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Old Praire Town at Ward-Meade Park

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    124 NW Fillmore St. beholds the city of Topeka's most famous landmark: The Ward-Meade Mansion. A historically significant site that has been turned into a park that contains botanical gardens, Victorian-age antiques, and Old Prairie Town, a fully-functional representation of frontier Kansas businesses. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the Ward-Meade Mansion has been restored multiple times to encompass, to the greatest possible extent, life before and during the foundation of Topeka.
    In 1854, Anthony A. Ward first acquired the site of the present Ward-Meade house, which included 240 acres and three log cabins from a half-Pottawatomie Indian named Joseph James for $100. In September of that same year, he moved his family into the property; doing so three months before the settlement of Topeka was established about a mile to the east. Eventually Ward would consolidate the three cabins into one to accommodate his large family, and because it was the best house in the area, was frequently regarded a "mansion". The Ward family farm was where pioneers crossing the Oregon Trail at Papan's Landing could seek shelter and food for the night. Mary Jane Ward kept a candle burning in her cabin window to guide the travelers to her door. Between 1856 and 1870 the Ward's continue to build additions and enlarge their house. But by 1874 both Mr. and Mrs. Ward had passed away, and the property was bequeathed to their daughter, Jennie Ward-Meade. 
    John and Jennie Meade moved into the house in 1898 with their seven children. John worked for the Santa Fe Railroad and at the time of his retirement in 1919 was lauded as one of the railroad's early pioneers. Soon after moving in, the Meade's realized that the property wasn't big enough, and a large addition was built to the west. In 1905 the arch was remodeled and four large classic columns were imported from Chicago, which closely resembled those of the Meade ancestral home. John Meade died in 1924 and his wife Jennie in 1925. Their descendants continued to reside in the house until the property was purchased by the City of Topeka in 1961.