listing of some of Topeka’s more unique, historic
Each July the Collins Park neighborhood
has a “come-as-you-are” Independence
Day parade. The event is believed to be the city’s longest
continuous parade, running more than 35 years.
Holliday Park is “home”
to some of the oldest houses in Topeka.
Governor’s Row includes the site of the former Governors
mansion and the Governor’s Row House.
Westboro features large colonial homes in the middle
of Topeka. This area includes a quaint shopping area,
Westboro Mart, styled after Kansas City’s Country Club
This gorgeous area known for its big, Victorian-style
homes and circular intersections, is a community favorite,
especially at Christmas time when the neighborhood decorates
the intersections with lights and themed décor.
A short walk through this Topeka neighborhood takes
visitors through the very locations where the fight to
gain freedom for all Americans was fought. These sites
participated in the struggle for what President Abraham
Lincoln at Gettysburg called, “a new birth of Freedom.”
The Kansas State Capitol, the historic Ritchie House,
and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site make up
“Freedom’s Pathway,” successive stages in the battle
for freedom in Topeka and across the country.
From the Greens of Lexington and Concord in 1775, to
Kansas in the 1850’s, where the pro-slavery forces clashed
with those who would end slavery, to the 1950’s, when
segregation came under fire, each of these stages is
linked with the experiences of John Ritchie.
Ritchie’s grandfather fought with George Washington and
was captured and jailed by the British. Conscious of
that legacy 80 years later, Ritchie brought his family
from Indiana to Topeka to take up the “free state” cause
against the spread of slavery into the Kansas territory
and was jailed by the proslavery forces in Lecompton.
As a representative to the Free State Wyandotte Constitutional
Convention, Ritchie championed racial and gender equality.
Ritchie and his wife Mary Jane ran the local Underground
Railroad and encouraged former slaves to move to Topeka
to establish families and lead lives of full citizenship.
The Ritchie’s owned land in the Monroe School neighborhood
that they gave or sold to blacks and whites who also
shared Ritchie’s ideals of an inclusive and equal citizenry.
Ritchie also donated land and funds to build a school
for area residents, the predecessor to the Monroe School
now commemorating Brown v. Board of Education.
The Kansas State Capitol is a witness to the political
history of Kansas as a free state. It exhibits John Steuart
Curry’s impressive mural of John Brown, who was a frequent
visitor at John Ritchie’s House. The 1850’s Freedom’s
Honor Roll is depicted in the Capitol around the House
chamber. Whether the promise of the declaration that
“all men are created equal” includes race, gender, religion
and ethnicity in its meaning has been debated often in
the Capitol’s chambers.
Geography and history come together in this neighborhood
to demonstrate the concept of freedom, central to our
American heritage. The Freedom Pathway walk allows visitors
to learn and reflect on the enduring struggle for freedom
and the meaning of equality for all Americans.
Shawnee County Historical Society
Kansas State Historical Society
Topeka Genealogical Society Library