Introduction to Lawrence, Kansas
The city of Lawrence is located in Douglas County, Kansas, 40 miles west of Kansas City and 25 miles east of Topeka. The city is home to the University of Kansas and also to Haskell Indian Nations University, the premier Native American educational institution in the country.
The origins of Lawrence have a distinctly political component. When the Kansas Territory was opened to settlement in 1854, settlers were allowed to decide whether to admit their territory as a slave or free state. Shortly after the territory was opened, a colonization movement was started by New Englanders opposed to slavery, who quickly immigrated to the new territory, set up roots in the new town, and named it in honor of Boston's Amos A. Lawrence, a principal financier of the expedition. Efforts such as this prevented Kansas from becoming pro-slavery, a choice which in later years would lead to some bloody encounters in Lawrence involving factions from the neighboring slave state of Missouri. During the Civil War, Confederate guerrillas led by William Quantrill burned most of the houses and commercial buildings in Lawrence and killed close to 200 men they found in the city. The notorious incident came to be known as "Quantrill's Raid". A much more positive development occurred a few years later in Lawrence when the University of Kansas was founded in 1865 under a charter granted by the Kansas Legislature. Since that time, the University has had a major influence on the city of Lawrence, an influence which is still felt today. Lawrence is truly a college town.
Places of Interest in Lawrence
As a college town with a rich history, Lawrence offers a wide array of attractions in the cultural, artistic, historical, and recreational categories. Downtown Lawrence always has a lively atmosphere and is filled with restaurants, galleries, shops, and music venues. The University of Kansas campus is home to several museums, including the Spencer Museum of Art and the Kansas University Natural History Museum. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics contains artifacts and memorabilia from the life of the former Kansas Senator. The Lawrence Arts Center features a gallery containing artwork of the townspeople, activities, and organized plays. For outdoor recreation, a variety of mountain biking venues exist in the Lawrence area, including trails near the Kansas River and at Clinton Lake (located approximately three miles southwest of the city). Clinton Lake also has areas for boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. These are just a few of the local attractions but there are many more, including the following:
- Lied Center of Kansas: The premier performing arts venue in Lawrence, featuring internationally acclaimed performers and productions.
- Lawrence Arts Center: The hub of arts and information in Lawrence.
- Lawrence Community Theatre: Six major productions are staged each season, ranging from musicals to the latest works by area playwrights.
- Art in the Park: Features the work of nearly 100 area artists.
- Lawrence ArtsFest: Held in October, this event celebrates the uniqueness of the Lawrence arts scene.
- Maple Leaf Festival: A late October weekend event featuring crafts, food, and family fun.
- Downtown Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition
- The University of Kansas School of Fine Arts Art and Design Gallery
- The University Theatre
- Kansas University Jazz Ensembles
- Lawrence Indian Art Show/ Haskell Indian Art Market
The local sports scene is dominated by the University of Kansas Jayhawks, who consistently field top-rated men's basketball and football teams. The Jayhawks participate in the NCAA's Division I and belong to the Big 12 Conference. Jayhawk teams have won a total of nine NCAA Division I championships, including two in men's basketball, one in men's cross country, three in men's indoor track and field, and three in men's outdoor track and field. Major league professional sports are just 45 minutes away from Lawrence, in Kansas City, Missouri. Teams located there include the Kansas City Chiefs (National Football League), the Kansas City Royals (Major League Baseball), and the Kansas City Wizards (Major League Soccer).
Lawrence is a noted sports town for other reasons too. No other city in the United States can boast a more prominent role in basketball history. Although the game was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts, Lawrence is where basketball developed and grew. Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball in 1891, brought the sport to the University of Kansas seven years later when he became the school's first basketball coach. When Naismith retired in 1908, Forrest C. "Phog" Allen picked up where he left off, coaching for 39 seasons at the University, and becoming the school's winningest coach of all time and one of the nation's most successful coaches in the history of college basketball. With 13 Hall of Famers, 12 Olympians, 11 Final Four visits and two NCAA National Championship teams, it comes as no surprise that in 1996, USA Today cited the university's basketball program as the best of all time.