The Lawrence Preservation Alliance’s upcoming “After La Yarda” historic walking tours will take tourgoers through the La Yarda neighborhood to learn about the past and present of its people.
La Yarda was a tight-knit community of Mexican American railroad workers and their families living in housing owned by the Santa Fe Railroad from 1920-1951. Located near the Kaw River, the La Yarda neighborhood was destroyed by a major flood in 1951.
But residents did not leave Lawrence after the flood. They worked together to find new living arrangements, and many former residents and descendants of La Yarda are still living in Lawrence today.
The tours will be offered from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on three upcoming Saturdays: May 28, June 4 and June 18. They will begin at Lawrence Amtrak Santa Fe Depot and then travel through New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania streets in Lawrence.
“La Yarda is an incredible story in our community’s history that we should understand and never forget. But La Yarda itself is not the end of the story,” Dennis Brown, president of LPA, said.
“I am hoping this tour will help shed light on how residents continued to support and look out for each other during the transition, with historic structures helping to tell the story.”
Brenna Buchanan Young, who will serve as the tour guide, will share the history of La Yarda while taking each group through the area. As an architectural historian who has conducted previous research into La Yarda, Buchanan Young said she doesn’t feel it is her place to tell the stories of the La Yarda residents for them; rather, she hopes to help others understand that the community was special for multiple reasons.
“It’s really so much bigger than those buildings or foundations that are there today. People make spaces and places,” Buchanan Young said. “My biggest takeaway of all of this is how kindhearted and willing to help everyone they were. No matter how hard things were, they made things fun. No matter what the circumstances were, no one was going to go hungry and they were gonna lift each other up.”
Conducting these tours will allow everyone to gain a deeper understanding of La Yarda as a place and as a community of people, which Buchanan Young said will sprout from discussion during the tours.
“The interaction of people attending is my favorite part because the questions and curiosities start to come out. I’m curious about other peoples’ perspectives, and I’ll get questions that I haven’t really thought of, which helps to keep putting those puzzle pieces together,” Buchanan Young said.
The neighborhood and the families of La Yarda were the subject of filmmakers Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre’s and Marlo Angell’s short film documentary, “Searching for La Yarda,” in October 2021. They’re also the inspiration for an upcoming digital art installation.
Tickets for the tour are $30 per person and are available for purchase ahead of time on the LPA website. After clicking on the preferred date, the link will transfer to the Watkins Museum of History website where the number of remaining tickets for each date is displayed.
According to the LPA website, $20 of each $30 ticket will be donated to the Embattled Lawrence book series, an extensive collection of articles about Lawrence’s history. The remaining $10 goes toward appetizers at Lawrence Beer Company, where the tour will conclude.
A Free State Film Festival virtual screening of “Searching for La Yarda,” along with a Q&A, can be viewed at this link. More information about La Yarda is also available through archives from the Watkins Museum of History.