The City of Lawrence has designated the Grover Barn, 2819 Stone Barn Terrace, as a documented Underground Railroad site on the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom.
The Grover Barn is one of the best preserved Underground Railroad sites still standing in Lawrence. Abolitionists Joel Grover and his wife Emily, who arrived in Lawrence in 1854 with the second New England Emigrant Aid Company party, sheltered freedom seekers in the stone barn built in 1858 on their farm southwest of Lawrence.
“The Grover Barn is an important historic site in Lawrence and this recognition will ensure its continued preservation and the opportunity to share stories about how the barn played a role in the Underground Railroad,” said Diane Stoddard, assistant city manager.
Incidents of the site’s role as a “station” on the Underground Railroad are remarkably well-documented in the historical record. The most significant involved eleven freedom seekers and a free-born baby who were hidden at the Grover Barn in January 1859. The abolitionist John Brown and his men had helped to liberate the group from slavery in Missouri the previous December in a highly publicized raid. After a brief stay at Grover Barn on his last trip to Kansas, Brown led the freedom seekers to Detroit, and saw them cross over into Canada.
In addition to its national significance, the barn is also important to local history, as a territorial period structure remaining in Lawrence and a rare historic agricultural structure within city limits. The Grover barn and a portion of the original farm remained in the Grover family for 105 years. From 1963-1976 the barn was used as an artist’s studio and in 1980 the City of Lawrence acquired the building for use as a Fire Station through 2006. The structure is currently used by the Lawrence/Douglas County Fire/Medical Department and the Lawrence Police Department.
Designation on the Network to Freedom will bring national recognition and provide accessibility to grant funds for interpretation and preservation of the site. A citizens group, the Guardians of Grover Barn, partnered with the city to nominate the site to the Network to Freedom. They plan to continue this partnership, working to increase awareness and appreciation of the Grover Barn’s important story and to seek grant funding for interpretive signs at the site.
"The Guardians of Grover Barn are more than pleased that the importance of the unique history of the barn has been recognized and validated at the national level," said Kerry Altenbernd, chair of the Guardians of Grover Barn board. "This is a major first step in bringing that history to the people."
A tour of the Grover Barn is planned for Saturday, August 18, during the Watkins Museum of History’s Civil War on the Western Frontier. For information about this event, the public may contact Will Hickox, Programs and Public Engagement Coordinator with the Watkins Museum, email@example.com or 785-841-4109.