Ritchie House a SCHS Treasure
The John Ritchie House is currently owned by the Shawnee County Historical Society. It is a local treasure. Under the directorship of Dr. Bill Wagnon, restoration work continues. The structure of the building has been secured. Soon the home’s interior work will begin. The last time John Brown was seen in Topeka, he was shaking hands with John Ritchie in front of this modest stone house. Brown had been a guest the night before, and he left never to see his friend, or Kansas, again. He died on the gallows later that year. Ritchie and Brown had much in common. Both were ardent abolitionists: both were fearless in their opposition to those who would make Kansas a slave state. But there was a key difference. While Brown’s mission was to end slavery, Ritchie sought not only to end slavery but to create a new society—an inclusive society with White and Black, male and female, participating fully. This was his vision for Topeka.
Recently Deb Goodrich, education development consultant for the Ritchie House presented a History Day service day at the Williams school for area teachers and students intending to create History Day 2004 entries. Regional History Day is set for the Washburn campus, Saturday, February 28, 2004.
Ritchie Committee members have met to work on a narrative for the capital campaign brochure being developed for a long needed capital campaign for the Ritchie House. Another planning group is working to design the rehabilitation of the Ritchie House. The home’s interior is stripped down to the studs, and it probably will be restored to the way it appeared from 1857 to 1869 when John Ritchie’s family lived in it. With the more modern siding and a porch stripped away, the house has a red brick façade on the front and limestone on the other three sides. As the footprint of the design is finalized landscape architects will be involved working on the project for a site rendering.
The Ritchie House is located at 1116 SE Madison. If you haven’t been by, check it out today!
Your Ideas Wanted
Do you have an idea for the Shawnee County Historical Society? We want to hear from you. Send your comments and ideas to us via e-mail or mail them to: SCHS, P.O. Box 2201, Topeka, Kansas 66601. Let us hear from you today!
History Book Sponsors List Grows…
The Shawnee County Historical Society announced recently it will publish a new comprehensive illustrate history of Topeka and Shawnee County in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Topeka in 2004. The number of companies that have agreed to participate in the “Sharing the Heritage” section now includes: BA Designs, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Bob Florence Contractors, Capital City Bank, Capitol federal Savings, Cardinal Brands, Commerce Bank & Trust, DeBackers Inc., Designed Business Interiors, For-4-Less (Falleys), Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Gregg Tire, Hawkins Optical Laboratories, Kansas Livestock Association, Kaw Valley State Bank, KCTV 92.5 FM, John Hoffer Chrysler-Jeep, Kansas Mutual Insurance, Lawyers Title of Topeka, Lower Heating & Air Conditioning, Martin Tractor, McElroys Inc., Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority, Midland Hospice care, Parrish Management Corp., Plumbing by Carlson, Payless Shoe Source, Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, LL, Ramada, Security Benefit, Stormont Vail HealthCare, Strathman Sales Company, TARC Inc., Topeka Blueprint Co., Topeka Transfer & Storage, Vanguard Products Corp., Washburn University.
Monroe School Honored by SCHS
The Shawnee County Historical Society recognized with its last Preservation Award the National Park Service for its work on the Monroe School. On October 26, 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-525 establishing Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to commemorate the landmark Supreme Court decision aimed at ending segregation in public schools. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” The site consists of the Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka, and the adjacent grounds. When the National Park service acquired the site, it had changed greatly since the 1950s. Many of the walls dividing the classrooms had been removed. The original woodwork, tile, and flooring are still present. The exterior of the building is mostly unchanged. Engineering studies showed the building to be structurally sound. A multi-phased rehabilitation of the building began in 2000. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is one of the most pivotal opinions ever rendered by that body. This landmark decision highlights the Supreme Court’s role in affecting changes in national and social policy. Often when people think of the case, they remember a little girl whose parents sued so that she could attend an all-white school in her neighborhood. In reality, the story of Brown v. Board is far more complex. In December, 1952, the United States Supreme Court had on its docket cases from Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. The Court had consolidated these five cases under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. One of the justices later explained that the Court felt it was better to have representative cases from different parts of the country. This collection of cases was the culmination of years of legal groundwork laid by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its work to end segregation. None of the cases would have been possible without individuals who were courageous enough to take a stand against the segregated system. Topekans can be proud that the site, honored by SCHS, will open in 2004 on the 50th Anniversary of the Brown decision. (
—Some of the material for this article comes from National Park Service material.
At the Post Office:
Next time you go to the main post office at 5th and Kansas, check out the room to the left of the main entrance. Our National Park Service has an information center there about the Monroe site, including a video and numerous other publications of interest. The video runs about 12 minutes and is well done. You can also acquire information on “Bleeding Kansas: A Battle for Freedom and Land,” as well as information on other National Parks. Then go buy your stamps.
Rick Friedstrom, President
R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, President-Elect
Marcia C. Saville, Secretary
Matt Tomlinson, Treasurer
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Topeka & Shawnee County, Kansas