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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Lawrence in Douglas County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Lawrence Visitor Information Center

Welcome

 
 
Lawrence Visitor Information Center Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
1. Lawrence Visitor Information Center Marker
Inscription.
Welcome to historic Lawrence, Kansas, and its Visitor Information Center in the centuy-old Union Pacific Depot. Lawrence was founded in 1854 by antislavery forces determined to see that the newly opened Kansas territory joined the union as a free state. Today, Lawrence is a vibrant community whose culture is enriched by the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University and a variety of businesses based here. The universities are identified on the adjacent maps, which also provide hotel locations and highlight the historic downtown, museums and arts facilities, as well as the Oregon and Santa Fe trails.

This restored Union Pacific Depot is symbolic of the city's commitment to historic preservation and to the arts. The depot, which originally opened to the public in 1889, sat unused for many years before its renovation began in 1991. In 1996, the newly rehabilitated depot reopened as the Visitor Information Center and public meeting facility. Once again, the depot is the gateway to Lawrence.

When Charles Francis Adams, president of the Union Pacific Railroad, decided to build a bigger and better depot for its busy line through Lawrence, he turned to the highly respected Boston architect Henry Van Brunt. Van Brunt, who graduated from Harvard in 1854, had served an apprenticeship with noted American architect
Flood Level Marker on Lawrence Visitor Center image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
2. Flood Level Marker on Lawrence Visitor Center
Richard Morris Hunt in New York. Van Brunt soon established a fine reputation for himself both in Boston, where he designed churches and buildings, and at Harvard University, in nearby Cambridge.

About the time Van Brunt received the Lawrence depot commission, he and his partner, Frank Howe, established an office in Kansas city, from which they produced designs for the Coates House Hotel and the Emery, Bird, & Thayer department store in Kansas City, as well as Spooner Hall at the University of Kansas. The design of this charming and sophisticated depot (on the site of it[s] predecessor, a smaller, more utilitarian building) blends proportions and forms of French vernacular architecture with the robust masonry exterior of the Richardson Romanesque.

The new building was hailed for its beauty when it opened in 1889. One of two railroad depots in the city, it became a focal point for the comings and goings typical of a college town. The depot was the point of departure and return for soldiers during World War I and World War II. It survived two devastating floods, in 1903 and 1951, when it was filled with water 30 inches deep. Even as railroad passenger traffic dwindled nationally, the Union Pacific Depot continued to receive and send off passengers until 1971.

The years took their toll on the depot. The canopy shelter on the west end of the building was
Lawrence Visitor Information Center and Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
3. Lawrence Visitor Information Center and Marker
demolished after being damaged in the 1903 flood. Sometime in the 1920's the building's prominent, but structurally deteriorated, steeple was removed. When the railroad discontinued freight service in 1984, it announced plans to tear the building down within a week.

Preservationists, history buffs, members of the community and even the University of Kansas rowing team rallied to save the building from demolition. After more than a decade, the Union Pacific Railroad agreed to sell the building to the city for one dollar. With title to the building, the City of Lawrence used local funds, state and federal grants and contributions from private citizens and businesses to restore the depot.

The $1 million renovation included restoring, repairing and cleaning the exterior, replacing the missing steeple and canopy, and partially reconfiguring the interior for new uses. Even before the renovated depot opened, residents clamored for use of its meeting rooms. Visitors to the city, perhaps drawn to the steeple as to a beacon, found the Visitor Information center even before signs pointed the way.

Once again, the historic Union Pacific Depot signals to visitors, "Welcome to Lawrence."
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Kansas River Flood of July 1951
High Water Line
Surveyed by the U.S. Geological Survey
Kansas River Flood Level Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
4. Kansas River Flood Level Marker
To right of doorway

 
Location. 38° 58.707′ N, 95° 14.055′ W. Marker is in Lawrence, Kansas, in Douglas County. Click for map. Marker is about 300 feet northeast of the intersection of North 2nd Street (US Highways 40/59) and Locust Street. Marker is at or near this postal address: 402 North 2nd Street, Lawrence KS 66045, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Douglas County Memorial of Honor (within shouting distance of this marker); Lawrence (approx. 0.4 miles away); Historic Pinckney Neighborhood (approx. 0.4 miles away); John Brown and the Siege of Lawrence, September 14-15, 1856 (approx. half a mile away); Santa Fe Steam Locomotive 1073 (approx. half a mile away); The First Lawrence U.S. Post Office (approx. half a mile away); Liberty Hall (approx. half a mile away); 700-702 Massachusetts Street (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Lawrence.
 
Also see . . .
1. Lawrence Visitor Center. (Submitted on December 21, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Union Pacific Depot State Register Nomination. (Submitted on December 21, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Henry Van Brunt Bio at Cheyenne, Wyoming Depot Museum. (Submitted on December 21, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. High Victorian Gothic Architectural Style
Former Union Pacific Depot, Lawrence image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
5. Former Union Pacific Depot, Lawrence
. (Submitted on December 21, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. CommunicationsMan-Made FeaturesRailroads & Streetcars
 
Sculpture at Lawrence Visitor Center image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 17, 2011
6. Sculpture at Lawrence Visitor Center
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 504 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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