Topeka (/toʊˈpiːkə/; Kansa: Tó Pee Kuh) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas and the seat of Shawnee County. It is along the Kansas River in the central part of Shawnee County, in northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 127,473. The Topeka Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson, Osage, and Wabaunsee counties, had a population of 233,870 in the 2010 census.
Topeka is at 39°03′N 95°41′W / 39.050°N 95.683°W / 39.050; -95.683, in north east Kansas at the intersection of I-70 and U.S. Highway 75. It is the origin of I-335 which is a portion of the Kansas Turnpike running from Topeka to Emporia, Kansas. Topeka is also on U.S. Highway 24 (about 50 miles east of Manhattan, Kansas) and U.S. Highway 40 (about 30 miles west of Lawrence, Kansas). U.S.-40 is coincident with I-70 west from Topeka. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 61.47 square miles (159.21 km), of which, 60.17 square miles (155.84 km) is land and 1.30 square miles (3.37 km) is water.
As of the census of 2010, the city had 127,473 people, 53,943 households, and 30,707 families. The population density was 2,118.5 inhabitants per square mile (818.0/km). There were 59,582 housing units at an average density of 990.2 per square mile (382.3/km). The city’s racial makeup was 76.2% White, 11.3% African American, 1.4% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.7% from other races, and 4.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.4% of the population. Non-Hispanic Whites were 69.7% of the population in 2010, down from 86.3% in 1970.
There were 53,943 households, of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.1% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.99.
24.4% of the city’s population was under age 18; 9.8% was from age 18 to 24; 26.1% was from age 25 to 44; 25.4% was from age 45 to 64; and 14.3% was age 65 or older. The median age in the city was 36 years. The city’s gender makeup was 47.8% male and 52.2% female.
As of the 2000 census, there were 122,377 people, 52,190 households, and 30,687 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,185.0 people per square mile (843.6/km²). There were 56,435 housing units at an average density of 1,007.6 per square mile (389.0/km²). The city’s racial makeup was 78.5% White, 11.7% Black or African American, 1.31% Native American, 1.09% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.06% from other races, and 3.26% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.9% of the population.
There were 52,190 households, of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.8% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.2% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.94.
24.3% of the city’s population was under age 18, 9.9% was from age 18 to 24, 28.9% was from age 25 to 44, 21.9% was from age 45 to 64, and 15.1% was age 65 or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.4 males.
As of 2000 the city’s median household income was $35,928, and the median family income was $45,803. Males had a median income of $32,373 versus $25,633 for females. The city’s per capita income was $19,555. About 8.5% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.
Although Topeka experienced problems with crime in the 1990s, the city’s crime rates have improved in the past decade. The city is now breaking trends when it comes to violent crime, so much so it has gained the interest of researchers from Michigan State University. Since 2000, most cities with a population greater than 100,000 have seen an increase in violent crimes. Topeka’s crime rates are decreasing. Researchers credit good communication between law enforcement agencies, informed media outlets, and strong community involvement for Topeka’s success. Topeka was one of four cities, along with Chicago, Tampa, and El Monte, California, that the researchers studied.
Overall, crime in Topeka was down nearly 18 percent in the first half of 2008, compared with the same period of 2007. Topeka police reported a 6.4 percent drop in crime from 2007 to 2008, including significant reductions in business robberies and aggravated assaults and batteries, as well as thefts.
On October 11, 2011, the Topeka city council agreed to repeal the ordinance banning domestic violence in an effort to force the Shawnee County District Attorney to prosecute the cases. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said the DA “would no longer prosecute misdemeanors committed in Topeka, including domestic battery, because his office could no longer do so after county commissioners cut his budget by 10 percent.” The next day, Taylor said his office would “commence the review and filing of misdemeanors decriminalized by the City of Topeka.” The same day it was announced 17% of the employees in the District Attorney’s office would be laid off.
Topeka is sometimes cited as the home of Pentecostalism as it was the site of Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College, where glossolalia was first claimed as the evidence of a spiritual experience referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1901. It is also the home of Reverend Charles Sheldon, author of In His Steps, and was the site where the famous question “What would Jesus do?” originated in a sermon of Sheldon’s at Central Congregational Church.
The First Presbyterian Church in Topeka is one of the few churches in the U.S. to have its sanctuary completely decorated with Tiffany stained glass (another is St. Luke’s United Methodist in Dubuque, Iowa; another is the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland.
There is a large Roman Catholic population, and the city is home to nine Roman Catholic parishes, five of which feature elementary schools. Grace Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas is a large Gothic Revival structure in the city.
Topeka also has a claim in the history of the Baha’i Faith in Kansas. Not only does the city have the oldest continuous Baha’i community in Kansas (beginning in 1906), but the community has roots to the first Baha’i community in Kansas, in Enterprise, Kansas, in 1897. This was the second Baha’i community in the western hemisphere.
Topeka is home of the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The church has garnered worldwide media attention for picketing the funerals of U.S. servicemen and women for what church members claim as “necessary to combat the fight for equality for gays and lesbians.” They have sometimes successfully raised lawsuits against the city of Topeka.
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