Author: Fred Atchison

Pedestrian/Cycle Bridge Proposed

Steve Evans, retired architect and member of the City’s Multi-Modal Transportation Committee, introduced a proposal for a new pedestrian/cyclist bridge crossing over the Kansas River.  Steve, an avid cyclist and resident of North Lawrence, has long had concerns about pedestrian and cyclist safety on the bridges crossing the river.  He and other people who shared his concerns formed a work group called RiverFront & Center to discuss the issue. 

Steve explained how the present walkways on the bridges are narrow and congested. The southern end of both bridges are particularly hazardous for pedestrian and cyclist traffic.  The work group developed a new bridge proposal that not only could solve congestion and safety issues but also serve as an aesthetic asset for the river front area.

Kent Williams describes options

Kent Williams, an artist, architect, and urban aesthetics collaborator, presented several illustrations and details on three possible bridge designs.  Kent spoke of the historical importance of the riverfront area and of the great potential for making it a focus of development and activities as many other communities have done.  All of the proposed designs would be ADA accessible and connect with the Lawrence Loop trail, the downtown, City Hall, green space and parks, and other cultural amenities. 

Also in attendance in support of the new bridge concept was Sujoy Dhar, an architect and urban designer, and City Commissioner Courtney Shipley.  The City Commission will hear a presentation on the Kaw River Commons bridge concept on September 21st.

Rotary Nurtures Future Leaders

Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening (RYLA) winner Ian Rhea and his mother Joy Rhea were guests at the August 18 meeting of Lawrence Central Rotary.

Each summer Lawrence Central Rotary sponsors a high school student to attend RYLA, an intense leadership training experience held on the campus of Kansas University.  Local leaders presented information and moderated activities for the student participants. Leadership presentations included learning about civic engagement, Rotary Youth Exchange, and Rotary, Rotaract and Interact.

Although RYLA was conducted by Zoom this year due to the pandemic, there were some in-person events: rock climbing, and tours of the Dole Institute and the Lied Center.   Participants did a small group problem-solving exercise about creating strategies for addressing the “brain drain” in Kansas.  They also did a service project:  putting together and distributing hygiene kits.

Ian will be a high school sophomore this fall and hopes to be a fire fighter some day. He is active in student council and marching band, volunteers at the local food bank, belongs to 4-H and participates in church activities.  Ian reported that the best part of the experience was interacting with the other kids.  He added that RYLA made him think about the importance of public service.

Hearing from RYLA students always makes for a popular program.  Thanks to Leticia  Cole for her work recruiting and coordinating with our RYLA winners.

Face-to-Face Meeting Focuses on Polio Plus

Kyle Haugen shares his experiences with the Polio Plus effort

Kyle Haugen, a member of the Prior Lake , Minnesota Rotary Club, provided an update on Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio at the club’s first face-to-face meeting in many months.  Kyle comes from a family of Rotarians and has served as a former District Governor.  He has been active for a number of years in the End Polio Now project raising funds and advocating for the cause.  Kyle shared his personal experience of traveling to India in 2019 to participate in an immunization drive.  

Rotary’s commitment to eradicating polio started with a grant in 1979 to immunize the children of the Philippines.  Out of that initial effort, the Global Eradication Initiative was created.  In 2007, the Gates Foundation joined the cause, pledging to spend two dollars for every dollar spent by Rotary.  

The eradication effort has utilized 20 million volunteers working in 200 countries.  Some 15 billion dollars has been spent, and spectacular success has been achieved.  The focus is now on Pakistan, where there have been no new cases since January, and Afghanistan where there are only a handful of remains cases. 

Polio Plus needs continuing assistance to finish the job and to provide related health measures in countries at risk, but the goal of eradication is truly within reach.                                                                                                     

The mood was celebratory as Lawrence Central Rotary met face-to-face for the first time in many months.  Members wore masks except when they were eating, other wise it was business as usual.  Thanks to the good work of the ad hoc technology committee, a new computer and camera system was employed.  The new equipment makes it possible for members and future speakers who can’t attend in person to participate in a meeting.

The Untold Story of Lawrence’s Red-Light District

Landscapes change over time and are sometimes forgotten.  But Dennis Domer, a Professor Emeritus of American Studies and Architecture from Kansas University, has a passion for history and untold stories.  He has recreated a forgotten landscape with his work on the East Bottoms neighborhood of old Lawrence.  However, this piece of history will likely to make some people uncomfortable. 

From 1890 to 1920 the East Bottoms was a bawdy red-light district.  Residents of the neighborhood were Black, but liquor, prostitution, and gambling attracted outsiders, especially male students from KU.  Presiding over the neighborhood was a formidable woman named Aunt Jane Williams.  She controlled the illegal liquor trade which kept some twelve speakeasies in business.  She owned several ware houses and operated a very popular restaurant by day and speakeasy by night.

The East Bottoms consisted of a low-lying area bounded by the railroad on the north and Ninth Street to the south; the eastern boundary was Delaware Street and on the western edge was New Jersey Street. Housing in the East Bottoms was run down.  Most dwellings had a privy in the yard.  Sewage flowed through the streets and open ditches and several slaughter houses contributed to a prevailing stink.  The was no lighting or trash pickup service.

The East Bottoms was comparatively prosperous at a time when Black laborers could earn no more than subsistence wages.  Vice and sin was very profitable, even for city courts and government.  Aunt Jane was taken to court about once a month as she could be counted on to pay off a hefty fine in cash.  Illicit activities were periodically suppressed, but never for long.  The Kansas prohibition law actually contributed to the operation of the Bottoms as the law was difficult to enforce.  The passage of a national prohibition law in 1920 finally put the Bottoms out of business. 

 The lost landscape of the East Bottoms will be the subject of Domer’s forthcoming article to appear in Embattled Lawrence: the Enduring Struggle for Freedom, Volume II.