Tom Harper: Community initiatives to fund third volume of ‘Embattled Lawrence’ history books (Column)

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One year ago, Dennis Domer released “Embattled Lawrence, Volume 2: The Enduring Struggle For Freedom.” It was a smashing local success, holding steady on the Raven Book Store’s bestseller list months after its release. Christopher Luxem, co-owner and inventory manager for the Raven, recently shared that almost half of the 1,500 copies have been sold.

Unbeknownst to many, the money raised for Volume 2 was donated by Domer and community members. Domer in turn directed all proceeds from the sale of the book to be distributed to Watkins Museum of History and Raven.

After the release, Domer paused briefly to celebrate the accomplishment with his team. He resumed attention on the next book, “Embattled Lawrence, Volume 3: Building the City.” Domer will follow the same plan as Volume 2.

Writing, editing and publishing a book is not for the faint of heart. Domer spends a good portion of his day writing, communicating with his team, interacting with writers about their articles and editing their work. 

These stories represent a fraction of Lawrence’s collective history. 

“So much of the history of our story has not been told. We are just barely scratching the surface. There is more that hasn’t been told,” Domer said. 

Domer sums up his goal with the series and Volume 3: “What I’m trying to do is tell stories that have been missed. The tall trees in our history, such as J.D. Bowersock or Quantrill’s Raid, have overshadowed other lesser-known people or topics.” 

A few topics Domer explores in the Embattled Lawrence series that other historians have shied away from include the Red Light District in the East Bottoms; the early sanitation sewer system and its impact on our city; the rich stories of early residents of Lawrence such as Andrew Jackson Griffin and Mary Griffin; and the repetitive tenacity of East Lawrence residents — how they have historically banded together to protect their quality of life from politicians and developers.

Photos courtesy of Monica Davis

A group of us met recently to start a fundraising campaign for Volume 3. 

In 2021, Patrick Watkins asked Codi and Simon Bates to host a dinner and history salon series at their restaurant with Domer presenting. At that time, the purpose was to help fundraise for Volume 2. The series was so successful, the Bateses agreed to host again for Volume 3 in July. The series will take place at their adjacent business, Cider Gallery.

The Bateses will offer a four-course meal prepared in Bon Bon’s kitchen by Chef Simon. The Bateses opened Bon Bon in 2016 inside an early vernacular limestone building on the corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. They took a break during COVID-19 and reopened in the fall of 2023.

Tom Harper Codi and Simon Bates

Simon refers to Bon Bon as their “passion project, our labor of love, all the things we love to do. It’s our favorite food, it’s unique. A lot of the food is based on travels we’ve had.”

He describes the menu as “eclectic world cuisine. I don’t really follow any rules. I don’t try to make things traditionally — I try to make them how I want them to taste. There’s a lot of combining techniques from different cultures.” 

Simon said Codi oversees programming. It’s a shared vision, and she’s the designer who created the space and curates unique drinks for the bar.

There will be four history salons in July held at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with a cash bar. Dinner will begin at 6:30, and Domer will present around 7:15 with dessert. 

You can pick and choose presentations or attend all four. The food items will be a unique and delicious pairing each night, including two glasses of wine or special nonalcoholic beverages. Each presentation costs $100 to attend.

The series will be held on the following Wednesday evenings:

July 10 – The East Bottoms: A Landscape History of Lawrence’s Red-Light District
July 17 – Andrew Jackson and Mary Carroll Griffin: A Pioneer Partnership, 1867-1907. 
July 24 – Our Sewers, Ourselves: Everyday in the Open Sewer in Early Lawrence 
July 31 – Identity Formation in East Lawrence: Not in My Backyard 

The Raven Book Store will have a table at each event selling copies of Embattled Lawrence, Volume 2. 

This is sure to be a memorable series of talks by Domer, a premier local historian who will deepen your knowledge and appreciation of Lawrence while enjoying some of Lawrence’s best and unique food offerings by Simon and Codi Bates.

To purchase tickets or find out more information about the Salon series, visit

Front and back covers of “Embattled Lawrence, Volume 3: Building the City” (Contributed images)

About the writer

Tom Harper is a Realtor at Stephens Real Estate helping people in Lawrence and Douglas County buy and sell real estate. He is the founder of Lawrence Modern, a group whose mission is to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture. You will find him posting frequently on Instagram under @lawrencemodern, sharing his daily observations of his favorite place on earth: Lawrence, Kansas. Read more of Tom’s writing for The Lawrence Times here.

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Tom Harper: Community initiatives to fund third volume of ‘Embattled Lawrence’ history books (Column)

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In ”Embattled Lawrence,” Dennis Domer aims to tell the stories that have been missed in Lawrence’s rich history. Upcoming dinners and presentations will help raise funds to make the next volume possible, Tom Harper writes in this column.


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