Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Kansas Capitol & Browns

Touring the state capitol building in Topeka, Kansas, our 23rd, was beyond a doubt the high point of any we have seen so far. We also visited the the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site where they tell the story of that historic Supreme Court decision.
The Kansas capitol is built in the classic style with four wings that house the legislative and executive branches of government. At 304 feet the dome is 17 feet higher than the United States Capitol. 
President Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Texas and died in Pennsylvania but his formative years were spent in Abilene, Kansas, the site of his presidential library. 
The interior dome is composed of 256 glass panels. The chandelier is a replica of the original which was melted down during WWII as part of the scrap metal drive.
The flags in the rotunda represent the nations that have claimed any part of the state throughout its history; United Kingdom, the French Monarchy, the French Republic, Mexico, Spain, Texas, United States and Kansas.
The thing that makes this tour unique is that we got to go up into the dome. On the first landing you can see the back of the columns where, over the years, people have written graffiti. This is no longer allowed. You can also get an up close look at the chandelier. 
Looking down from the steps to the second level is really impressive.
And we still had a long way to go, from the outer edge of the dome, up the long straight stairs, to the spiral steps, to the top. It is 296 steps from the fifth floor where the tour starts to the top.
Looking through the center of the interior dome at the painted walls on the inside of the dome we viewed from the ground floor.
The outside of the glass panels and the winch that is used to lower the chandelier to the floor below for cleaning and changing the light bulbs.
We made it!  I've always wanted to go to the top of the U.S. capitol but I don't think that will ever happen so this will have to do even though the view of Topeka and the Kansas plains is not the same as the view would be of Washington, DC. We did learn that Oregon is the only other state that allows dome tours, so it has moved up on our to do list.
The Kansas Senate chamber with 40 members has been restored to its original appearance. The chamber has several types of marble and the original, native Kansas wild cherry desks.
Here we are seated on the bench in the Old Supreme Court chamber. In this chamber in 1925 the court was the first in the country to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan.
Some of the beautiful art work, including the state seal, found in the capitol.
The House of Representatives has 125 members. A unique feature of this chamber is some of the pink columns are really painted using a faux marble process. 
Another unique feature of this capitol is the 1923 elevator that still has an operator rather than being modernized. The legislature has even passed a law that it will always have an operator.
The Governor's Ceremonial Office that is used for bill signings has many pieces of art and artifacts that are important to Kansas history.
Some of the statues on the grounds and atop the dome include, Abe Lincoln, a Kansa warrior atop the dome, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, and a tribute to pioneer women.
This mural, Tragic Prelude, was painted by John Steuart Curry in the 1930's. The painting is filled with much symbolism related to abolitionist John Brown, the time of Bloody Kansas when Kansas had to choose between being a slave or free state and the Civil War. Here is a link to a site that explains Curry's painting. 

The tour of the Kansas capitol and being allowed to go to the top of the dome sure makes this one of our favorite tours of any of the capitols to date.
The Monroe Elementary School was one of the segregated schools where Black students in Topeka were forced to attend even if other schools were closer to their homes. Oliver L. Brown was one of  several parents who filed a suit that separate schools where not equal. The Supreme Court ruled 9 - 0 in Brown's favor in 1954 overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision which previously allowed segregation. This ruling is looked at as the beginning of the civil rights movement.
There are a series of videos that explain what civil rights are and exhibits about the Brown decision and the civil rights movement. While this is an important site in the movement, we were not that impressed with the way the story was told.

I'm really behind with the blog. We are now at Good Life RV Resort in Mesa until the first of the year. We are looking forward to seeing many friends here and going to Secrets Silversands in Cancun for vacation. I do have a couple more RV repair issues to write about, but that is for another post.
 Life is Good.


heyduke50 said...

Kansas capitol definitely one f the best we have visited...

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Wow what an awesome set of stairs! no acrophobia in you two!