Kansas State Capitol - Exhibits
The Kansas State Capitol is considered the state's greatest architectural treasure. The founders undertook what many thought an impossible task: to create a grand classical structure on the frontier that would symbolize their pride in Kansas' tumultuous path to statehood and their grand hopes for its future. The undertaking was immense and impressive. Under construction for more than 37 years from 1866 to 1903, the statehouse was planned to be the place for the daily business of state government. A major renovation was completed in 2014, which returned the Capitol to its original glory.
The building's architecture, murals, statues, and other artwork can be considered exhibits as well. An online tour provides an overview and highlights on each floor.
The Kansas State Capitol Visitor Center is the gateway to the Capitol. Located to the north side on ground level, the visitor center includes the Capitol Store, the tour desk, a classroom and auditorium, as well as exhibits on the history of state government and the building.
This printable exhibit guide (PDF) provides further information about the visitor center exhibits, or find more about each of these sections below.
- Notable Kansans Hall
- Construction Hall
- Dining Room
- Northeast Room
- Northwest Room
- Hall of Native Peoples
- Rotunda Rooms
- East West Halls
- South Wing
The State of Kansas has 105 counties that are depicted in stone on the lobby floor. The map is placed to accurately reflect the correct cardinal directions. Images on the wall of the lobby are reproduced from early 20th century postcards. The gray stone found in the lobby is Tuxedo Gray limestone quarried in Kansas.
Kansas today has a population of nearly 2.9 million people from many different origins. Immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries brought their Old World traditions that continue in Kansas today. The photographs in the auditorium reflect the diversity of the state’s heritage.
For the state’s sesquicentennial in 2011 a panel of historians selected 25 Kansans who made a significant impact on the state and the nation, including Dwight D. Eisenhower who was ranked first on the list. Many other notable Kansans have contributed their talents and vision to the world.
Life was challenging when Kansas became a state. A serious drought took its toll and the young state was in financial trouble. Yet the people of Kansas were inspired to build a state capitol that would rival the United States Capitol in Washington, D. C. Tools used by the original stonemasons can be found in this area, as can historic items found during the more recent restoration.
Kansas is a land of contrasts. The state is environmentally diverse with wooded areas and rolling hills in the east and short grass prairies in the west. Current photographs depicting the Kansas landscape can be found in this area.
The Capitol dome reaches 306 feet in the air offering magnificent views of Topeka. To reach the top of the dome visitors must climb 296 steps from fifth floor to the cupola. In 1904, shortly after the dome was
completed, G. B. Steen of Topeka documented the views from the dome. Steen’s photographs are displayed with current views from the same perspective.
This large window was installed on the dome exterior during the original construction, completed in 1903, and was removed and replaced during the recent restoration.
Many well-known businesses began in Kansas including Cessna, Coleman, Koch, Lear, and Pizza Hut. The C. W. Parker Amusement Company of Abilene and Leavenworth was a well-known maker of carnival rides that were sold throughout the country. In 1904 it brought a carnival to the Capitol grounds. The images depicted here show the promotion of the Capitol carnival and actual photographs from the event.
The Wichita, Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, and Plains Apache descended from the earliest
peoples who once lived on this land we call Kansas. As the American population grew
eastern tribes were displaced to reservations in Kansas. The Indians were once again moved (this time to present-day Oklahoma) as Kansas Territory was open for settlement. Today Kansas is home to the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac & Fox nations.
The center of the rotunda rooms lies directly under the Capitol dome. The exhibits in this area focus on the creation of state government and the role of each branch of government.
When Kansas Territory was formed the issue of slavery threatened to tear the nation apart. Kansas settlers were given the right to decide whether or not to allow slavery in Kansas. At times, violence erupted over the issue of slavery and the territory became known as Bleeding Kansas. The whole nation watched the struggles in Kansas as a prelude to the Civil War.
In order to become a state Kansas had to write a state constitution, which the United States Congress had to accept. The chaos in Kansas Territory politics led to election fraud and 10 territorial governors in seven years.
Four constitutions were written; and two separate governments operated at the same time. Eventually the people of Kansas easily approved a constitution banning slavery.
The Kansas banner design was adopted in 1925 and used until the state flag was adopted in 1927.
Rotunda, West Room – United States 34-Star Flag
The first 34-star flag, including Kansas as a state, was raised by Abraham Lincoln in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861.
The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are identified in the Kansas Constitution and have parallel duties to those outlined in the United States Constitution. All three branches of government hold distinct powers. During the Legislative War of 1893 in which Populists and Republicans fought over control of the House of Representatives, all three branches of government worked together to solve the issue.
Kansas has often been at the forefront of national movements. Some events emerge as defining moments, not only impacting Kansans, but affecting those well beyond our borders. Twelve events that changed Kansas and the nation are commemorated.
Fairs have long celebrated the bounty of the season with displays of crops and livestock shows, plus cooking, arts, crafts, and other activities. Creative posters were historically used to encourage citizens to support the local fairs.
All images and photographs are the property of the Kansas Historical Society unless otherwise noted below. For more information on the collections of the Kansas Historical Society visit kshs.org, the Kansas Museum of History, State Archives, or one of the 16 State Historic Sites.
- 1904 G. B. Steen glass negatives, courtesy Joe and Frances Swalwell
Cedar Bluffs Reservoir; Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife area; Flint Hills;
Gypsum Hills; Konza prairie with buffalo; Northeast Kansas, courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (For more information, visit kdwpt.state.ks.us)
- Construction workers, 2009, Trevar Scott Photography, JE Dunn
- Czech festival, Wilson, Hays Daily News, Steven Hausler photographer
- Bob Dole, Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher photographer
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Library of Congress
- Flint Hills rodeo, Strong City, Doug Stremel photographer
- Kansas 34-star flag and Kansas banner, replica created by Vicki Seeger
- Kansas map sponsored by the Kansas Association of Counties
- Kansas Semi-Centennial poster and photographs, C.W. Parker Archives/ Collection of Barbara Fahs Charles (For more information visit the C. W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth.)
- Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854, National Archives
- Jack Kilby, photo courtesy Texas Instruments
- Mexican fiesta, Garden City, Garden City Telegram, Becky Malewtz photographer
- Missouri River overlook, Harland Schuster photographer
- Monument Rocks, Doug Stremel photographer
- Nicodemus Buffalo Soldiers, Lawrence Journal World
- Svensk Hyllningsfest, Lindsborg, Erica Heline photographer
- Veterans Day parade, Blue Rapids, Tom Parker photographer