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House of Capper Dedication Ceremony


By Lucky Kidd


HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The House of Capper, a long standing fixture at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, was re-dedicated Monday afternoon after the completion of a major restoration project that also included the development of a new park honoring the co-author of the Capper-Volstead Act, which made possible the cooperative system which continues to have a major impact on agriculture and beyond.

Officials of the Kansas State Fair, Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation, and the Kansas Cooperative Council took part in a ribbon cutting hosted by the Hutchinson-Reno County Chamber of Commerce. Fundraising for the project began in 2021 after the open building was declared unsafe for occupancy.

The House of Capper was donated to the fair in 1916 by Arthur Capper, who at the time was Governor of Kansas and publisher of the Topeka Capital Journal and a number of farm publications around the country. He would later serve 30 years in the US Senate and founded Topeka’s WIBW radio in 1927. The Capper-Volstead Act was passed in 1922, and a year later then Senator Capper took President Warren Harding past that structure as the president spoke to some 13,000 people at the fair as part of a cross-country tour during which he passed away.

Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation Chair Mary McCurdy said during the dedication the pillars of the House of Capper represent the life of Senator Capper, who dedicated himself to the people of Kansas. The House of Capper was a visionary development then, and McCurdy said it will be in the future along with the new park which tells the story of the cooperative movement.

McCurdy noted this project also came about at the time of the 100th anniversary of the Capper-Volstead Act last year and was truly a joint effort of many.

This is the second major project the Fairgrounds Foundation has undertaken, the first being the Lair White House.

Richard Shank, Hutchinson’s ambassador to the Kansas State Fair, said Capper perhaps envisioned a meeting place “where Kansans of all walks of life including farmers, business leaders, and politicians could meet and relax, and enjoy conversations of the day.”

Kansas State Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz said the re-dedication is a great opportunity to remember our history and serve as an educational piece for the future.

Fair Board President Paula Landoll-Smith said the House of Capper tells us how lucky we are as Kansans, in the affect we have on the nation but also in the international world through coops.

The Kansas Cooperative Council played a major role in the project, working with their members to raise the needed funds and staff assistance in the development of the Capper Cooperative Park. towards the project. Cooperative Council President and CEO Brandi Miller said their organization, which was founded in 1944 to support cooperatives of all kinds, recognized the dedication of Arthur Capper to rural life and of people coming together to work together to address needs.

Miller also recognized the many cooperatives who stepped forward to support the project, along with the many people who assisted in the project including.

Among area cooperatives making major donations to the project were Central Prairie Coop in Sterling, MKC in Moundridge, Skyland Grain which has operations in Reno, Kingman and Pratt Counties among others, and Pride Ag Resources in Dodge City which has one of its Ace Hardware stores in Lyons, along with members of Kansas Electric Cooperatives which raised 700 thousand dollars towards the project and ProValue Insurance in Hutchinson. Additional funding came through the Kansas Department of Commerce through their Sprint Grant program, and matching funds from CoBank and Land of Lakes for a number of cooperative donations.

Wiens and Company of Hutchinson was the general contractor for the project. Hopp’s Sound of McPherson also contributed the installation of a new sound system.