Constitution Hall-The Free State Capitol
Constitution Hall was the first stone building in the city of Topeka and served as the headquarters of protest government formed by anti-slavery settlers in the early years of the Kansas Territory. Between the creation of the territory in 1854 and the start of the Civil War, Congress recognized a pro-slavery government based out of Lecompton as the legitimate government of the territory. In response, settlers representing the majority of Kansans who opposed the extension of slavery into their territory created their own government which was headquartered at this location. After statehood was granted in 1861 (without slavery) this building also served as the official meeting place of the new state government during construction of the East Wing of the Statehouse, five blocks to the south.
Backstory and Context
The Northern-dominated House of Representatives still approved the Topeka legislature's request to recognize the state constitution they drafted and submitted to voters. The Topeka Constitution, in contrast to the one passed by the pro-slavery government in Lecompton, barred slavery. Southerners in the Senate were able to block the admission of Kansas as a free state in 1856.
Despite overwhelming evidence that the pro-slavery faction in Lecompton did not represent the sovereign will of the people of Kansas, then-President Franklin Pierce supported the pro-slavery government in Lecompton and actually declared that the Free Soilers who met in Kansas represented an insurrection against law and order. As a result, Kansas was denied statehood until after Lincoln's victory in the Presidential Election of 1860. As Southern Congressmen left Washington in protest, Congress approved a new anti-slavery state constitution, known as the Wyandotte Constitution, and admitted Kansas as a state on January 29, 1861.
In remembrance of Pierce's opposition, Topeka skipped Pierce in its section of city streets named in honor of American presidents. In his place, Topeka has a street named after Henry Clay-a moderate on the issue of slavery's western extension and a political rival of Pierce who never served as President.
Steve Fry, "Constitution Hall re-emerging on S. Kansas Avenue," Topeka Capital-Journal, December 3, 2011. (Accessed 8/25/16) http://cjonline.com/news/2011-12-03/constitution-hall-re-emerging-s-kansas-avenue#