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Lawrence, Kansas
City and County seat
Clockwise from top-right: Dyche Hall, Eldridge Hotel, Shunganunga Boulder, Lawrence Public Library, Massachusetts Street, Douglas County Courthouse, aerial view of city
Clockwise from top-right: Dyche Hall, Eldridge Hotel, Shunganunga Boulder, Lawrence Public Library, Massachusetts Street, Douglas County Courthouse, aerial view of city
Official seal of Lawrence, Kansas
LFK, Larryville
From Ashes to Immortality
Location within Douglas County and Kansas
Location within Douglas County and Kansas
KDOT map of Douglas County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
County Douglas
Founded 1854
Incorporated February 20, 1858
Named for Amos A. Lawrence
 • Total 34.97 sq mi (90.57 km2)
 • Land 34.14 sq mi (88.42 km2)
 • Water 0.83 sq mi (2.14 km2)
866 ft (264 m)
 • Total 94,934
 • Density 2,714.7/sq mi (1,048.18/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
66044-66047, 66049
Area code 785
FIPS code 20-38900
GNIS ID 479145
Interstate highway I-70 (KS).svg
Public Transportation Lawrence Transit

Lawrence is the county seat of Douglas County, United States, and sixth-largest city in Kansas. It is in the northeastern sector of the state, astride Interstate 70, between the Kansas and Wakarusa Rivers. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 94,934. Lawrence is a college town and the home to both the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

Lawrence was founded by the New England Emigrant Aid Company (NEEAC), and was named for Amos A. Lawrence, a Republican abolitionist originally from Massachusetts, who offered financial aid and support for the settlement. Lawrence was central to the "Bleeding Kansas" period (1854–1861), and the site of the Wakarusa War (1855) and the Sacking of Lawrence (1856). During the American Civil War it was also the site of the Lawrence massacre (1863).

Lawrence began as a center of free-state politics. Its economy diversified into many industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, and education, beginning with the founding of the University of Kansas in 1865 and Haskell Indian Nations University in 1884.



Prior to Kansas Territory being opened to settlement in May 1854, most of Douglas County was part of the Shawnee Indian Reservation. The Oregon Trail followed the Kansas River through what would become Lawrence and Mount Oread was used as a landmark and an outlook.

Dr. Charles Robinson and Charles Branscomb were sent by the New England Emigrant Aid Company to scout for a location for a city. They arrived in the vicinity of Lawrence in July 1854 and noted the beauty of the area and felt the area was well suited for a town.

The original “pioneer party” left Massachusetts on July 17, 1854 and consisted of 29 men. They arrived at the site Robinson and Branscomb selected on August 1. The second party arrived in Lawrence on September 9 after leaving near the end of August. The town was officially named Lawrence City on October 6. Original names for the settlement were Wakarusa, Yankee Town, New Boston and Plymouth but Lawrence was chosen to honor Amos A. Lawrence, a valuable benefactor of the Emigrant Aid Company and because “the name sounded well and had no bad odor attached to it in any part of the Union." The main street of the town was named Massachusetts to commemorate the origins of the pioneer party.

The first post office in Lawrence was established in January 1855.

1857 Plymouth Stone Church photo
Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence was the first church established in Kansas Territory.

In March 1857, the Quincy School was started in the Emigrant Aid office before moving to the basement of the Unitarian Church in April. The Plymouth Congregational Church was started in September 1854 by Reverend S.Y. Lum, a missionary sent to Kansas.

Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War

Shortly after Lawrence’s founding, two newspapers were started: The Kansas Pioneer and the Herald of Freedom. Both touted the Free State mission which caused problems from the people of Lecompton, then the pro-slavery headquarters, about ten miles northwest of Lawrence, and land squatters from Missouri. The Kansas Free State began in early January 1855.

On November 21, 1855, Charles Dow was shot and killed by Franklin Coleman in Hickory Point about fourteen miles south of Lawrence. Shortly after, a small army of Missourians led by Douglas County Sheriff Samuel L. Jones entered Kansas to attack Lawrence. John Brown and James Lane had hustled Lawrence citizens into an army and erected barricades but no attack happened. A treaty was signed and the Missouri army reluctantly left.

Ruins of Free State Hotel after the attack in 1856

Harassment by Sheriff Jones and other Southern sympathizers continued unabated. The Herald of Freedom, the Kansas Free State and the Free State Hotel were indicted as “nuisances.” On April 23, 1856 Sheriff Jones was shot while trying to arrest free-state settlers. On May 21, Sheriff Jones and a posse of 800 Southern sympathizers converged on Lawrence. Dr. Robinson’s house on Mount Oread was taken by the federal marshal as headquarters and the newspaper printing presses were damaged and thrown in the river. The Free State Hotel was also destroyed.

