Saturday, August 31, 2019


No one knew Greenwood was going to be paved, and one day the asphalt trucks showed up and paved it.  The next day when they came back to do Woodlawn, a group of neighborhood women sat in their lawn chairs,  preventing the heavy equipment from coming in and paving until it could be stopped. Eventually, when the asphalt was stripped back off of Greenwood, women prisoners turned bricks by hand to hide the damage done by the scraping machines.  It was discovered that the streets of Potwin were 3 layers of brick thick. (Dan and Helen Crow, Ken Strobel, Ralph Skoog)
  Laid in April of 1900, Potwin streets like many others in Topeka were dirt and the sidewalks were made of wooden boards—called boardwalks.  Quite obviously this created a lot of mess, and the boardwalks connected houses and made fires even more difficult to contain (this was exacerbated by the balloon framing style of many houses of the period.  In the 1870’s Topeka, no longer a frontier town but a bustling, prosperous city began to pave the streets and sidewalks with brick.  Brick was the obvious choice of paving material.   Fired at temperatures of up to and above 1600 degrees, (depending in the kind of brick), it was harder than concrete, durable and the shale needed to make it was available in abundant supply.
Brick had always been an important building material, so much so that the early city leaders, known as the Topeka Association in 1856 gave east half a block of land at Jackson and Van Buren to Leonard Horne and the west half of the block to Enoch Chase, to be used in both cases for brick yards. Leonard Horne had already been making bricks, near the river (lot No. 3, section 21, township 11, range 16), three houses were constructed of this brick, and continued to do so. (Fry, p. 24)
  Chase sold the rights to the land almost immediately to the mercantile firm of Gordon and Allen for $200, never producing a single brick or building any structures.  Soon after they acquired the property, Gordon and Allen enlisted the services of G.G. Gage, from Ohio to make bricks, and the first brick was produced on Sunday, June 8th, 1856, it was ascribed as such and used to help construct the chimney for the Topeka Mills Company (KSHS, Biennial Report, Vol 12, p. 74, confirmed 30 Years in Topeka, Fry Giles p. 24).  When the Mill was torn down in 1874, this brick was returned to Mrs. Gage.
Within two years, Gage, was no longer working for Gordon and Allen and had a brick kiln of his own. With the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted, putting his business on hold, returning to after the Civil War for about fifteen years before he turned his attention to real estate development and other ventures.  (King’s History of Topeka)
By 1888, three brickyards were operating within the city and another just to the north by Soldier Creek. Producing roughly 16 million bricks per year for streets, sidewalk brick,   fire-proof terra cotta, and terra cotta drainage tile.  Brick production was at its zenith in 1893 when the Capital City Vitrified Brick and Paving Company received “the premium offered for the finest vitrified brick at the World’s Fair (in Chicago).  Mr. J. W. Boltz, who successfully operates the plant, is one of the men, who, experimenting in Illinois about ten years ago, found that by exposing a certain kind of clay to the heat for a longer time than common brick was kept in the kiln, caused vitrification to take place.  The clay found in Kansas is said to be the best in the world for making vitrified brick….Vitrified brick is becoming a favored material…adopted generally for its hardness and durability. “(Paving and Municipal Engineering, Vol. 4-5; 1893).  In 1894 they received a first prize at the Omaha exhibition and at the St. Louis fair.  (Topeka Daily Capital July 29th, 1906).  Sales continued to be predominantly in Topeka, but in Oklahoma and Nebraska as well.
While the office for Capital City Vitrified Brick and Paving had several locations there main brickyard was three miles west of town past the asylum (today this is where the KDOT facility is just west of the water plant) where they operated fifteen kilns.  Bricks that were produced are embossed with the name Capital City and still can be readily found.  Capital City Vitrified Brick is also known for being the first brickyard to produce bricks engraved with Dr. Crumbine’s famed “Don’t Spit on the Sidewalk” phrase that was part of his campaign to eliminate tuberculosis.
Although, brick streets and sidewalks are currently revered, they fell out of favor with the introduction of asphalt.  Asphalt was quieter, smoother and cheaper to apply than brick.  As early as 1894 visitors, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder were extolling its virtues “In the very midst of the city, the ground was covered by some dark stuff that silenced all the wheels and muffled the sound of hoofs.  It was like tar, but Papa was sure it was not tar, and it was something like rubber, but it could not be rubber because rubber cost too much.  We saw ladies all in silks and carrying ruffled parasols, walking with their escorts across the street.  Their heels dented the street, and while we watched, these dents slowly filled up and smoothed themselves out.  It was as if that stuff were alive.  It was like magic."  (
Topeka’s brick industry was dealt a crippling blow by a landmark legal case involving the city of Topeka and E. M. Warren—the patent holder of “Warrenite”  a type of hot mix asphalt.  Mr. Warren held the patent on a hot mix of asphalt containing up to 2” pieces of aggregate, the city of Topeka was also using a hot mix with aggregate not paying patent fees on it.  Mr. Warren claimed that this was patent infringement.  The courts found that the city of Topeka’s mix contained pieces of aggregate being ½” or less and therefore this did not infringe on Mr. Warren patent.  This case changed the course of asphalt history in the U.S...  Road makers everywhere began using the “Topeka hot mix” which they did not have to pay patent fees on and a legacy of this is still in evidence today by the smaller aggregate found in most asphalt.
By the 1920’s ads in the newspaper denoted “Paving brick being vitrified is tough, dense, can’t absorb water, Laid with sand cushion, over any good base, and bound with asphalt , brick surface has resilience “gives”; keeps itself from injury and protects the pavement base…” (TCJ, 1927) and city had begun to pave over bricks with asphalt because of people’s preference for smooth streets. 
The reign of brick streets and sidewalks ended.  Topeka would only have the one brickyard, Capital City which by the 1930s combined with a lumberyard located at 320 W 1st. The book closed on Topeka’s once thriving brick business in the 1950’s shortly after it was flooded.  At this time it was known as Capital City Lumber Yard and Planing Mill, no reference had been made for years to the product from which it started.

