. . . a city with a population of about 90,000 is nestled in the wooded and lush green rolling hills of northeast Kansas. With its hills, colorful Victorian dwellings, stately churches and tree-lined streets, central Lawrence might appear to be a misplaced New England village.
is one of the few large neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was a finalist in the “America’s Prettiest Painted Places” competition. In 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Lawrence one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations, touting the city as one of the “best preserved and unique communities in America.
Thanks to the university community, Lawrence offers a wide variety of cultural and educational opportunities. The National Endowment for the Arts has placed Lawrence among the top 12 cities in the country with the largest percentage of professional artists in the work force. According to author John Villani, the city was among the top 15 in “The 100 Best Small Arts Towns in America.” Parents and Colleges stated that “In Lawrence, you can feel that artsy vibe practically everywhere: in public art exhibits that bring sculpture and mosaic projects to street corners throughout the city.”
The Lawrence Arts Center, The Lied Center, KU’s performance arts center, The Spencer Museum of Art, The Lawrence Community Theater, and Liberty Hall, all provide exceptional arts and entertainment activities. The Lawrence Arts Center perhaps is the only organization in the country that has an arts-based preschool. The Lied Center, the University of Kansas’ multimillion-dollar performing arts center, was ranked by International Arts Manager magazine as one of the “Top U.S. University Presenters.” Liberty Hall, a restored 19th Century opera house, features live entertainment as well as artsy cinema. The Spencer Museum of Art was stated by U.S. News and World Report to be “one of the top 10 college art museums in the nation”.
Music is the way of life in Lawrence. Classical, big band, blues or rock, take a stroll down Massachusetts Street any night of the week to hear Lawrence’s fresh new talent. U.S. News and World Report recently stated that “known for its music scene, Lawrence puts on music festivals year round.” Parents and Colleges remarked that “in the Lawrence Arts
The seed behind the undying spirit and pride of Lawrence citizens can be found by looking to the past. New England Abolitionists belonging to the New England Emigrant Aid Society founded Lawrence in 1854 to prevent the then Kansas territory from becoming a slave state. Lawrence is therefore one of the few cities founded purely for political reasons and was named after the financier of the abolitionists, Amos Lawrence, a Boston, Massachusetts native.
Lawrence acted as an important link on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves reach freedom, and as a magnate for free state forces. In 1856, a raid on Lawrence by proslavery forces from Missouri resulted in the destruction of most property in the town and the perishing of a large segment of its population —the massacre was the bloodiest attack on civilians during the Civil War.
The resilient citizens of Lawrence banded together to bury their dead and rebuild their city. Lawrence’s motto, “From Ashes to Immortality,” is inspired by the efforts of these settlers, and stands for the determination of the people of Lawrence to stand and fight for the rights and dignity of people everywhere. Many homes and buildings reconstructed or built after the sacking of Lawrence are in use today. The “free state” theme is still alive today and is a very popular business name – the city’s high school is named Free State High School. Lawrence’s streets are named after the states in the order they came into the Union; beginning with Delaware. Massachusetts Street was designated the “main” street because Lawrence’s founders were from Massachusetts.
After the war, the railroads opened Kansas to a large influx of settlers. In 1865, local citizens founded the University of Kansas. Lawrence rapidly recovered from the civil war, quintupling in size by 1870. After a slow growth period in the first part of the 20th Century, Lawrence’s population exploded in 1960s-70s, when many young people from the east, originally on their way to the counter-cultural revolution in California, settled here due to the natural beauty of the area, cultural tolerance, and diversity.
Linger on Massachusetts Street and you’ll discover why “Mass” has been called one of America’s loveliest main streets. The historic downtown district is populated by century-old buildings, eclectic boutiques, diverse watering holes and restaurants, music venues and antique shops. Art galleries, studios and a museum also are located downtown. Although cutting-edge merchandise and innovative ideas will greet you at every storefront, a key to Downtown’s appeal lies in the friendly Midwestern service behind the counter. That’s where you’ll find business owners with captivating stories, years of expertise and a genuine interest in the art of customer service. According to the Lonely Planet USA, “Lawrence features perhaps one of the country’s nicest downtowns.”
Lawrence has fifteen public grade schools, four junior high schools, and two high schools. Lawrence’s secondary schools rank 2nd among the nation’s 370 metropolitan areas by Expansion Management magazine, a national publication for site location advisors. Lawrence has a higher educational level than most cities in the U.S. Forty Eight percent of Lawrence’s residents age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 24.4 percent nationally.
Lawrence is truly a college town with a vitality and diversity uniquely its own. The city is home to two major universities: the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. The American Institute for Economic Research has ranked Lawrence ninth on its list of the 75 best college towns.
Parents & Colleges named Lawrence in its Top Ten Best College Towns
The University of Kansas is a highly regarded public university perched atop a high ridge, named Mount Oread that dominates the Lawrence landscape and affords panoramic views of the Wakarusa Valley which is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful in the country. Poet Walt Whitman said of the view from KU’s hill: “Stretching out on its own unbounded scale, unconfined…combining the real and ideal, and beautiful as dreams.”
Some 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend KU, including 1600 plus from 110 countries around the world. KU has more than 43 nationally ranked academic programs, including 26 in the top 25 among public universities. According to U.S. News & World Report. two graduate programs—Special Education and Urban Management — are No. 1 in their fields. Peterson’s Guide to Competitive Colleges ranks KU as ‘one of America’s premier universities’. U.S. News & World Report stated that the University of Kansas ranked as the 18th most popular university in the United States as of 2008. It also ranks 11th in the nation for study abroad involvement with nearly one-third of students participating.
Basketball is huge at Kansas. According to the New York Times, “Few American universities have as much basketball in their DNA as Kansas. The game’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith, lived in Lawrence and became KU’s first basketball coach in 1898.
The origin of our beloved college sport mascot, Jayhawk, is rooted in the historic struggles of Kansas settlers.
The term “Jayhawk” was coined around 1848, when a party of settlers from Illinois calling themselves “The Jayhawkers of ’49″ immigrated to Lawrence to fight alongside the anti-slavery forces. The name combines two birds–the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome bird, and the sparrow hawk, a quiet, stealthy hunter. The message here: Don’t turn your back on this bird. By the time the war ended, Jayhawks were synonymous with the impassioned people who made Kansas a Free State. In 1886, the bird appeared in KU’s college cheer–the famous Rock Chalk Chant, which arguably is the most famous collegiate chant. President Theodore Roosevelt pronounced it the greatest collegiate chant he had ever heard.
Haskell Indian Nations University is the oldest and only federally supported intertribal university in the U.S. Opened in 1884 as an elementary school, it has evolved into a full fledged university.
Lawrence offers five golf courses. The Alvamar Golf Course, is consistently listed in Golf Digest as among the 100 best public golf courses in the country. The Eagle Bend golf course hosts national tournaments.
Both the Oregon and Santa Fe trails run through parts of Lawrence and Douglas County. The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department maintains 54 parks in the city. There are 18 walking trails in and around Lawrence which traverses some of the most scenic and rugged territory in the area, and has bird watching areas and prairie observatories. The League of American Cyclists ranked Lawrence as one of the country’s most bike-friendly towns in 2005.
Extending beyond the southwest periphery of Lawrence, Clinton Lake offers boating, swimming and fishing, and is the site of a popular summer music festival. Boating World has featured Clinton as one of the “The 50 Best Boating Lakes” in the country.