Despite the constant presence of impending war, Lawrence continued to grow. Its 1860 population was estimated at 2,500 although the official Census recorded 1,645. Lawrence became the county seat of Douglas County in 1857, prior to that Lecompton had been the seat and even when the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, Lawrence was still a magnet to conflict. William Clarke Quantrill and 300-400 Confederate guerillas rode into Lawrence and sacked the city at dawn on August 21, 1863. Most houses and businesses in Lawrence were burned and between 150 and 200 men and boys were slain.

Post-Civil War

Massachusetts Avenue, Lawrence, Kansas, 38 miles west of Missouri River. (Boston Public Library) (cropped)
Massachusetts Avenue, ca. 1867

Attempts to begin a university in Kansas were first undertaken in 1855, but it was only after Kansas became a state in 1861 that those attempts saw any real fruition. An institute of learning was proposed in 1859 as The University of Lawrence, but it never opened. When Kansas became a state, provision was included in the Kansas Constitution for a state university. From 1861 to 1863 the question of where the university would be located—Lawrence, Manhattan or Emporia—was debated. In February 1863, Manhattan was made the site of the state's land-grant college, leaving only Lawrence and Emporia as candidates. The fact Lawrence had $10,000 plus interest donated by Amos Lawrence plus 40 acres (160,000 m2) to donate for the university had great weight with the legislature and Lawrence beat out Emporia by one vote. The University of Kansas opened in 1866 with 55 students.

Overlooking Lawerence and the Kansas River. (Boston Public Library) (cropped)
Old North College, the first building on KU Campus, overlooking Lawrence and the Kansas River, ca. 1867

Facing an energy crisis in the early 1870s, the city contracted with Orlando Darling to construct a dam across the Kansas River to help provide the city with power. Frustrated with the construction of the dam, Darling resigned and the Lawrence Land & Water Company completed the dam without him in 1873; however, only when J.D. Bowersock took over the dam in 1879 that the constant damage to the dam ceased and repairs held up. The dam made Lawrence unique which helped in winning business against Kansas City and Leavenworth. The dam closed in 1968 but was reopened in 1977 with help from the city, which wanted to build a new city hall next to the Bowersock Plant.

In 1884 the United States Indian Industrial Training School was opened in Lawrence. Boys were taught the trades of tailor making, blacksmithing, farming and others while girls were taught cooking and homemaking. In 1887 the name was changed to the Haskell Institute, after Dudley Haskell, a legislator responsible for the school being in Lawrence. In 1993 the name was changed again to Haskell Indian Nations University.

North Lawrence

Lawrence Visitors Center
The Lawrence Visitors Center, formerly the Union Pacific Depot

Grant Township, north of the Kansas River, was annexed to Douglas County in 1870 from southern Sarcoxie Township in Jefferson County. The largest city in the township was Jefferson, founded in 1866 just over the river from Lawrence. Jefferson was renamed North Lawrence in 1869 and it was attempted to annex the town to Lawrence proper but the motion failed. In 1870 the State Legislature annexed the town.

Just northeast of North Lawrence was Bismarck Grove, home to numerous picnics, temperance meetings and fairs. In 1870, "Bismarck" was organized and the first gathering was a temperance meeting in 1878. The last fair was held at the Grove in 1899 and the area became private property in 1900.

20th century and beyond

In 1888, Watkins National Bank opened at 11th and Massachusetts. Founded by Jabez B. Watkins, the bank would last until 1929. Watkin’s wife Elizabeth donated the bank building to the city to use as a city hall. In 1970, the city built a new city hall and after extensive renovations, the bank reopened in 1975 as the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum.

Watkins Museum
Watkins Community Museum, once Watkins National Bank and Lawrence City Hall

In 1903, the Kansas River flooded causing property damage in Lawrence, especially North Lawrence. The water got as high as 27 feet and water marks can still be seen on some buildings especially at TeePee Junction at the U.S. 24-40 intersection and at Burcham Park. Lawrence would be hit by other floods in 1951, where the water rose over 30 feet, and in 1993 but with the reservoir and levee system in place, Lawrence only had minimal damage compared to the other floods.

Also in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt visited Lawrence on his way to Manhattan where he gave a short speech and dedicated a fountain at 9th & New Hampshire. The fountain was later moved to South Park next to the gazebo. Roosevelt would visit Lawrence again in 1910 after visiting Osawatomie where he dedicated the John Brown State Historical Site and gave a speech on New Nationalism.

