Restoration work nearing completion on ‘Old Buff’ statue in Topeka’s Cushinberry Park

DeAna Morrison, owner of the Amused gallery in the North Topeka Arts District, puts the...
DeAna Morrison, owner of the Amused gallery in the North Topeka Arts District, puts the finishing touches on the "Old Buff" statue Friday afternoon at Cushinberry Park, near S.E. 15th and Jefferson streets. The restoration project started in February and was to be completed Friday afternoon.(Phil Anderson)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 1:04 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Restoration work on an iconic buffalo statue in Topeka’s Cushinberry Park was nearing completion early Friday afternoon.

Artist DeAna Morrison, owner of the Amused gallery in the North Topeka Arts District, said she’s been working since February on the restoration project toward the east end of the park, located near S.E. 15th and Jefferson streets.

Morrison said the statue, known affectionately as “Old Buff,” was in “bad shape” when she was commissioned to start the project by Shawnee County Parks + Recreation.

She said the statue had seen better days, after being set on fire and spray-painted through the years. The statue also had missing body parts and had termites and wasps nests living inside.

Morrison used a concrete mixture and mural paint to restore “Old Buff.”

On Friday afternoon, she was touching up the statue, adding some paint to give “Old Buff” some details and make it look less than a “cartoon.”

The statue was once the mascot of the Kansas Technical Institute, which served blacks from Kansas and around the nation from 1895 to 1955 on the east edge of Topeka.

Morrison said she was completing her work on the statue on Friday, two days before Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19.

“That was the idea,” she said.

Cushinberry Park is divided into two sections, coming to a point where S.E. 15th and S.E. 17th streets join just west of S.E. Adams.

S.E. Jefferson divides the park into two halves near its center point.

Shawnee County Parks + Recreation spokesman Mike McLaughlin said improvements have been made in recent years in Cushinberry Park, including new walking paths, a new basketball court, new swings, drinking fountains, benches, landscaping and a new park sign.

The park is named in honor of the late Grant Cushinberry, a longtime community leader and philanthropist who was known for his role as an organizer of the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner and taking underprivileged children to events including the fair, the circus and to ball games.

Cushinberry also was the founder of the former “God’s Little Half-Acre,” a community garden and donation clearinghouse in the 1800 block of S.W. Fillmore.

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