Sidenote:  The city is currently in the process of returning a section of Clay to brick.   (as per Karen Hiller)    Great map of the brick streets current and past in the city.

 1910--Warren v. City of Topeka opened up asphalting companies across the country so they did not have to use patented hot mixes, which made asphalting even cheaper.  

A bit about Walter Chrysler

Walter Chrysler was one heck of a guy.  Anyone who worked for him would tell you this.  No job was below him or too much for him, he could work on anything mechanical as well as having a head for finance and a way of managing people.  Born in 1875 in Wamego, Chrysler’s family moved for his father job first to Brookfield and then when he was three to Ellis. 
Chrysler’s father was a mechanic and machinist for the Union Pacific and when they moved to Ellis they lived in a small adobe house owned by the UP but later they built their own home, which boasted running water and a bathtub.  Ellis at the time was an “end of the rail city”, and he was familiar with buffalo, Indians and was a champion marbles player.  Chrysler’s mother spoke German to her children and ruled the house with an iron hand, all the while feeding anyone who showed up at the back door. 
 Chrysler found his first success as an entrepreneur selling calling cards to the women in town while in his teens.  Not an ideal student, there is no record of his graduating from high school (p. 53) although for many years he would take engineering courses through the International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, Pennsylvania and he was an avid reader of Scientific American—frequently writing in to their question and answer column (p.62).  Instead of school, Chrylser began working for the Union Pacific, first as a sweeper (janitor) and then working his way up.  In those days to work as a mechanist or a mechanic you had to provide your own tools, Chrysler was too poor to buy tools so he made his own—theses he kept and for years they were on display at the Chrysler Building (now they are in the Museum). 
Chryler ‘s high school sweetheart was Della Forker.  Della’s family was one of the wealthiest in Ellis, her father shipped cattle to the eastern markets and raised throughbred horses.  (p 60) He knew that he would have to leave Ellis to find success enough to ask for Della hand in marriage so he jumped at chances to advance and to move. When he had a acquired enough money to buy a new suit and derby hat and to have money enough for expenses to make it to the next payday, he and Della were married.  (p. 79)
Working his way up the ranks, including foreman, superintendent, division master mechanic and general master mechanic, Chrysler worked for the Union Pacific, Forth Worth and Denver , and Chicago’s Great Wester railroads.  Ending his railroading career as the works manager of the Allegheny locomotive erecting shops for the American Locomotive Company (Alco).  His success at turning Alco around attracted the attention of James Storrow, one of Alco’s directors who introduced him to Charles Nash the president of Buick Motors.  Buick was floundering and Chrysler had a reputation for efficiency and mechanical know how took over as production chief at Buick.
Chrysler was not unfamiliar with cars.  In 1908, he bought a Locomobile at an auto show in Chicago, for $5,000, using all of he and Della’s savings as well as taking out a loan.  The first few months he owned the car he did not drive it but took it apart and worked on it, figuring it out before he would attempt to drive it.  Chrylser increased production of Buicks from 45 to 500 a day and in 1916 he was put in charge of Buick.  Chrysler stayed at Buick until 1919 then went onto Willy-Overland Motor and then to Maxwell Motor before in 1925 launching the Chrysler Motor Company.
Chrysler Motors became known for the inexpensive but sporty Plymouth and DeSota sedans.  In 1928, when Chrysler bought the floundering Dodge Brothers Company it became the third largest car manufacturer in the world. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Building of the Capitol Timeline