In 1871, the Lawrence Street Railway Company opened and offered citizens easy access to hotels and businesses along Massachusetts Street. The first streetcar was pulled by horses and mules and the track just ran along Massachusetts Street. After the 1903 flood, the Kansas River bridge had to be rebuilt but was not considered safe for a streetcar to pass over. The Lawrence Street Railway Company closed later that year. In 1907, C.L. Rutter attempted to bring back a bus system, after having failed in 1902. In 1909, a new streetcar system was implemented putting Rutter out of business and lasting until 1935.

In 1921, Lawrence Memorial Hospital opened in the 300 block of Maine Street. It started with only 50 beds but by 1980, the hospital would expand to 200. LMH has been awarded several awards and recognitions for care and quality including The Hospital Value Index Best in Value Award and is ranked nationally in the top five percent for heart attack care by the American College of Cardiology.

In 1929 Lawrence began celebrating its 75th anniversary. The city dedicated Founder’s Rock, commonly referred to as the Shunganunga Boulder, a huge red boulder brought to Lawrence from near Tecumseh. The rock honors the two parties of the Emigrant Aid Society who first settled in Lawrence. Lawrence also dedicated the Lawrence Municipal Airport on October 14.

In 1943, the federal government transported German and Italian prisoners of World War II to Kansas and other Midwest states to work on farms and help solve the labor shortage caused by American men serving in the war effort. Large internment camps were established in Kansas: Camp Concordia, Camp Funston (at Fort Riley), Camp Phillips (at Salina under Fort Riley). Fort Riley established 12 smaller branch camps, including Lawrence. The camp in Lawrence was near 11th & Haskell Avenue near the railroad tracks. The camp would close by the end of 1945.

In 1947, Gilbert Francis and his son George opened Francis Sporting Goods downtown, selling mostly fishing and hunting gear. A decade later they moved across the street to larger retail space at 731 Massachusetts Street, enabling them to expand into other sporting goods. In November 2014, in the wake of the opening of a new Dick's Sporting Goods location in Lawrence, Francis Sporting Goods, announced its retail business within what had become Lawrence's Downtown Historic District would close by the end of the year, allowing the Francis family to focus on supplying uniforms and equipment to teams.

Downtown Lawrence
The 900 block of Massachusetts Street

In the early 1980s, Lawrence grabbed attention from the television movie The Day After. The TV movie first appeared on ABC but was later shown in movie theaters around the world. The movie depicted what would happen if the United States were destroyed in a nuclear war. The movie was filmed in Lawrence, and hundreds of local residents appeared in the film as extras and in speaking roles.

In 1989, the Free State Brewing Company opened in Lawrence becoming the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. The restaurant is in a renovated inter-urban trolley station in downtown Lawrence.

In 2007, Lawrence was named one of the best places to retire by U.S. News & World Report. In 2011, the city was named one of America's 10 best college towns by Parents & Colleges.


Clinton State Park
Clinton Lake, which lies to the southwest of the city (2015)

Downtown Lawrence is located at 38°58′18″N 95°14′7″W / 38.97167°N 95.23528°W / 38.97167; -95.23528 (38.959902, −95.253199), approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Topeka, and 35 mi (56 km) west of Kansas City, Kansas. Though Lawrence has a designated elevation of 866 feet (264 m), the highest elevation is Mount Oread on the University of Kansas campus with an elevation of 1,020 feet (310 m).

Haskell-Baker Wetlands
The Haskell-Baker Wetlands (2017), which lie to the southeast of the city

The city lies on the southern edge of the Dissected Till Plains, bordering the Osage Plains to the south. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 34.26 square miles (88.73 km2), of which, 33.56 square miles (86.92 km2) is land and 0.70 square miles (1.81 km2) is water, and is split between Wakarusa Township and Grant Township with small portions in Lecompton, Kanwaka and Clinton Townships.

Lawrence is located between the Kansas and Wakarusa Rivers. Several major creeks flow through Lawrence. Burroughs Creek in East Lawrence (named after the writer William S. Burroughs, who retired in East Lawrence) and Baldwin Creek in northwestern Lawrence empty into the Kansas River. Yankee Tank Creek in southwest Lawrence and an unnamed creek that flows through central Lawrence converge with the Wakarusa River south of the city. Yankee Tank Creek is dammed to form Lake Alvamar, which was originally called Yankee Tank Lake. The Wakarusa River was dammed to form Clinton Lake. Potter Lake is on the University of Kansas Campus and Mary's Lake is located in southeastern Lawrence within Prairie Park. The Haskell-Baker Wetlands, maintained by Haskell University and Baker University, is an extensive open space located in the southern part of the city that features wetlands, native plants, hiking and biking trails, and interpretative signage about the prairie and wetland ecosystems.

