Kansas City History

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

    

Missionary work, slaveholding in Kansas, a bogus legislature and a murder. These are some of the stories that surface when you investigate the namesake of Johnson County: Reverend Thomas Johnson, who founded the Shawnee Indian Mission (now a museum tucked away in a residential neighborhood). What happened at that site tells a larger story about the relationship between American Indians and the United States government.

Guests:

Missouri Valley Special Collection / Kansas City Public Library

For the past four months, KCUR's Beyond Our Borders project has examined how the Missouri-Kansas state line affects the lives of those around it

Patrick Quick / KCUR

It’s cold outside, so now is the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

Central Standard took the opportunity to seek out some of the best books about Kansas City history. After all, even if you can't get outside to explore the city, you can still do it from the comfort of your home.

Local historian Monroe Dodd and Missouri Valley Special Collections manager Eli Paul gave us their recommendations of the best books for local history lovers, focusing on those that are a really good read.

In the 1990s, Kevin Fox Gotham began researching Race, Real Estate and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience, 1900-2000. The book's premise is that housing patterns isolating impoverished, minority populations in city centers don't naturally result from free market pressures; institutional policies contribute, and the desires the free market satisfies originate somewhere. After the subprime mortgage crisis of recent years, Gotham decided to publish a second edition.

Royal Photography LLC

Services for Rev. Nelson "Fuzzy" Thompson have been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17. Visitation will be from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. The funeral will be at 1:00 p.m. at St. James United Methodist Church, 5540 Wayne Ave., Kansas City.

A giant of Kansas City's civil rights movement and an outspoken — often controversial — crusader against racism and discrimination has died.  

The Rev. Nelson "Fuzzy" Thompson passed away early Sunday. He was 70 years old. 

Christina Lieffring / KCUR

You’re driving uphill along winding roads in Wyandotte County, Kan.

You turn the corner and see a high chain-link fence surrounding a foreboding house out of a ghost story: it’s a three-story, red-brick, Victorian home with a high tower at the top and carved lions framing the doorway. That's Sauer Castle.

As a child, Patricia Schurkamp of the Wyandotte County Museum would regularly go up the hill to see the house. As an adult, she finally got to see the inside.

Missouri Valley Special Collections / Kansas City Public Library

“Certain challenges arise when doing burlesque history research on a work computer,” says Eli Paul, the special collections manager at the Kansas City Public Library.

Kansas City Public Library / Missouri Valley Special Collections

Sonny Gibson likes to let history speak for itself. He spent 25 years visiting flea markets, poring over old newspapers, digging through archives and even knocking on people's doors, all to gather information about the daily lives of African-Americans in Kansas City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Guest:

Union Cemetery Historical Society

Union Cemetery in Kansas City, MO is the city’s oldest public cemetery. It serves as the final resting place for some of the area’s early pioneers, civic leaders and veterans. On this broadcast of Up to Date, we look at this "hidden gem in the middle of a busy city" and the new book that tells the story of Union Cemetery.

Guest:

Allen Brewer / Flickr-CC

Since winning the American League wild-card game against the Oakland A's and sweeping the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series, the Kansas City Royals have brought a big shot of hope back into the metro area.

The Crosthwaite Family Collection / The Black Archives of Mid-America

When historians hope to uncover a new wrinkle in the past, they usually head to an archive. They dig through boxes and folders containing photographs, letters and other artifacts, looking for something that sheds new light on the past. Here are a few little-known gems, selected by Kansas City archivists.

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Kansas City is full of beautiful old homes, albeit in need of a little TLC. Investing in a home that's listed on a historic register or located in a historic neighborhood brings a closer connection to the city and its history, as well as a unique set of challenges.

Guests:

Tumblr - SubTropolis / Hunt Midwest

You'd never find it by just looking around, but beneath the grounds of Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun is one of the largest systems of underground businesses in the country. 

Wikimedia - CC

Eds note: This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism. 

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

The World's Work / Wikimedia Commons

One of the names most closely associated with Kansas City is J.C. Nichols-- for good or bad. 

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we talk about this creator of the Country Club Plaza and what his critics say about him. We also examine what the city gained – and some say lost – due to the efforts of this one man.