Timeline of the Kansas State Capitol Building

1855--Kansas voters chose capitol site, Topeka wins, considerations that it is safer from border ruffians and it is a more central location.  CK Holiday, Saunders W. Johnson, Chet Thomas were among the chief proponents of Topeka.  Lawrence, Baldwin City, sac and Fox Agency, Emporia, Leavenworth, Minneola, Big Springs and Tecumseh also garnered votes.

1861--Ritchie block at the corner of 6th and Kansas; on the 3rd floor the Senate meets for three years.
(The Ritchie block, built by John Ritchie , Dr. Andrew Ritchie, Walter Oakley, and LC Willmarth burned in November of 1869, gave impetus for the first Volunteer Fire dept in Topeka in 1870.)

House of Representatives meets at the Crawford opera house, moves to the Congregational church at 7th and Harrison due to a roof leak. (Congregational Church was organized as a anti-slavery church)

1862--House of Representatives meets at the Gale Block
(Gale Block was built in 1859-60 by the Gale Brothers and was at 194-196 Kansas which is now 612-614 Kansas. 1869 it was rebuilt into Costa's Opera House and in the 1880s became the Crawford Opera House)

1862--Topeka Town Association donates 20 acres for Capitol site

1863--House of Representatives meets at the Methodist Church on Quincy between 4th and 5th streets ( organized in 1885, lots given by the Topeka Association )

1864-1869 Constitution Hall--Statehouse Row
The old Constitution Hall (what is the only remaining part of Statehouse Row) is incorporated into a new building with a new front.  The front of the building was 100 ft,with part of the building being 42 ft deep and part being 44 ft deep (due to the incorporation of existing building).
The first story has 8 rooms which include the Supreme Court and it's clerks, the State Auditor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State offices, law library and the miscellaneous library. Ceiling height was 14ft..
Second floor was the Governor, Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Legislative Halls.  Ceiling height was 12ft. 
Building was erected by Theo Mills, JG Gage, Loring Farnsworth and WL Gordon.
State leased for $1,500/yr. 

March 1866--State House Commission meets
Members include: Gov. Smuel J. Crawford, Secr. of State RA Barker, State Auditor John R Swallow, State Treasurer William Spriggs, Superintendent of Public Instruction Isaac Goodnow.
Hires WWH Lawrence as superintendent of construction
Hires John Haskell as architect to supervise ( E. Townsend Mix's design was supported by CK Holiday and the Democrats, Haskell's was supported by the Republicans)
Decide that the East Wing should be started first.

State House Commission likes limestone found near Manhattan but the site was not accessible by rail; and opts for sandstone from the banks of Deer Creek, Topeka.(near the Vinewood)

October 18th, 1866--Cornerstone Laid

Winter 1867--
Cracks appear in the sandstone.  Replacement limestone is chosen from the Junction City area.
New masonry contractor selected, Bogart and Babcock.