Lawrence has 54 parks which include community and neighborhood parks, trails, cemeteries and nature preserves. A new, multi-use trail system called the Lawrence Loop ("the Loop") encircles the city and, when fully completed, will create a 22-mile paved recreational trail, a green transportation network, and multiple opportunities for environmental restoration. Community parks include South Park, Buford Watson Park, Broken Arrow Park, Riverfront Park, Holcomb Park, "Dad" Perry Park, Centennial Park and Prairie Park. Cemeteries include Oak Hill, Maple Grove and Memorial Park. The first cemetery in Lawrence, Pioneer Cemetery, is on the University of Kansas campus and is maintained by KU.


Lawrence has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), typically experiencing hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 28.4 °F (−2.0 °C) in January to 78.5 °F (25.8 °C) in July. The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 32 days a year and 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 1.9 days. The minimum temperature falls to or below 0 °F (−18 °C) on an average 4.9 days a year. Extreme temperatures range from 111 °F (44 °C) on July 13 and 14, 1954 down to −21 °F (−29 °C) on December 22, 1989.

On average, Lawrence receives 39.9 inches (1,010 mm) of precipitation annually, most of which occurs in the warmer months, and records 96 days of measurable precipitation. Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 8 days per year with 4.6 days receiving at least 1.0 inch (2.5 cm). Snow depth of at least one inch occurs an average of 15.8 days a year.

Climate data for Lawrence, Kansas (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 72
Average high °F (°C) 38.5
Average low °F (°C) 18.3
Record low °F (°C) −18
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.98
Snowfall inches (cm) 3.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 5.2 5.9 7.9 9.7 11.3 10.4 8.7 8.6 8.4 8.1 6.6 5.6 96.4
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.2 2.1 0.5 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.8 2.2 8.0
Source: NOAA The Weather Channel


Plymouth Church LawrenceKS
Plymouth Church in Lawrence
Ninth Street Baptist Church
The Ninth Street Baptist Church in Old West Lawrence


The early settlers of the town named the city's main road "Massachusetts" to commemorate the New England Emigrant Aid Company's home state. Originally, north–south streets were named after states in the order that they were admitted to the Union, and east-west streets were named after famous Revolutionary War heroes. Over the years, however, this plan became marred. A number of streets were placed in the wrong order, North and South Carolina were consolidated into a single Carolina Street near Lawrence High School, and the names of nine states (Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wyoming) were never given to streets. The state street naming system was abandoned after the establishment of Iowa Street, which runs through the center of Lawrence. In 1913, the east-west streets were renamed to numbered streets.


Lawrence is designated by neighborhoods. Neighborhoods closest to downtown are Old West Lawrence, North Lawrence, East Lawrence, Oread, Hancock and Pinckney. The neighborhoods west of Iowa Street are Sunset Hills, Prairie Meadows, Deerfield, and Alvamar. There are several neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Old West Lawrence, Oread, Hancock, Breezedale, and most of Rhode Island Street in East Lawrence.

North Lawrence

Lawrence Visitors Center
The Lawrence Visitors Center, formerly the Union Pacific Depot

Grant Township, north of the Kansas River, was annexed to Douglas County in 1870 from southern Sarcoxie Township in Jefferson County. The largest city in the township was Jefferson, founded in 1866 just over the river from Lawrence. Jefferson was renamed North Lawrence in 1869 and it was attempted to annex the town to Lawrence proper but the motion failed. The following year, the State Legislature annexed the town.

Just northeast of North Lawrence there once was a popular park area known as Bismarck Grove. During the late 19th century, this area housed numerous fairs, picnics, and temperance meetings. In 1870, the Kansas Pacific railroad set up a number of manufacturing and repair shops in this area, which became known as "Bismarck". The first organized gathering in the area took play in 1878 was the National Temperance camp meeting. The last fair was held at the Grove in 1899, and due to financial issues, the area was sold and became private property in 1900.


The Forum at Marvin Hall
The Forum at Marvin Hall
UK Lawrence Nima 07
Bailey Hall on the University of Kansas campus

The architecture of Lawrence is greatly varied. Most buildings built before 1860 were destroyed in the Lawrence Massacre. Architectural styles represented in Lawrence's historical areas are Victorian, Gothic Revival, Tudor, Romanesque and many others.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,645
1870 8,320 405.8%
1880 8,510 2.3%
1890 9,997 17.5%
1900 10,862 8.7%
1910 12,374 13.9%
1920 12,456 0.7%
1930 13,726 10.2%
1940 14,390 4.8%
1950 23,351 62.3%
1960 32,858 40.7%
1970 45,698 39.1%
1980 52,738 15.4%
1990 65,608 24.4%
2000 80,098 22.1%
2010 87,643 9.4%
2020 94,934 8.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

The city's planning and urban development department estimates the city reached 100,000 people in early 2018.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 87,643 people, 34,970 households, and 16,939 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,611.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,008.3/km2). There were 37,502 housing units at an average density of 1,117.5 per square mile (431.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.0% White, 4.7% African American, 3.1% Native American, 4.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.5% from other races, and 4.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.7% of the population.

