Massachusetts Street (referred to by locals as “Mass Street”), is the main street that runs through Downtown Lawrence. The 600 – 1200 blocks of Mass Street are listed on the National Register of Historical Places under Lawrence’s Historical District. Most of the buildings were built between 1856 – 1953. There’s something amazing on every block!
SMOKE ON THE WATER
Back in 1900, the largest employer in Lawrence wasn’t KU—it was a cigar factory owned by a woman. The Boener Brothers factory stood about where Waxman Candles is today. It was operated by Ella Boener after William Boener, her husband and the company founder, died.
Just across the street, Free State Brewing Company is another downtown landmark with a great history. Nearly thirty years ago, Free State opened as the first legal Kansas brewery in over a century. Folks flock to their restaurant in the 600 block for the great food as well as beer.
A HAVEN OF FUN
Had you ventured down the 800 block of Mass Street in the early 1930s, you might have stopped by Wiedemann’s Confectionary Store for a refreshing Nehi soda before heading into Pattee’s Theatre for a thrilling double feature of Bring ‘Em Back Alive and The Midnight Patrol. Small pleasures like sweets and movies helped people make it through the Great Depression. Today, Wiedemann’s and Pattee’s are long gone, but this block continues to offer tremendous variety, including great restaurants and eclectic gift shops.
The dynamic window displays on this corner symbolize a unique economic success story. Weaver’s is one of the few surviving independent department stores in America. Weaver’s has stood at its current location for nearly 90 years, and its inventive window designs (sometimes featuring live models, and always unique) have long intrigued passersby.
WALK THE RED CARPET
John Wayne was here—during the 1940 premiere of the movie Dark Command. Republic Pictures sent their biggest stars to Lawrence for the debut of this film (loosely based on William Quantrill’s 1863 raid), where they met and mingled with star-struck residents. Too big for a single theatre, the film opened in three cinemas simultaneously, including the Grenada. Today, the theatre is a popular venue for live music.
RALLIES AND RECREATION
South Park—the large green spot just beyond the corner of 11th and Mass Streets—has been part of the Lawrence story from the city’s beginning. This beautiful park witnessed the devastation of Quantrill’s Raid in 1863, hosted women’s rights and antiwar rallies in the late 20th century, and continues to serve as a source of both relaxation and calls to action.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
You may have noticed that Lawrence’s north-south streets are named after states—but they are laid out in a history lesson. With many of the city’s founders from Boston, Lawrence’s “main” street was named “Massachusetts.” It is also the widest of the downtown streets. East of Mass, the streets are named after the thirteen original colonies, starting with New England, then the Middle Colonies, then the South (which were planned but never built). West of Mass the streets are named for the states in the order in which they were admitted to the Union.