Transcribed from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Capitol.—The first building to be known in history by this name was the temple of Jupiter, located on the Capitoline hill in the city of Rome. In time the whole hill, including the temple and the citadel, came to be known as the "Capitol." Webster defines the word as used in this country as "The edifice at Washington in which the Congress of the United States holds its sessions; also the building in which a state legislature meets; a state-house."

When Gov. Reeder first took up his residence at Fort Leavenworth he was furnished with quarters in a brick building on the west side of the parade ground, and the executive office was in a stone building belonging to the quartermaster's department. Prentis says: "It was furnished with republican simplicity." On Nov. 24, 1854, the governor removed to the Shawnee mission in Johnson county in order to obtain more comfortable quarters. Although the business of the territory was transacted in these temporary quarters, none of them could be called a "Capitol" according to Webster's definition, because no legislative sessions were held there.


The first capitol or state-house in Kansas was the one at Pawnee, in which the first territorial legislature met on July 2, 1855. Concerning it Cutler, in his History of Kansas, says: "The Pawnee Association had built a 'capitol' of stone, two stories in height, 40 by 80 feet in size, well provided with seats and writing tables.'" The legislature that met there was composed of pro-slavery men, and, as Pawnee was in a free-state settlement, the members had no desire to remain long in the enemy's country. Consequently, the assembly promptly adjourned to the Shawnee mission, where the remainder of the session was held in the mission school building, but the people of Kansas have always looked upon it as the first capitol of the territory, and on Feb. 26, 1901, Gov. Stanley approved the following joint resolution:

"That the Congress of the United States be requested to grant unto the State of Kansas a certain stone building standing and situated on the Fort Riley military reservation in said state, which was built and used for the first legislative assembly of the Territory of Kansas, and so much of the grounds upon which the building stands, not exceeding one acre in extent, exclusive of the right of way heretofore granted to the Union Pacific Railway company for its railway, for the purpose of enabling the state of Kansas to preserve said building from decay and as an historical relic of the state."

Congress granted the request, but in order that the military authorities at Fort Riley might have full police powers over the building, the title was not accepted by the state, so that while nominally the old capitol is the property of the State of Kansas it is really part of the military reservation. In 1907 Col. Samuel F. Woolard of Wichita, a member of Gov. Hoch's military staff, while attending the encampment of the National Guard at Fort Riley, noticed the condition of the old building, and upon his return home from the encampment suggested to some of the citizens of Wichita that a fund be raised by voluntary contributions for the purpose of repairing the walls and placing the old capitol in a better state of preservation, On Oct. 12, 1901, the Wichita Beacon announced that the fund then amounted to $40. From that time contributions came in more rapidly, and in April, 1908, some $400 had been collected, which was used to repair the walls, plant vines, place signs on the ruins, etc.

Shortly after the legislature designated Lecompton as the territorial seat of government, William M. Nace was employed by contract to erect a frame house there for the use of the legislature. This frame "capitol" stood on Elmore street, and the first legislative session held in it began on Jan. 12, 1857. Congress made an appropriation of $50,000 for the erection of a suitable state-house at Lecompton, but the entire amount was exhausted upon the foundation and a very small portion of the main walls. No further work was ever done on the building by the government, and the only use of the foundation was as a fortress for some pro-slavery forces during the border troubles. By the act of June 4, 1861, the first state legislature transferred the old capitol grounds in Lecompton to the Kansas College Association, and at the same session the governor was authorized to dispose of the materials that had been collected for the completion of the building. The college association finished the building on different lines from those first contemplated, and it was used for some time as Lane University (q. v.) and still later as a high school.


When the free-state people gained control of the legislature the sessions were held at Lawrence, where they occupied two temporary capitols, both of which were merely rented for the purpose. One of these was "the new brick building, just south of the Eldridge House," and the other was "the old concrete building on Massachusetts street north of Winthrop."