Winter1869--East Wing Completed (minus front stairs which are completed in 1873, and there were temporary stairs, walkways and privies--indoor plumbing was not part of the original plan)
Steam heat and gas lights.
Plaster work was done by the firm of Paul and Hopkins.
Cost estimated at $371,000.

March 1903--The Capitol is Completed.

Shawnee County Historical Society Bulletin Number 85; The Capital's Storied Capitol by Doug Wallace and Chris Meinhardt

Constitution Hall -Topeka Lithograph on Marker

This is a drawing of what Constitution Hall looked like at the time of the Constitutional Convention.  Hopefully, sometime this fall work will begin to return the front to this facade, if not this fall, it will begin in the spring.  Although through grants (from the NPS and KSHS) and private donations the facade will be done, the building lacks about $300,000 from completion at which point it will be open to the public. If you are interested or would like to become a friend and help this happen here is the website 

Monday, August 26, 2019


The interstate highway system that we now enjoy is typically ascribed as the brainchild of President Eisenhower (thus the name, the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways) and as part of national defense/readiness, but the roots of an interstate system go back as far as 1903 and Teddy Roosevelt and it was his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was the real founder of the interstate system.  FDR in his quest to put people to work, and as congress was becoming increasingly tired of the CCC and WPA and other ABC agencies, pushed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1938 through the legislature.  This tasked the Bureau of Public Roads with creating a feasibility study of a toll-based road system that would entail three north-south, and three east-west super highways.   The resulting report said that a toll-based highway system could not be self-supporting and it recommend a nearly 27,000-mile toll free highway system, this plan would be the basis for what became the interstate highway system.  After Roosevelt’s death, Harry Truman in 1949 choses to pursue the American Housing Act as part of his “Fair Deal” and lets the highway system drop, which Eisenhower will pick up again in 1955.  
Prior to the interstate highway system roads tended to be maintained by organizations or private individuals as a commercial endeavor.  Revenues were generated by tolls and by the sale of land next to roads. The Lincoln Highway, the first interstate highway was an example of this and was created and maintained by the Lincoln Highway association.  Highways and roads varied widely in their size, construction techniques and materials. The White Way Highway, which I-70 follows in part, ran from Chicago to Colorado Springs, and consisted of a gravel strip that A. E. Blackney and Everett Lindsay of Frankfurt were paid to paint a white stripe on every other telephone pole for 1,161 miles, for 15c/pole (  At the time, the White Way was the only organized highway to go through Missouri and Kansas, it ran east west from Corning to Kirwin, links Chicago with Denver, financed by the Atchison Commercial Club ( , a group of community leaders, who felt that it would enhance business in communities along the route. And that it did, in many towns, the White Way became the main street of the town. 
Perhaps it was Eisenhower’s involvement in 1919 in the U.S. Army’s first transcontinental convoy, which took two months to drive across the U.S. to assess the readiness of America’s roads that made( him pick up the idea of highway system and order the creation of the “Grand Plan”.  The Grand Plan was a 10-year plan to improve safety, reduce traffic jams, reduce traffic-related litigation, increase economic efficiency, and provide for the national defense.  This lead to the passage of the 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act which made highways uniform and provided funding through highway user taxes, federal gas and other motor vehicle related taxes.  Eisenhower was insistent that the highways be “pay-as-you-go” constructed and long term financed. 
On November 14th, 1956, just west of Topeka, between Valencia and Maple Hill, the first section of I-70 was the first section of interstate highway to be opened up in the nation.  Finished in June of 1970, I-70 stretches 424 east-west across the state at a cost of $155.6 million (this does not include the turnpike).   East from Salina was made with Portland cement and west with asphalt. This was the beginning of the 40,000 mile national Interstate highway system which is  the U.S.’s largest public works project. 

