Monday, July 08, 2019


In 1878, east Topeka, Kansas, in a triangular shaped parcel of land, Judge David C. Metsker—who would become mayor of Topeka from 1887-1889, platted a new suburb of Topeka called “Parkdale.” Parkdale was located between 6th and 10th Avenues and Shunganunga Creek and Lafayette Street. In 1883, businessman George W. Veale established his own suburb, Veale’s Addition. Together, the neighborhoods consisted of 6th through 10th Street, Branner Street, Chandler Street, and eight streets all beginning with ‘L’. From the west there was Lake, Lime, Lawrence, Locust, Lafayette, Leland, Liberty, and Lamar. A May 20, 1883 article in the Topeka Daily Capital remarked that the names gave “a sort of ell [or bend] to the city.” Where did these names come from? Were they specifically named this way or was it just a coincidence?

The eight L streets along 8th & 10th streets.
Early maps of the neighborhoods show Lamar Street as Lancaster but based on newspaper articles, I can’t find any evidence that the name was changed. Parkdale was annexed to the city of Topeka around the turn of the century. After being established, work began on building a new church for the neighborhood. Many parents in Parkdale refused to let their children go to Sunday School without an adult because the children would have to cross the railroad tracks. At the time, you would have to cross at least 12 tracks and a bridge over the tracks wasn’t built until the mid-1900s. Construction on the church began in October 1879 and was completed in December 1879. A census taken at the time counted 72 families—a total population of 284 people.

Parkdale built a wood framed school in 1880 that served the suburb well into the 20th Century. It was located at 8th and Lake on the south side of the intersection. A 1902 inquiry found that nearly all of the public schools in Topeka were overcrowded and the residents of Parkdale demanded that they have first dibs on a new school building since, when they were annexed to the city, the city got a free schoolhouse and nearly $1000 to go to the upkeep for that schoolhouse. The Topeka Board of Education agreed and approved construction on a new school at 6th and Locust which was to be named Lafayette School. Lafayette opened for the 1903-04 school year and Parkdale was closed. The following year, it was requested that Parkdale be reopened to help with overcrowding at Washington School, the all-black school just to the southwest of Parkdale. Parkdale residents complained and the Board refused to reopen the school for black students. A Daily Capitol article from July 4, 1905 noted “The fact that racial prejudice exists in Parkdale is well known. In fact, anti-negro sentiment is stronger in that section than any other part of the city.”

The Parkdale Methodist Church, located on the southeast corner of 7th and Lime Streets, was an important linchpin of the community. Many community meetings were held there and the congregation remained loyal. The church was renamed the East Topeka United Methodist Church in 1968 and continued to serve Parkdale and the surrounding neighborhoods until 2012 when its congregation was deemed too small and the church unsafe. Members were absorbed into the Topeka First United Methodist Church and the East Topeka church was torn down in 2013.

The East Topeka Methodist Church in 2012. From Google Maps.
The Fellowship Hall, built in 1957, and three crosses to
memorialize the church.
The Free Methodist Church was started in 1882 but didn’t have a formal residence until 1886 when a building was constructed at 724 Lake. A new brick church was built at 8th and Chandler and used until they moved to a new church at 35th and Indiana in 1963. In 1902, Carrie Nation, famed prohibitionist and saloon smasher, spoke at the Free Methodist Church and urged the creation of a new political party, the Prohibition Alliance. Within a few hours, the party was organized, members signed, and officers elected. Today, the building is the New Jerusalem Baptist Church and continues to be a vital part of the neighborhood.
The New Jerusalem Baptist Church. From Google Maps.

The Parkdale School reopened in 1908 as a Kindergarten and continued to work in that capacity until 1922 when it was again closed and razed to make way for a brand new school and a new athletic center dubbed “The Alamo.” The school was built on the southeast corner of 10th and Chandler and the athletic field was built adjoining Eastlawn Park, the triangle park between 8th and 10th. An addition was built in 1962 but the school was closed in 1978. Parkdale then became a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds until closing again in 2011. The building was later demolished. Parkdale is currently served by Scott Dual Language Magnet School, Chase and Eisenhower Middle Schools, and Highland Park and Topeka High Schools.
Class picture of the first Parkdale Kindergarten class. From the Topeka Daily Capital.

In 1887, John Wilson Farnsworth’s land because available for purchase, this expanded Parkdale west from Chandler to the Shunganunga Creek. Farnsworth came to Topeka in 1856 and was very instrumental in the growth of Topeka. He died in 1912. Another important addition to Parkdale would be to the east in Veale’s Addition. George Veale was born in Daviess County, Indiana and was the son of James Veale. James was one of the first settlers in Daviess County and Veale Township in Daviess is named for James. Veale’s Addition is located between 3rd and 8th and Locust and Lamar.
The fork in the road at 8th and 10th streets.

In 1900, a park was requested to be established on the triangular lot between 8th and 10th streets. A house on the land would be renovated to be a library. In 1919, the park, Eastlawn, finally came to fruition through the Parkdale tax district, donations from neighbors, the city, and Topeka Cemetery. The park was renamed Samuel C. Jackson Park after the famed civil rights lawyer. Jackson also served as President Nixon’s Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He died in 1982.

In 1902, Parkdale residents asked the police to do something about Sprague Chase, a resident on Lawrence Street. Chase apparently gets into drunken brawls every couple of days and when he is unable to find someone to fight, he fights his wife and mother-in-law. The police arrested Chase where he was fined $100. In 1904, A.W. Rickett was attacked and beaten unconscious by two Oakland neighborhood boys for walking two sisters, Lucy and Hazel Hawkins, home. The girls were from Oakland, Rickett from Parkdale. One of the girls testified that one of the boys said “no fellow from Parkdale could walk Oakland girls.” In 1909, Virgil Day, the 18-year-old brother-in-law of Ollie Day, was charged with assault upon Ollie’s four-year-old daughter. Virgil was supposed to be watching the little girl but when Ollie returned home, her daughter had a swollen eye and lip, was black and blue all over, had finger-shaped bruises on her neck, and a cigarette burn on her breast. Day would be sent to reform school. Day would make the news again in 1914 as patient zero of a smallpox outbreak in Topeka. Day would die of a gunshot wound in Kansas City, Missouri in 1918 at the age of 27.

In the early 20th Century, Parkdale residents were often blamed for crimes and nuisances around the city. M.C. Wright wrote a letter to the Topeka Daily Capital in defense of Parkdale, giving its location, and that most criminals labeled as being from Parkdale weren’t. The next biggest change in Parkdale was the building of East Topeka Junior High School in 1937. Constructed with help from the Public Works Administration, the school served a diverse community and was intended to evolve into a high school but it was closed in 1980. After closing, it was used as a community center but was closed again when it needed repairs and the city, who was leasing the building, couldn’t make them. Today, the building is owned by True Foundations but remains mostly abandoned.
The front facade of East Topeka Junior High School.

What about the street names? Lime and Locust are types of trees, the others were probably named for people—Lafayette (General Marquis de Lafayette, an American Revolutionary hero), Leland (Judge Leland Webb), Lamar (Mississippi Senator Lucius Q.C. Lamar II), Lawrence and Lake but those are just theories. While it’s possible the L-streets were purposely platted, especially in the case of Veale’s Addition, why they were named with these L names has been lost to time.
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, started in 1908, it moved to its current
building in 1962