Learn about history, take an art class and—if you visit during the holiday season—see the Midwest's largest indoor Christmas tree display. Lecompton may be small, with about 640 residents, but it has a lot to offer.

By Jessie Spangler
Territorial Capital Museum

Lecompton, 10 miles from Lawrence and Topeka, boasts an interesting Civil War history-billing itself as both a Civil War birthplace as well as "where slavery began to die"- along with a passion for the Christmas season.

Lecompton, the territorial capital of Kansas from 1855 to 1861, was a stronghold of proslavery sentiment, putting it at odds with the free-staters in Lawrence. In 1857, a convention met in the local Constitution Hall and drafted the Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas to the U.S. as a slave state. After national debate-part of the turmoil that soon led to the Civil War-the constitution failed and the antislavery party won control of the territorial legislature. In 1861, free-state leaders chose Topeka as the new capital when Kansas became a state. The Civil War began later that year.

Today, visitors can explore Lecompton's history as well as enjoy shopping and dining with a small-town feel.

Here are 5 reasons to visit Lecompton:

Territorial Capital Museum Construction began when slavery supporters thought the Lecompton Constitution would be adopted and Lecompton would become Kansas' capital. But after the constitution was defeated, building stopped in 1858. The unfinished structure later became part of Lane University, named after U.S. Senator James H. Lane, and a college building was constructed on part of the old foundation. Lane University merged with another college in 1902, and today the building functions as a museum, with three floors of artifacts detailing Lecompton's history.

Photo courtesy of Historic Lecompton

Constitution Hall Erected in 1856, this building was witness to history. During 1857, thousands of settlers filed claims in the U.S. land office on the first floor; settlers sometimes fought hand-to-hand for lands that were opening up for settlement, as the government auctioned off Native American land to white settlers. (Native Americans were given the proceeds from the land.) The second floor, meanwhile, was the site of the 1857 convention that drafted the Lecompton Constitution, as well as an assembly of free-state supporters who later worked to reform the Kansas territory laws. Now, the hall serves as a museum depicting the role the building played through the Civil War.

Photo courtesy of Historic Lecompton

Aunt Netters Cafe Savor breakfast or lunch, along with gourmet cupcakes, homemade pie and other baked goods. The lunch menu includes burgers, fried catfish and wings. After, grab a cupcake in one of the cafe's signature flavors, such as strawberry white chocolate or Butterfinger blizzard.

Photo courtesy of Historic Lecompton

Claymama's Art Workshop Take a ceramics or painting class during your visit, or just stop by to browse the locally made art-jewelry, pottery, paintings and more. Pre-registration required for classes; the shop is open Saturdays or by appointment.

Christmas in Lecompton Visitors browse what is called the "largest indoor Christmas tree display in the Midwest." The Territorial Capital Museum sets up more than 150 Christmas trees with antique and vintage ornaments. The display is usually up from about November 1 to January 1. Get more information on this and other area events at lecomptonkansas.com.

Other notable places in Lecompton include The Henrys' Plant Farm, Kroeger's Country Meats and Recollections vintage goods shop.

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