Memorial Building.Soon after the war of 1861-65 a number of states took the necessary steps to erect monuments, or some other suitable form of memorial to commemorate the deeds of their volunteer soldiers. At the close of the war a large number of discharged soldiers, taking advantage of the liberal provisions of the homestead laws, came to Kansas to secure homes, and within a few years the state had a larger population of veterans proportionately than most of the northern and western states. Grand Army posts were organized in almost every county, and after a time an agitation was started for the erection of a soldiers' monument or memorial hall of some kind. But Kansas was a new state, with an income hardly sufficient to defray the expenses of actually necessary public improvements and the maintenance of the state institutions, and nothing was done.
Congress, by the act of May 29, 1908, appropriated the sum of $97,466.02 to reimburse the state of Kansas for expenses incurred in recruiting, equipping and subsisting soldiers in the war for the Union. Another act of Congress, approved on March 3, 1909, appropriated the sum of $425,065.43 to reimburse the state for expenses incurred in repelling Indian invasions. These two appropriations gave Kansas money enough to carry out the long cherished idea of a memorial to the soldiers of the Civil war. Consequently, the legislature of 1909 passed an act authorizing a commission to purchase or condemn a site for a memorial building, the commission to be composed of the governor, lieutenant-governor, speaker of the house of representatives, the department commander of the Kansas department of the Grand Army of the Republic, the secretary of the Kansas Historical Society, one member of the state senate and one of the house of representatives.
The act also provided that the site selected should be near the state capitol, that the commission should employ the state architect to prepare plans for a memorial building suitable for archives and relics of the Grand Army of the Republic and the collections of the Kansas Historical Society. To carry out the provisions of the act an appropriation of $200,000 was made, of which $39,115.58 was expended in the purchase of a site at the northeast corner of Tenth and Jackson streets in the city of Topeka, immediately opposite the state capitol grounds, and the remainder lapsed because it could not he used within the time and upon the conditions imposed by law.
The commission created by the act of 1909 first asked for the total amount of the two Congressional appropriations$522,531.45but owing to the fact that the state needed a large sum of money for other enterprises, it was decided to ask for but $250,000, which sum was appropriated by the act of March 8, 1911. The act also approved the site selected and continued the commission authorized by the previous legislature. As soon as the appropriation of 1911 was assured, the commission advertised for bids, which were opened on March 22, but all ran beyond the amount available under the appropriation. Some changes were made and new bids opened on the 30th of the same month. The contracts and estimates as finally agreed upon aggregated $261,411.
The plans as prepared by the state architect, provided for a building three stories high, with basement, the foundation to be of granite and the superstructure of brick with marble facing, the whole to be practically fire-proof. Work of setting marble was commenced on July 8, 1911, and on Sept. 27 the corner-stone was laid by William H. Taft, president of the United States. When completed, Kansas will have one of the finest memorial and historical buildings in the Union, another evidence of the "Kansas spirit," which is a synonym of progress.Pages 265-267 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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