2020 marks Baldwin City’s Sesquicentennial. That’s our 150th birthday and the Mayor’s Sesquicentennial Advisory Committee has planned a birthday bash on Saturday, September 19. Until that date, there’s a lot of cultural historical exploration you can do! Here’s to learning about Baldwin City:
- Read the overview of Baldwin City’s founding on the City’s website.
- Explore your hometown’s historic sites!
Not only does 2020 mark Baldwin CIty’s Sesquicentennial, but’s also the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage Movement. Also this year, the City of Baldwin City is completing work on Sullivan Square, a public park and community gathering space that stands on the former site of Baldwin City’s first female mayor’s home, Lucy Sweet Sullivan. The story of Lucy Sweet Sullivan enhances Baldwin City’s rich historic legacy and is an opportunity to launch and explore new stories that enrich our cultural identity and understanding of our community’s story.
Learn more about Lucy and her home, with this piece written by Councilman Brian Cramer:
“To say that the voters of Baldwin were taken completely by surprise in the result of the election Monday is to put it very mildly. It was an overwhelming defeat of the masculine power –a Waterloo, with a Yorktown finale.” The Baldwin Ledger, 05 April, 1889.
The City of Baldwin would signal many firsts during the Spring of 1889. That April, women swept the local election by winning all five seats on the city council. The new council would be led by the first woman to be elected Mayor of Baldwin City, Lucy Sweet Sullivan. Mayor Sullivan and her council were part of a wave of women winning local elections in several cities across Kansas. The power of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led to the successful elections with the hope of improving moral behavior in each city. The Mayor and her council held this same belief, but would possess a broader vision that stretched beyond temperance.
During their year in office, Mayor Sullivan and her council would set an agenda immediately focused on governing policy, infrastructure, and code enforcement. The council aggressively raised the mil levy to help construct sidewalks and improve roads. The Mayor posted notices encouraging citizens to improve the appearance of properties. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the governing body was the planning and construction of a bridge connecting Baldwin City to the train depot approximately one mile away. Known today as Women’s Bridge, hundreds of drivers pass over the historic structure in what is currently named Women’s Bridge Park.
Beyond her effort to provide better government for the citizens of Baldwin, Lucy radiated progressive change from the most prominent residence in town, the Sullivan House. Lucy and her husband John, a Methodist reverend and Baker Trustee, created an atmosphere at the Sullivan House tailored to the care and well-being of Baker University students. Situated on one city block in the heart of downtown, the house and its environs were abuzz with social activity bridging town and gown. From concerts on Saturday night to church school on Sunday morning, the variety of activities appealed to the entire community.
One of Lucy Sullivan’s final wishes was to see her home and property continue serving the community as a gathering space and park. A committee was formed in 1906 to sell shares in an attempt to raise $3500 for the purchase of the property. As they fell short of that fundraising goal, some felt Lucy’s vision would forever go unrealized. In 2018, the Baldwin City Council committed $670,000 to develop a multi-use greenspace on the former location of the Sullivan House. 2020 will provide the citizens of Baldwin City with the remarkable opportunity to realize the spirit of the 1906 park proposal, while rediscovering one of its greatest heroines.
*Content taken from Litteer, Loren K. 1990. The Sullivan House – Home to Those Who Changed a Nation. Champion Press, Baldwin City, KS.
- Reflect on “WHY I LOVE BALDWIN CITY” by completing the document below. Share a story, write adjectives, draw pictures or add your picture in front of your favorite Baldwin City location.