There were 34,970 households, of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 8.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 51.6% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 17.5% of residents under the age of 18; 28.7% of residents between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.4% from 25 to 44; 18.5% from 45 to 64; and 8% were 65 years of age or older. The median age in the city was 26.7 years. The gender makeup of the city was 50.2% male and 49.8% female.

As of 2010 the median income for a household was $41,290, and the median income for a family was $65,673. Males had a median income of $42,362 versus $34,124 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,666. About 10.7% of families and 23.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.

2020 census

According to the 2020 census, the city of Lawrence had 94,934 residents including 35,140 households, and 17,201 families.


Lawrence's economy largely depends on educational institutions, namely The University of Kansas, which is the largest employer in the city as of 2020 with 10,116 employees, followed by Maximus; a call center, Lawrence Memorial Hospital; the city's hospital, and Hallmark Cards.

As of 2020, Lawrence's unemployment rate had grown by 3.7%. Since 2019, the city has seen a rise in homelessness. In 2021, NPR reported that Lawrence and nearby Kansas City, Kansas saw a large spike in homelessness. In Lawrence, the situation had gotten so bad the city constructed an encampment for homeless people to seek temporary shelter. "We saw a 26 percent increase pretty much instantly because of all those people affected by job shortages and furloughs," said Jaysen Van Sickle, CEO of the Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus in Kansas City, referring to the period in March. Since then his group has seen about 6,000 new people seeking help. In early 2021, the LJWorld reported there were over 200 homeless people seeking shelter on the banks of the Kansas River, and wooded areas near nature trails in Lawrence, and hundreds of others setting up encampments in city parks.

Historic sites and museums

South Park Gazebo
The South Park gazebo

South Park is a large park in Downtown Lawrence divided by Massachusetts Street just south of the county courthouse between North Park and South Park Streets. The park originally consisted of four separate parks—Lafayette, Hamilton, Washington and Franklin Parks—but was combined to form one park. South Park was developed in 1854 as part of the original city plat. A gazebo was built in South Park in 1910 and is used for annual city band performances during the summer months.

The Watkins Museum of History is a block north of South Park and houses exhibits from Lawrence and Douglas County. The building is managed by the Douglas County Historical Society and used to be Watkins National Bank (1888–1929) and Lawrence City Hall (1929–1970). The building features a range of architectural styles from the period it was constructed. Today it houses the Watkins Museum of History, which offers free admission and three floors of traditional and computer interactive exhibits. Next door to the museum is a Japanese Friendship Garden designed by the city and representatives from sister city Hiratsuka, Japan. An exhibit on the Bleeding Kansas era and the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area is in the old Lawrence Public Library at 9th and Vermont Streets. Other museums on KU campus include the Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall, the Spencer Museum of Art and the Dole Institute of Politics among others.

Centennial Park, between 6th and 9th Streets and Rockledge Road and Iowa Street, was established in 1954 for the city's 100th anniversary. The park features rolling hills, a skatepark, a disc golf course and a Polaris missile constructed during the Cold War. Sesquicentennial Park is near Clinton Lake and was established for Lawrence's 150th anniversary and is mostly undeveloped but features a timeline of Lawrence history and a time capsule to be opened in 2054.

Liberty Hall was built when the Bowersock Opera House burned down in 1911. Liberty Hall is a theater typically showcasing independent movies and frequent live acts. Liberty Hall also runs a video rental next door. The Granada Theater was originally built in 1928 as a vaudeville theater. It was renovated in 1934 as a movie theater until closing in 1989. It was renovated again in 1993 and opened as a venue for comedy acts and live music.

The Eldridge Hotel was first built in 1855 as the Free State Hotel. During the 1855 sack of Lawrence, the hotel was burned to the ground, and its ruins were purchased by Col. Shalor Eldridge, who rebuilt it and named it the Eldridge House. This version of the structure was destroyed during Quantrill's Raid, but once again Eldridge rebuilt it. In 1925, this structure was completely renovated, and in 1970, the hotel was converted into apartments. In 1985, work began to renovate the Eldridge and turn it back into a hotel, and in 2004 the building was sold and completely renovated back to its 1925 look. It is a popular rumor that the ghost of Eldridge haunts the hotel.

Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse are on KU campus. Memorial Stadium was built in 1920 for the Kansas Jayhawks football program. It was named to honor KU students who died in World War I. Allen Fieldhouse was built in 1955 for the basketball program and was named for Phog Allen, a coach at KU from 1907 to 1909 and 1919 to 1956. On November 4, 2010, the ESPN's online publication, The Magazine, named Allen Fieldhouse the loudest college basketball arena in the country, whilst prominent sportswriter, Mark Whicker, has publicly declared the fieldhouse is "the best place in America to watch college basketball."

