|Year(s) Listed: • 1999|
|City/Town: • Topeka|
|Location Class: • Government|
|Built: 1880 | Year Saved: 1999|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places|
|Awards: • Merit Award|
|Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance|
When Representative Hall was under construction in 1880, it was reported in the Topeka Commonwealth that the new west wing of the Kansas State Capitol, would feature “medallions of Kansas men who have been prominent in the history of the State, and are now gone to their final rest.” The reporter acknowledged that “the selection was bound to cause controversy and even reopen old wounds.” He questioned if “there are enough dead Kansans of eminence to fill the panels,” but warned that “if Kansans who are only politically defunct are to be considered ‘dead,’ and painted accordingly, there will not be panels enough to go half round.” The article concluded “that, with all these difficulties, the ‘likeness’ business had better be abandoned, until the state can collect portraits by first-class artists of the men who have done the State service, and are now enjoying that ‘rest’ which was never allowed them while in Kansas.” Apparently, the “likeness business” was dropped and the “inscribed” names substituted.
The historical record appears to indicate that the inscriptions were finished with the frescos in 1882-1883 and remained until the late spring or summer of 1908. On May 27 of that year, Albert T. Reid, a well-known artist and newspaperman, was awarded the contract to fresco the walls. The Topeka Daily Capital on May 28, 1908, reported that the state executive council thought “Mr. Reid had the best ideas for the least money,” but the council did not accept his plans as submitted. “The council now believes that the wall and ceiling cannot be put in the shape they were when last frescoed for the money appropriated by the Legislature. . . . The work that is now on the walls and ceiling is fine work but it is old and dingy.”
State officials had not yet decided what would become of the beautiful frescoed ceiling or the “hall of fame.” But history had already “forgotten” some of the 10, according to the Daily Capital, and “no one seems to know why there [sic] names were placed there.” Ultimately, their names were simply covered over and concealed from view until their rediscovery during the 1999 renovation of Representative Hall.
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