Topeka, Kansas, the state capital and the seat of Shawnee County. It lies along the Kansas River in the northeastern part of the state, 55 miles (89 km) west of Kansas City. Topeka has wide, tree-lined streets. The business district and most residential areas are south of the river.
The city has a diverse economy, with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and the state government the largest employers. Topeka has long been a market and shipping center for a rich agricultural area. Since World War II, many manufacturing plants have been built in and around the city. The largest industries are tire manufacturing, grain milling, printing and publishing, meat and food processing, and the making of railway equipment. Interstate route 70 and the Kansas Turnpike pass through Topeka. Phillip Billard Municipal Airport serves regional airlines.
The state capitol is modeled on the national capitol in Washington and houses murals by John Steuart Curry. The nearby Kansas State Historical Society Museum has an extensive collection of Kansas newspapers. Topeka has many parks and recreation areas; Gage Park is the site of the Reinisch Rose Garden and the Topeka Zoological Park. Washburn University of Topeka, founded in 1865, is a municipal coeducational institution. Mulvane Art Museum on the campus has a collection of American paintings and sculpture.
Topeka is widely known as a center for psychiatric treatment and research. It was long the home (until 2003) of the Menninger Foundation, which operates the Menninger Clinic and the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences, and staffs the Topeka Institute for Psychoanalysis. Topeka Veterans Hospital and a state hospital also specialize in psychiatric care.
Topeka was founded in 1854 by “free-staters,” persons who opposed the extension of slavery into new territories, after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which created the Kansas and Nebraska territories. The site chosen was near the point where the Oregon Trail crossed the Kansas River. Topeka became the state capital when Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861. With the building of the railroads after the Civil War, Topeka became a flourishing transportation hub.
Topeka has the mayor-council form of municipal government.