Oak Hill Cemetery in east Lawrence was established in 1866 and was called by William Allen White the "Kansas Arlington." The cemetery features the burials of James Lane, Lucy Hobbs Taylor, Langston Hughes' grandparents, numerous veterans and many prominent Kansans. Across the street is Memorial Park Cemetery which features a memorial for KU coach and inventor of basketball James Naismith. The memorial is a cenotaph but Naismith is buried in the mason section of Memorial Park.

Lawrence is also the site of many historic houses related to the history of the city. The Robert Miller house survived Quantrill's Raid and was a stop on the Underground Railroad, Ferdinand Fuller, an original settler of Lawrence, built his house atop of Windmill Hill in what is now the Hillcrest Neighborhood and the John Roberts House, commonly called the Castle Tea Room, was designed by famed architect John G. Haskell in 1894 and is now used for various formal events. There are many other houses of historic prominence in Lawrence, many of them on the National Register of Historic Places.

Arts and culture

The city is known for a thriving music and art scene. Rolling Stone named Lawrence one of the "best lil' college towns" in the country in its August 11, 2005, issue. The New York Times said Lawrence had "the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver" in a travel column on February 25, 2005. Locally owned bar and music venue The Replay Lounge was named one of Esquire magazine's top 25 bars/venues in the country in 2007.

The Lied Center of Kansas is known for presenting Broadway musicals, internationally touring dance companies and many headline artists such as The Beach Boys, Kristin Chenoweth, Lyle Lovett and Kansas.

In December 2005, the city announced International Dadaism Month, celebrating the early 20th century art movement. In the spirit of Dada, rather than select a typical calendar month for the occasion, Mayor Dennis "Boog" Highberger set the dates for the "Month" as February 4, March 28, April 1, July 15, August 2, August 7, August 16, August 26, September 18, September 22, October 1, October 17, and October 26, determined by rolling dice and pulling numbers out of a hat.

Lawrence is home to many bands and record labels. Many artists, such as Paw, Mates of State, The New Amsterdams, Kansas, Fourth of July, White Flight, The Anniversary, Minus Story, The Appleseed Cast, Old Canes, Ad Astra Per Aspera, Ghosty, The Esoteric and The Get Up Kids originated in Lawrence or its surrounding areas. KJHK 90.7 FM, the University of Kansas's student-run radio station, is a staple of the local music scene. It won a CMJ award in 2006 for "most improved station," and it was nominated for a Plug Award for best college radio station in 2007.

Lawrence USA Downtown Office Hours
A Thursday Brown Bag Concert on the streets of downtown Lawrence

The Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival was a four-day-long weekend music festival held annually in early June just outside Lawrence, at Clinton State Park. After its inception in 2004, the festival grew dramatically by 2006, with almost 60,000 tickets sold, and developed a nationwide following that accounted for 80% of ticket sales. The festival featured an eclectic mix of music, with artists like The Flaming Lips, Wilco, STS9, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Neko Case, and Widespread Panic taking the stage. The event is kept smaller than other festivals such as Bonnaroo by an agreement with the state. Activities other than music include disc golf, yoga, hiking, and swimming in Clinton Lake. The festival was relocated to Mulberry Mountain due to a dispute between the organizers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks over limiting attendees and over rent payment.

Lawrence is home to the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, the first research center in the world dedicated to science fiction studies. Since 1969, the center has offered courses and workshops in science fiction literature and writing, hosted an annual conference, brought speakers to Lawrence, and presented multiple annual awards and scholarships.

Every year since 1959, on the third Thursday of July there is the Massachusetts Street "sidewalk sale," which most businesses on Massachusetts Street offer discounts on their merchandise. The sale is often supplemented by band performances or radio stations playing during the event.


Kansas fans celebrate the Jayhawks' victory in the 2008 Final Four on Massachusetts Street.

Lawrence is also the home of the University of Kansas (KU) athletic teams. The perennially highly ranked Kansas Jayhawks basketball team (1922 and 1923 Helms Foundation National Champions and 1952, 1988, 2008, and 2022 NCAA Champions) is closely followed by most residents during the winter. Massachusetts Street, the primary street of downtown Lawrence, flooded with fans in 2002, 2003, 2008, and 2012 after both KU's victories and defeats in the final rounds of the NCAA tournaments those years. KU's football team had their best record in their school history in the 2007–2008 season going 12–1 and culminating with a victory in the Orange Bowl. The city honored the university's mascot, the Jayhawk, in 2003 when 30 statues of Jayhawks were commissioned by the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau; these can be seen throughout the city as part of an art installation called "Jayhawks on Parade." The Jayhawks also field a soccer team, baseball and softball teams, track and field teams, cross country teams, and a men's club hockey team. KU also has a club rugby team, run by the KU Rugby Football club, with a clubhouse in North Johnny's Tavern. They also run the high school and the club team.


