival held annually in early June just outside of Lawrence at Clinton State Park. After its inception in 2004, the festival had grown dramatically by 2006, with almost 60,000 tickets sold, while developing a nationwide following that accounted for 80% of ticket sales. The festival is known for an eclectic mix of music has featured artists like The Flaming Lips, Wilco, STS9, Neko Case, and Widespread Panic to name a few. The event is kept smaller than other festivals such as Bonnaroo by an agreement with the state. Activities other than music include disc golf, yoga, hiking, and swimming in Clinton Lake.
In recent years the North vs. South Music Festival has become a staple of the music scene. Held each August to coincide with the anniversary of Quantrill's Raid, North vs. South is billed as a friendly re-enactment of that famous Civil War battle and features upward of four dozen independent rock bands hailing mostly from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Austin, Texas.
Lawrence's culture isn't just political activism and the arts; the town is famous for the University of Kansas's athletic teams as well. The highly-ranked Kansas Jayhawks basketball team becomes obsession for some residents during the winter. The football team has reached bowl eligibility in three of the last four years.
The University of Kansas is the largest public university in the state with a total enrollment of under 30,000 including the Medical Center. It has over 170 fields of study and the nationally known Kansas Jayhawks athletics programs.
Haskell Indian Nations University offers free tuition to members of registered Native American tribes. It has an average enrollment of more than 1,000 students representing all 50 states and 150 tribes. Haskell is the home of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and the Haskell Cultural Center.
The Lawrence Public Schools USD 497 system includes sixteen public grade schools, four junior high schools, and two high schools: Lawrence High School and Lawrence Free State High School. The athletic teams of the former are nicknamed the Chesty Lions, and those of the latter are the Firebirds. Both schools are Class 6A in enrollment size, and Lawrence High School leads the State of Kansas in most state championships won, with 102 championships. The Lawrence High School football team also leads the nation with most undefeated seasons at 31. The junior highs are Central, South, West, and Southwest. Private high schools include Bishop Seabury Academy, which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and the non-denominational Veritas Christian School. There is also St. John Catholic School, which teaches grades 1 through 6 and is funded by the Catholic communities of Lawrence. Raintree Montessori School is a secular private school which teaches preschool through grade 6.
Public Transportation - "The T" Lawrence City Bus System
University of Kansas Transportation - "KU On Wheels" University Bus System
Sites of interest
Downtown Lawrence, in particular Massachusetts Street, has a lively atmosphere and is filled with restaurants, bars, galleries, shops and music venues. Bowersock Dam provides hydropower to riverfront businesses like the Lawrence Journal-World.
The University of Kansas campus is home to many museums, including the KU Natural History Museum and the Spencer Museum of Art. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics houses various artifacts from the life of the former Kansas Senator. Another site of interest is the Lawrence Arts Center. It has daytime activities, organized plays and acts, and an art gallery filled with artwork created by the townspeople. Artwork, theater, and other related activities are some of the biggest parts of Lawrence.
Clinton Lake is approximately three miles (5 km) southwest of Lawrence and has areas for boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. There are a variety of mountain biking venues, including the trails at Clinton Lake, and the river trails by the Kansas River.
Poet, author, and counterculture figure William S. Burroughs moved to Lawrence in 1983 and died there at age 83, from complications following a heart attack, on August 2, 1997.
In the 1983 TV movie The Day After, Lawrence was ravaged by fallout from detonations of nearby Soviet nuclear bombs, including one which destroyed Kansas City, Missouri. Lawrence was also destroyed in the 2006 TV Series Jericho.
From 1947 until 1981, Lawrence was the location of the Centron Corporation, one of the major industrial and educational film production companies in the United States at the time. The studio was founded by two University of Kansas graduates and employed university students and faculty members as advisers and actors. Also, many talented local and area filmmakers were given their first chances to make movies with Centron, and some stayed for decades. Others went on to successful careers in Hollywood. One of these local residents, Herk Harvey, was employed by Centron as a director for 35 years and in the middle of his tenure there he made a full-length theatrical film, Carnival of Souls, a horror cult film shot mostly in Lawrence and released in 1962.
A scene from Where Pigeons Go To Die, a movie directed by Michael Landon, was shot in the 1300 block of Massachusetts Street.
There are three separate tunnel systems underneath Massachusetts Street, as well as an extensive steam-tunnel network underneath the University of Kansas, which includes tunnels designed as nuclear attack shelters.
The inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas and was the only KU coach with a losing record.
In the television show Supernatural, the main characters were born in Lawrence; several scenes from the pilot (and one whole episode) were set in Lawrence.
Lawrence's Mount Oread is named after a hill in Boston, where many of the city's first settlers were from.
The unincorporated area of Stull, Kansas, which lies just west of Lawrence across Clinton Lake, contains a cemetery that a popular local urban legend claims is a "gateway to hell." In 2003, a church that stood next to the cemetery was torn down after years of abandonment.
Well-known singer-songwriter Josh Ritter wrote a song called "Lawrence, Kansas."
Some exterior shots for the CBS series Jericho were filmed in Lawrence. In the seventh episode of the series, it is mentioned that Lawrence was destroyed by a nuclear blast.
The default Google Earth view is centered on an apartment complex in Lawrence, because the developer of the software lived in that complex as a child.
Places of interest include Haskell Indian Nations University. The campus can be accessed from 23rd Street and Barker Avenue.
Famous People claimed by Lawrence, Kansas
Phog Allen, basketball coach;
William H. Avery, politician;
Thomas Barber, pioneer;
Nancy Kassebaum Baker, politician;
Hugh Beaumont, actor;
Erin Brockovich, environmental activist;
George L. Brown, politician;
William S. Burroughs, author;
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, author;
Wilt Chamberlain, Hall of Fame basketball player;
George Docking, politician;
Robert Docking, politician;
Bob Dole, politician;
Paul Endacott, Hall of Fame basketball player;
Ronald Evans, NASA Astronaut;
Thomas Frank, author;
Robert L. Gernon, jurist;
James Gunn, author;
Kevin Harlan, NFL and NCAA college basketball television announcer;
Herk Harvey, actor, motion picture director, producer, and writer;
Bobby Henrich, Major League baseball player;
Ralph Houk, New York Yankees manager;
Langston Hughes, poet and author;
Jane Dee (Bowersock) Hull, politician;
Bill James, baseball author;
Don Johnson, actor;
Kij Johnson, author;
Kenton Keith, diplomat;
Alf Landon, politician;
Stanley Lombardo, professor, translator;
Deane Waldo Malott, university president;
Danny Manning, professional basketball player; David McClain, university president;
Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering for Google Earth;
Elmer McCollum, scientist;
Charles D. Michener, scientist;
Dennis Moore, politician;
Franklin David Murphy, university president;
James Naismith, inventor of basketball;
Sara Paretsky, author;
Mandy Patinkin, actor;
Paul Pierce, professional basketball player (Celtics);
Maurice Prather, motion picture and still photographer and film director;
Paul Rudd, actor;
Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas Governor;
Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Prize winning economist;
Deanell Reece Tacha, jurist;
Jim Thorpe, athlete;
Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the dwarf planet Pluto; Roy Williams, basketball coach.