The mass convention at Topeka on Sept. 19, 1855, and the constitutional convention of the succeeding month, were both held in a building at Nos. 425-427 Kansas avenue, which had been erected by Loring Farnsworth. This building became known as "Constitution Hall." It was used as a "capitol" by the state government set up under the Topeka constitution, and also by the actual state government established on Feb. 9, 1861. In the basement of this old building were stored supplies sequestered from certain pro-slavery towns during the embargo of the Missouri river by pro-slavery decree. After the question of locating the permanent seat of government had been settled by the election of 1861 (see Capital), the legislature of 1862 accepted from the Topeka Association the tract of ground in that city bounded by Jackson, Harrison, Eighth and Tenth streets for a site for a state-house.

By the act of March 2, 1863, the state officers were authorized to enter into a contract with Wilson I. Gordon, Theodore Mills and Loring Farnsworth for the erection of a temporary capitol on lots No. 131, 133, 135 and 137, on Kansas avenue in the city of Topeka, and to lease the said temporary capitol for five years, at an annual rental not exceeding $1,500, the building to be ready for occupancy by Nov. 1, 1863. This building included the site of the old Constitution Hall. In the sidewalk in front of the place where it stood is a large cast-iron tatblet[sic] bearing the inscription "Constitution Hall, where the Topeka constitutional convention met in 1855, and the Topeka legislature was dispersed by Col. F. V. Sumner, July 4, 1856. Used as state capitol 1864-69. Placed here by the Daughters of the American Revolution, July 4, 1903."

The present capitol of Kansas had its inception in the act of the legislature, approved by Gov. Crawford on Feb. 14, 1866. By the provisions of this act the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction were constituted a commission to erect on the grounds donated by the Topeka Association a building according to plans and specifications submitted by E. Townsend Mix. An appropriation of $40,000 was made to begin the erection of the east wing, and the ten sections of land granted to the state by Congress to aid in the construction of a state-house were ordered to be sold at a price not less than $1.25 an acre, the proceeds to be applied to the erection of the building. For the completion of the east wing the legislalure of 1869 authorized a bond issue of $70,000. The west wing was ordered by the act of March 7, 1879, which appropriated $60,000 for that purpose, and a tax of one-half mill on the dollar was levied for the years 1879 and 1880, the revenue derived from this tax to go into the statehouse fund. By the act of Feb. 10, 1881, an additional appropriation of $35,000 was made for the west wing, and the one-half mill tax was continued for the years 1883 and 1884. The central portion of the building, including the dome, was ordered by the act of March 4, 1887, and the one-half mill tax was again levied for the years 1887 and 1888. This tax was reduced by the next legislature to two-fifths of a mill for the next two years, and in 1895 it was reduced to one-fourth of a mill. By the act of March 11, 1891, an appropriation of $60,000 was made for certain specific purposes, to-wit: $9,000 for the completion of contracts already let; $17,560 for the north and south steps; $23,440 for concrete floors, etc.; and $10,000 for the completion of the basement in the south wing. The last direct appropriation—$100,000—was made by the act of March 29, 1901, and in 1903 the state-house was pronounced finished.

Owing to the fact that the funds for the erection of the capitol were derived from various sources—direct appropriations, bond issues, the proceeds of the land sales, and the revenues raised by the special tax levies—it is almost impossible, without weeks of labor in going through the different records, to give the actual total cost of the edifice, but it was not far from $3,500,000.

From north to south, the extreme length of the capitol is 399 feet; from east to west, 386 feet; the dome is 80 feet square at the base; the height to the balcony of the dome is 258 feet, and to the top, 281 feet, q inches. The dome was originally surmounted by a flag-staff 40 feet high, but it was struck by a bolt of lightning some years ago and has never been replaced.

Regarding space, arrangement, etc., the Kansas state-house is one of the best in the Union. Within its walls there are commodious offices for all the various state officers, the board of railroad commissioners, the state board of health, the state board of agriculture, the supreme court room, with rooms for each of the justices, the horticultural and historical societies, the state museum, the state library, the free employment bureau, halls and committee rooms for the two branches of the state legislature, etc.

Pages 285-287 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.