Lawrence City Hall
City Hall
Douglas county kansas courthouse
The Douglas County Courthouse

Lawrence is run by a city commission and city manager. Commissioners consists of five individuals elected by the citizens. Three commissioner seats are up for reelection every two years. The two top vote-getters receive a four-year term, third-place finisher receives a two-year term. The commission elects a mayor and vice-mayor every year in April, usually the two top vote-getters, and also hires the city manager. Lawrence uses plurality-at-large voting (also known as block voting) for its municipal elections, whereby voters may choose up to three candidates for office.



U.S. 40 and 59 bridges from above
The U.S. 40 and 59 Bridges carry traffic over the Kansas River
1073 Santa Fe Train
An Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe locomotive in Watson Park

Interstate 70, as the Kansas Turnpike, runs east–west along the northern edge of the city, interchanging with U.S. Route 59 which runs north–south along North 2nd Street, 6th Street and Iowa Street. Another east–west route, U.S. Route 40, runs through northern Lawrence along 6th Street roughly 2 miles south of I-70. U.S. 40 runs concurrently east–west with U.S. 59 for approximately 1 mile between Iowa Street and Massachusetts Street. The two routes turn north before crossing I-70. One half-mile north of I-70, U.S. 40 splits from U.S. 59 and turns east, running concurrently with U.S. 24, exiting the city.

K-10, an east–west state highway, enters the city from the east along 23rd Street, then turns south, running concurrently with U.S. 59 for 1.5 miles before splitting off and continuing west and finally north around western Lawrence as a bypass, terminating at an interchange with I-70 northwest of the city. The K-10 South Lawrence Trafficway is a project with the goal to connect K-10 and the Kansas Turnpike. To transfer between K-10 and the Kansas Turnpike, drivers must use Lawrence city streets. The K-10 South Lawrence Trafficway, already partially built, was proposed as a solution to traffic, air quality, and safety concerns. However, the project has received criticism and been the subject of many protests for more than a decade because of opposition to the trafficway being built through the Haskell-Baker Wetlands. More recently, it appears completion of the project is underway. In June 2011, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced it would provide $192 million to complete the trafficway and in July 2012, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that all necessary permits were properly obtained and construction could commence. As for the wetlands, about 56 acres were taken for the construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway; because of this some 380 acres of man-made wetlands were developed next to the site.

Two bus systems operate in the city. Lawrence Transit, known locally as "The T", is a public bus system operated by the city, and KU on Wheels is operated by the University of Kansas. Together, the two systems operate 18 bus routes in the city. Both systems are free to KU students, faculty, and staff. Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service with a stop in Lawrence. In addition, the Johnson County, Kansas bus system provides inter-city transport between Lawrence and Overland Park college campuses in a route known as the K-10 Connector.

Lawrence Regional Airport is northeast of the city, immediately north of U.S. 40. Publicly owned, it has two runways and is used for general aviation. The nearest airport with commercial airline service is Kansas City International Airport which is approximately 50 miles northeast of downtown Lawrence. Arrival Shuttle provides service from Lawrence to Kansas City International Airport.

Two Class I railroads, BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad (UP), have lines which pass through Lawrence. The BNSF line enters the city from the east and exits to the north, roughly following the course of the Kansas River. The UP line does the same on the north side of the river, running through the city's northeast corner. Using the BNSF trackage, Amtrak provides passenger rail service on its Southwest Chief line between Chicago and Los Angeles. Amtrak's Lawrence station is a few blocks east of downtown.

According to the 2017 American Community Survey, 76.6% of working city of Lawrence residents commuted by driving alone, 8.9% carpooled, 2.6% used public transportation, and 6.0% walked. About 2.0% used all other forms of transportation, including taxicab, motorcycle, and bicycle. About 3.8% of working city of Lawrence residents worked at home. In 2017, 2.5% of city of Lawrence households were without a car. 77.3% of city of Lawrence residents also work in Lawrence.

Lawrence ranked 62nd in the United States for the highest percentage of commuters by bicycle in 2011 at 1.73%.

Sister cities

Lawrence has three sister cities through Sister Cities International:

  • Eutin, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany – October 27, 1989
  • Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, Japan – September 21, 1990
  • Iniades, Greece – October 20, 2009

through US-El Salvador Sister Cities

  • El Papaturro, El Salvador


Notable people

In popular culture

The city served as the setting for a number of science fiction writer James Gunn's novels, including The Immortals (1964), which was the basis for the ABC television movie and TV series The Immortal (1969–1971).