1903—Teddy Roosevelt, “ The faculty, the art, the habit of road building marks in a nation those solid, stable qualities which tell for permanent greatness…I say, we should have a right to demand that such a nation build good r
oads.  Much more have we the right to demand it from the practical standpoint.”  (TR at Odeon Hall, St. Louis, MO to the National and International Good Roads Convention, April 29,1903)
1907—Wilson v. Shaw the Supreme Court decided that the commerce Clause of the Constitution gave Congress the authority to construct interstate highways.
1910—Golden Belt Highway.  Running from Kansas City to Colorado Springs it was marked by “belts” of yellow paint on telephone poles, much like trail markers today, the yellow “belts” assured travelers that they were following the right path.  This is now Highway 40.  (
1912—National Old Trails Road Association—formed in Kansas City from Baltimore to California, 3,096 miles long, following he Santa Fe Trail.  (1926 future president Harry Truman, president of the Old Trails assoc. lead a fund raising drive for the twelve “Madonnas of the Trail” monuments to be placed one in each state)
1913—Lincoln Highway the first coast to coast highway is begun (completed in 1923) connecting New York to California
1916—Wilson’s good roads speech, “The highway is not intended, first of all, for the pleasure vehicle.  It is not intended for the mere traveler.”  In this campaign speech he argued that highways were needed to exploit the nation’s resources, help business:  the farmer, the retailer and the wholesaler; that good road would break down provincialism and unite the nation….A network of roads which will release all the locked up riches of all countrysides….Good roads are necessary for every practical aspect of our lives –to draw neighbors together, to create a community of feeling, to create those arteries….” (American Motorist, November 1916 p. 12, “Network of Roads Will Release Says the President)
1916 Federal Aid Road Act of 1916—aka the Bankhead-Shackleford Act; First federal highway funding legislation in the U.S., it provided $75million in federal money in 50/50 matching funds, funding was for rural roads that were to be open to the public at no charge. This was to aid in commerence and Rural Mail delivery. Limited federal funding to $10,000/mile.
1917—All states had a highway agency to administer federal funds.
1921—Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921; aka the Phipps Act provided 50/50 matching funds for state highway building up to 7% of roads statewide in 11 western states.
1922—Pershing Map—General John Pershing was commissioned by the Bureau of Public Roads to draw a map which indicated which roads were most important to the U.S. in terms of National Defense.  This was the first official topographical map of the U.S..
1921—Victory Highway George Stanfield of Topeka proposed a highway from New York to San Francisco honoring the WWI dead.  The headquarters were in Topeka.    Bronze eagles were to be placed at each county line to remember the war dead from that county.  Only 6 eagles—3 in KS, 3 in Ca were placed.  The one from the Shawnee county line is now at Gage park, Leavenworth county line is a the Dyke Museum on KU’s campus.  Pottawatomie county eagle is at the Wamego city Park.  ( Also known as the Smoky Hill Tail.
1922—White Way Highway is built (now K-9 highway)
1925—American Association of State Highway Officials begins planning federal highway system—east routes to  be numbered in multiples of ten.
  1938—FDR’s Federal Aid Highway Act feasibility study for 6 toll interstate superhighways; concludes toll based is not feasible.  FDR gave Thomas MacDonald a hand drawn map with 8 superhighways for the study. 
1939—Bureau of Public Roads Division report “Toll Roads and Free Roads” by Herbert Frairbank is the first formal descript of what will become the interstate highway system. 
1941—FDR appoints National Interregional Highway Committee to evaluate needs of highway system and to elaborate on Fairbank’s master highway plan.
1944—NIHC’s report recommends nearly 40,000 mile rural/urban highway routes
1944—Federal Aid Highway Act calls for up 40,000 miles  to connect routes, metropolitan areas, industrial centers, border points and to serve National defense and to be designated the National System of Interstate Highways.
1947—First 37,700 miles of routes for proposed and reviewed but funds are not authorized and construction is put on hold
1952—Federal Aid Highway Act of 1952 gives $25million  to fund highway system
1954— $175 million annually for 1956 and 1957 authorized
1956— Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 Resolves Interstate Highway funding under President Eisenhower which spurs development, reining the concepts of Fairbanks’ Toll Roads plan.
1956—October 25th—opening day of the Kansas turnpike. 
Nov. 14th, 1956—first section of interstate highway in the nation to be opened—I-70 west of Topeka.  This was the largest public works project to date