Ida Dockary and Florence Hayden have seen it all during the 55 years they’ve lived on the 3800 block of the Ivanhoe neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., just a few doors down from one another.
At 81 and 86 years old, respectively, they were there when Ivanhoe was a thriving residential and business community. They watched as U.S. Highway 71 bisected the neighborhood, eliminating whole blocks of homes. They saw their streets become infested with crime and blight, and change from a mix of races to mostly all black.
Have you ever driven through the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., and seen a building with playing cards instead of windows?
That's the house of cards, an abandoned apartment building at 7th and Indiana streets, that community members used to create public art. After a couple of years of dormancy, there's now some renewed interest to continue the effort.
Here's the story of how that project began:
A couple years back, the Historic Northeast neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., had a problem.
Ivanhoe is a neighborhood on Kansas City’s east side with a rich history. Though recent decades have brought on hard times, the community, led by spokeswoman Margaret May, has rallied to restore its former glory. Some residents are frustrated by vacant houses on their blocks, while others love the new farmer’s market and point–with a sigh of relief—to reduced crime rates.
Few neighborhoods in Kansas City. Mo., have faced as many problems as the Ivanhoe neighborhood in the city's urban core.
Crime, drug houses, frequent vacancy, and trash buildup have plagued the area for decades, but neighborhood residents have been working towards change.
Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council Executive Director Margaret May has worked in the neighborhood since 2001, and has seen it blossom as residents like Ida Dockery take ownership and responsibility for cleaning it up.
There are thousands of vacant lots in Kansas City, Mo. In the Ivanhoe neighborhood, from 31st Street to Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard and Prospect to Paseo, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council owns more than 150.
"Every lot can't be a community garden. Every lot can't be an urban farm. So it's like, what else can we do with these lots?" asks Dina Newman, who's coordinating a project in Ivanhoe called LOTS of Love.
A rusted metal "No Trespassing" sign hangs on a post outside the boarded-up Thacher School in the Historic Northeast in Kansas City, Mo.
On the other side of the tall fence, the grass is neatly trimmed and the empty parking lot is litter-free. The brick exterior, once a popular canvas for graffiti artists, has been scrubbed mostly clean. A single blue doodle is the only evidence of vandalism neighbors say was once common at the vacant school.
Street map of Kansas City showing grade school and high school districts as well as the locations of schools. "Red Lines Indicate High School Boundaries" and "Colored School Districts" are marked in green.
Credit Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library / Kansas City, Mo.
Cliff Drive in Kansas City, Mo., hugs the limestone bluffs that separate the stately turn-of-the-century mansions in the Historic Northeast neighborhood from the industry and train tracks of the Missouri River bottoms.
The road was purchased from the estate of Reverend Nathan Scarritt around 1900.
Artists have a reputation for moving into places others don’t – turning areas once full of empty buildings into thriving districts, such as the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Mo. So, it’s not surprising they’d take a look at the thousands of vacant lots and vacant houses in the city, exploring everything from sculpture parks to art galleries on some of the least desirable lots.
The homicide epidemic among young black men on Kansas City’s east side is leaving a generation of grieving teens in its wake, and some in the crime-fighting community feel black churches need to change their message to better help these young people deal with their loss.
A bumper sticker advertising the first documented Juneteenth celebration in Kansas City is a part of the collection honoring the 40th anniversary of the Black Archives of Mid-America. Juneteenth celebrations remember June 19, 1865, the day the last slaves heard about the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Black Archives of Mid-America has provided a place to learn about African-American history in Kansas City, Mo., for the past four decades.
And during that time, it has amassed a vast collection of papers, photographs and even physical structures to show what life was like as a black Kansas Citian.
As the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, we wanted to know more about the types of materials in the collection that started in 1974, when Horace Peterson III founded the Black Archives.
There’s a hush in the community room at the Lucile H. Bluford Public Library at 30th and Prospect streets, something like the quiet in a church just before the service starts.
The two dozen folks gathered here at 6 p.m. on a Monday night in June want to hear from the four sitting as a panel in the front of the room, people that despite their young ages, have years of mourning to share.
They found low-income neighborhoods, including Kansas City's east side, have fewer playgrounds than high-income neighborhoods. That’s in spite of having a higher concentration of parkland in those same neighborhoods. Researchers studied 219 parks and about 12,000 acres of parkland.
Thousands of dancers flocked each week to the Fairyland Park Dance Pavilion in Kansas City, Mo., in the decades between opening day in 1923 and when the park closed in the 1977. The park was owned by the Brancato family, a family of Italian immigrants and successful business people who'd come to the United States at the turn of the century.
As part of KCUR's Beyond Our Borders series, Central Standard met with a handful of residents of Kansas City's historic Northeast to hear about the people and projects shaping the future of that part of town. In particular, artist Hector Casanova told us about his project working with students to transform a boarded-up old school building in the neighborhood by treating its surfaces as a giant canvas.
It’s a lofty goal for any charter – be the premiere public school in Missouri and a model for the rest of the country.
And for a new school, it’s especially bold. Yet that’s been the vision of the Kauffman School since before it opened.
This week while other metro-area kids were enjoying that first taste of summer, sixth graders at the Kauffman School were sitting in science class. It's quiet except for the scratch of pencil on paper.
Denesha Snell remembers the first time her cycling club rode through Swope Park and down the Paseo.
"There was a guy in the park, and he said, 'Somebody told me there was a bunch of black women on bikes.' And he didn't believe it. We rode past him, and his mouth dropped to the floor because he could not believe it," says Snell. "The myth is that we don't work out and we don't exercise."
Just after 7:15 a.m. in the morning, Kara McGowan rushes out of her house, carrying her baby, Airis, on one arm, a bulging diaper bag on the other. Her four-year-old, Addison, trails behind.
"We got eight minutes. Come on!" McGowan pleads. She doesn't want to miss her bus. She doesn't have a car, so her only option to get her kids to daycare and to herself to her job as a receptionist in Westport is to take public transit.
McGowan's bus rolls away from the intersection before she and the children arrive, so she reroutes them to catch the 12th Street bus across town.
Sheraton Estates was the first place in Kansas City, Mo., where African-Americans sought out to build new homes south of 27th Street. The suburban-style subdivision was built in 1957. It was marketed to, and, historically, home to many influential African-American leaders in the city.