Your Local History Buff
Got a question about the history of Lawrence or Douglas County? Steve Nowak is your guy. You can find him at the Watkins Museum of History where he is the Executive Director. The museum has exhibits that will help you understand the dynamics of Lawrence, from it’s founding to today. But nothing is better than a guided tour from Steve or one of his knowledgeable staff to get the inside scoop of what events in Lawrence history have helped shape the town.
Steve's 5 Fav Places
WATKINS MUSEUM OF HISTORY
What it’s known for: The city’s showcase for its past provides free admission to permanent and changing exhibits with interactive displays and a range of unusual artifacts. Watkins Museum of History shares stories of the area’s founding as a center of resistance to slavery, its growth as a midwestern city, and the interesting personalities who shaped it.
Why he loves it: Steve loves sharing the history of Lawrence and Douglas County with locals, visitors, and especially the youth that visit.
Insider tip: Contact the museum in advance of your visit if you would like to schedule a guided tour. Keep an eye out for special events including the annual Civil War on the Western Frontier in August.
DOLE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS
What it’s known for: Named in honor of Kansas senator and U.S. presidential candidate Robert Dole, the Dole Institute of Politics is a museum, archives and events center. Look for the renowned speakers and behind-the-scenes white glove tours, but drop in during any regular hours to see displays on national and state politics as well as items such as steel girders from the World Trade Center towers.
Insider Tip: Look for the renowned speakers and behind-the-scenes white glove tours, but drop in during any regular hours to see displays on national and state politics as well as items such as steel girders from the World Trade Center towers.
THE ELDRIDGE HOTEL
What it’s known for: Lawrence’s historic hotel is a lively and bustling downtown spot. The epicenter of Free State resistance to slavery in Kansas, this hotel was besieged and attacked twice by proslavery forces. Look for The Eldridge cornerstone in the entry foyer.
Why he loves it: The resilience of The Eldridge is a great story. The on-site restaurants and bar are a great place to dine with visitors.
Insider Tip: Look for The Eldridge cornerstone in the entry foyer. And if you’re into ghost stories, ask about the “haunted room.”
KU NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
What it’s known for: Explore long-term history timelines at KU Natural History Museum with its fascinating displays of mosasaur and dinosaur skeletons, interactive Bugtown exhibit and much more.
Why he loves it: Free entry to all four exhibit floors with donations encouraged to support the museum and the mission of its parent research and teaching facility, the Biodiversity Institute.
Insider Tip: The KU Natural History Museum is the home of Comanche, the horse ridden by Captain Myles Keogh at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. For generations, Comanche was the most famous horse in the United States, revered in death as much as in life.
SPENCER MUSEUM OF ART
What it’s known for: On the KU campus but with free admission to the public, the Spencer Museum’s collection of more than 45,000 objects, vibrant exhibitions, and international artist-in-residence programs offer a variety of engaging art experiences.
Why he loves it: This is a top-level art museum displaying treasures from Kansas artists such as Roger Shimomura as well as a range of global art and artifacts.
Insider Tip: For a perfect day, combine a Spencer Museum of Art tour with a lunch across the street at KU’s upscale Impromptu Café.