State Capital of Kansas


From the time of the Topeka Constitutional Convention, when Topeka was designated as the temporary capital, the citizens of the town were determined to leave no honorable means untried to secure the honor permanently. All worked - men and women - the men in conventions the women at home and the event proved that they worked to good avail. Section 8, of the Wyandotte Constitution reads as follows: "The temporary seat of government is hereby located at the city of Topeka, county of Shawnee. The first Legislature under this Constitution shall provide by law for submitting the question of the permanent location of the capital to a popular vote and a majority of all the votes cast at some general election shall be necessary for such location."

At the session of the first State Legislature at Topeka, March 26, 1861, an act was passed to provide for the permanent location of the State capital. The first section of the Act reads as follows: "There shall be an election for the permanent location of the State capital on Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November A. D. 1861, and no place receiving a majority of all the votes cast, an election shall be held at each succeeding general election, on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday, until some place shall receive a majority of all the votes cast."

This election was a matter of great interest to Lawrence and Topeka, the principal competitors for the prize, and all the political machinery available, was freely used by both parties. The election took place on the 5th of November, with the following result: Topeka, 7,996; Lawrence, 5,291; all others, 1,184. Total vote, 14,471.

During 1861, 1862 and 1863, the sessions of the House of Representatives were held in a building, now forming a part of Crawford's Opera-house, and the sessions of the senate were held in Ritchie's Block (since burned) on the southeast corner of Kansas and Sixth avenues.

In the summer of 1863, the State erected a temporary Capital building on the west side of Kansas avenue between Fourth and Fifth (lots 131, 133, 135 and 137), which was occupied by the State offices from the time of its completion in the fall until the fall of 1870.

At the legislative session of 1862, the Topeka Association, through its president, C. K. Holiday, made a tender to the State of twenty acres of ground for the site of State buildings, which was accepted and deed recorded. An appropriation for building a State Capitol was made by the Legislature of 1866, and work was commenced on the foundation, but the stone used proving of poor quality, the work was abandoned.

The first appropriation for the present State House was made in 1866 and amounted to $42,000. Work was at once begun on the east wing and pushed quite rapidly. The foundations having been laid it was decided to make the superstructure of a sort of sand stone, found near Topeka and a few courses of this material were put in place before it was discovered that it suffered so much from the weather as to be thoroughly unsuitable. It was then discarded and the Junction City limestone adopted. This change caused an extra expenditure on the east wing of some $10,000 which can hardly be charged to its actual cost. In 1869 the work was so far advanced as to furnish quarters for the State officers, but it was not until 1873, that all was completed. A report published soon after set the total cost of this wing at upwards of $480,000, but as both bonds and scrip sold at a discount it seems more accurate to place the figures as is done by State Auditor Bonebrake, at about $450,000.

The first appropriation for the west wing of the State House was made in 1879, and the money expended in the fiscal year of 1880. The funds thus applied consisted of $60,000 appropriated directly from the State treasury, and $31,592.43 derived from the half-mill tax for 1879. The tax expenditure of the succeeding year amounted to $118793.69, all derived from the half-miss assessment. The fiscal year ending June 30, 1882, showed an outlay of $72,844.21 and brought the grand total up to $283,230.33. In the third biennial report of the State Auditor it was estimated that a little over $21,000 more would be needed for the completion of the work. This would make the total cost $305,000 from which expenditure there will probably be but little variation. This wing contains besides the offices of various State officers, the representatives hall - one of the finest in the United States, finished in thirteen different varieties of marble - the product of the quarries all over the United States and Italy. The spectators' galleries are at the east and west ends of the hall. Upon the ceiling are finely-conceived, allegorical paintings, representing History, Justice, The First Dawn of Liberty and Law. The building stone of the west wing is Cottonwood limestone, from Strong City, Chase County.

The main building, like the west wing, is built by funds supplied by a half-mill tax on all taxable property in the State. This for the year 1882 amounted to $93,064.03. The total taxable property of the State was in round numbers, $160,000,000 in 1880 and $186,000,000 in 1882. The tax list of 1884 will probably aggregate over $200,000,000 and increase more rapidly than ever before. It will readily be seen that the increased revenue for State House construction will be ample for all necessities. The contract for the foundation walls has been awarded for $174,775, and work is well under way. When finished the main building will be a fitting crown to the parts already completed.

The plan is cruciform, the building being composed of a main central building, fronting north and south and wings fronting east and west. Its total length from east to west inclusive of steps, will be about 490 feet and from north to south about 416 feet. The diameter of the central portion through the peristyle or range of columns above the base will be 106 feet, and above the peristyle eighty-six feet. The body of the building stands on a basement story eighteen feet above the ground. Above this are two stories comprised between the basement and Roman Corinthian entablatures. The sides of the building are ornamented with pilasters bearing Corinthian capitals. The east and west fronts are adorned with porticos with six fluted columns, the north and south fronts with porticos of eight columns each.

Under the system of direct taxation already explained this work will, it is thought, be completed as rapidly as under the appropriation plan, yet it must from its very nature, be an affair of from six to ten years. Even in its little finished condition the State House is a landmark for miles around, and when it shall be completed its lofty dome will glisten in the upper air far above the haze of smaller buildings, a fit emblem of the mighty State, which reared it.

(Source: History of State of Kansas, Chicago; A. T. Andreas, 1883, page 546)

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