Lawrence was a setting in the 1983 television movie The Day After, and parts of the movie were filmed in the city.

Sam and Dean Winchester, the protagonists of the Supernatural TV series, are from Lawrence, and the city has been referenced numerous times throughout the show's history. Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, decided to have the two brothers be from Lawrence because of its closeness to Stull Cemetery, a location famous for its urban legends. Lawrence was destroyed in the 2006 TV Series Jericho.

American folk singer Josh Ritter's song entitled Lawrence KS is on the 2002 album Golden Age of Radio. Cross Canadian Ragweed's 2007 album Mission California features a song entitled "Lawrence," which was inspired by a homeless family the band encountered near Christmas while visiting the town.

Lawrence's Meadowbrook Apartments residential complex is the default starting point for the map program Google Earth. This location was set by Brian McClendon, a 1986 graduate of the University of Kansas and director of engineering for Google Earth, who lived in the complex as a child.

The 1985 Electro (music) album Street Sounds Electro 10 features a track by '19th Fleet' entitled 'Star Raid', which opens with a radio operator calling, "This is Lawrence Kansas... Do you read me? Is anyone still alive?" as the song has a science fiction theme.


New York Street Elementary School in Lawrence

Primary and secondary education

The community is mainly served by Lawrence USD 497 public school district, which has thirteen grade schools, four middle schools. and two high schools. The city's 13 public elementary schools include: Langston Hughes Elementary (named after Langston Hughes); Quail Run Elementary, Broken Arrow Elementary, Cordley Elementary (named after Richard Cordley), Hillcrest Elementary, Kennedy Early Childhood (formerly Kennedy Elementary, closed in 2021), Pinckney Elementary, Prairie Park Elementary, New York Elementary, Schwegler Elementary, Sunflower Elementary, Sunset Hill Elementary, Woodlawn Elementary, and Deerfield Elementary. The middle schools include: Liberty Memorial Central (formerly Liberty Memorial High School and later Central Junior High), West, Billy Mills (named after Billy Mills, and formerly named South), and Southwest. The high schools include: Lawrence High School and Lawrence Free State High School (the athletic teams of the former are nicknamed the Chesty Lions, and those of the latter are the Firebirds). Newer developments in the northwestern part of Lawrence are within the boundaries for Perry-Lecompton School District, and students in this area attend Lecompton Elementary, Perry Elementary, Perry-Lecompton Middle School, and Perry-Lecompton High School.

Private schools include Bishop Seabury Academy (grades 6 to 12) (affiliate of Episcopal Church), Veritas Christian School (grades pre-K to 12) (interdenominational), St. John Catholic School (grades pre-K to 8), Corpus Christi Catholic School (grades pre-K to 8), Raintree Montessori School (grades pre-K to 8) (Montessori school), Prairie Moon School (grades pre-K to 8) (Waldorf school).

Colleges and universities

Strong Hall on the KU Campus
Fraser Hall
Fraser Hall on the KU Campus

The University of Kansas is the largest public university in the state with total enrollment of just more than 30,000 students (including approximately 3,000 students at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, KS). A Big 12 school, the University of Kansas has more than 170 fields of study and the nationally known Kansas Jayhawks athletics programs. Haskell Indian Nations University offers free tuition to members of registered Native American tribes. However, students are required to pay semester fees similar to many other colleges in the United States. It has an average enrollment of more than 1,000 (with students hailing from all 50 U.S. states and from over 150 tribes). Haskell University is also the home of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and the Haskell Cultural Center. Several private Christian colleges and schools are in Lawrence as well, such as Heritage Baptist College.

In 2011, Lawrence was named one of America's 10 best college towns by Parents & Colleges. Lawrence also was included in lists of top college towns in 2010 by the American Institute for Economic Research, MSN and MSNBC.


Lawrence Public Library entrance
Lawrence Public Library (2014)

The first library in Lawrence was started in October 1854 and was a subscription library costing $1 a year. After the Lawrence Massacre destroyed the library, a new one was started in 1865 and placed under city jurisdiction in 1871. In 1902, Peter Emery successfully got a grant from Andrew Carnegie to build a new library at 9th and Vermont Streets. The Lawrence Public Library opened in 1904. A new library to replace the aging and outdated Carnegie Building was completed in 1972 at 7th and Vermont Streets with voters approving a bond issue in 2010 to expand and update the building. During construction, the library moved to 7th and New Hampshire in the former Borders bookstore. The new library opened in July 2014.

The Lawrence Public Library was one of seven libraries in the United States that won the AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2016.

Images for kids

See also

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Lawrence, Kansas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.