Guest:

Western Historical Manuscript Collection

The social unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of Michael Brown has sparked national conversations about issues stemming from racial and socioeconomic tension. But this isn't the first time these issues have reached a fever pitch.

Gwen's River City Images / Flickr/CC

About four and a half decades ago, in a stunningly brief period of years, Kansas City built major public structures for air travelers, conventioneers and sports fans. All survive today, but one of them, sitting in the West Bottoms, is underutilized compared to the others.

Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

If you've ever noticed plaques in Kansas City's Westport district describing Civil War-era events, then you have at least a little background on the Battle of Westport, a series of battles that ended in a decisive Union victory and emancipation for slaves in Missouri.

The Black Archives of Mid-America

Over forty years ago, Horace Peterson III started collecting relics of Kansas City-area history in the trunk of his car.

That collection grew into the Black Archives of Mid-America, a research facility, museum and community gathering space now located at 1722 E. 17th Terrace in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Mo.

The Black Archives of Mid-America

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.

State Historical Society of Missouri, Kansas City Convention Hall Records KO269

The Republican National Committee is eyeing Kansas City as a potential site for the 2016 Republican National Convention, and after a visit last week, the delegates’ first impressions seem positive.

Kansas City Public Library

Kansas City used to be the place, "where the steak is born." Now it's known more for barbecue than steaks and stockyards.

On the first half of Wednesday's Up to Date, host Steve Kraske sits down with local food critic Charles Ferruzza to dive into Kansas City's carnivorous past. 

Guest:

  • Charles Ferruzza​, food critic.

For decades, Troost Avenue has symbolized racial separation, income disparity and vast differences in home value as well as frequency of crime. But it's only a street. And at one time, it happened to be quite a prosperous street.

Hosted by Monroe Dodd, this discussion explores the specific decisions, both national and local, that laid the groundwork for Troost's transformation into a major metropolitan divide. Personal stories from a longtime resident contribute to this conversation.  

Guests:

1940 was a pivotal year for Kansas City. Tom Pendergast’s rule through corruption and debauchery had crumbled, leaving the new local government to reform a city hungry for jazz and liquor.

On Thursday's Up to Date, we examine how Kansas City was different in the World War II era. On the way, we take a look at how the “Paris of the Plains” changed from a den of iniquity to the city we know today.

Guest:

A. Ruger Merchant Liths. Co. / Madison, Wis., Ruger & Stoner - Wikimeida Commons

There’s a community of more than 4,000 people that sits barely two miles away from Kansas City’s Downtown. It has its own mayor and city agencies and a major hospital, and it’s more than a century old. We're talking about North Kansas City, all 4.4 square miles of it.

On Friday's Central Standard, Monroe Dodd chats with two longtime residents of the city about the history of this town-within-a-town.

CoolValley / Flickr - CC

Do the ghosts of Jesse James, Cole Younger, and Annie Chambers still haunt us? What about the apparitions of Carrie Nation and Tom Pendergast?

These folks all have one thing in common — they're all buried right here in Kansas City. So, for a brief moment, let's resurrect these long-slumbering souls and explore the fascinating lives of some of Kansas City's famous dead:

Goodman Ace (1899-1982) and Jane Ace (1900-1974)

Second Baptist Church

One hundred fifty years ago the country was midway through the Civil War, and back then, Second Baptist Church was a mission known as a "Stragglers Camp" located on the south banks of the Missouri River.

These days, the church at 3620 E. 39th Street is reaching out to deal with crime and a high unemployment rate, and it's about to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington.

The senior pastors of Second Baptist have enjoyed long tenures.Over the last 150 years, the church has been led by just eight head preachers.

Susan B. Wilson / KCUR

Imagine a Kansas City covered by ice sheets, oceans that ebb and flow, or lush rain forests with soaring ferns and palm trees. 

These were some of the different landscapes that covered this area millions of years ago.  UMKC geosciences professor emeritus Richard Gentile says we learn all this by “reading the rocks” beneath our feet.   

Gentile curated the exhibit, Kansas City Millions of Years Ago: What the Rock Record Tells Us at Commerce Bank’s Box Gallery through May 31, 2013. 

University of Missouri - Kansas City

The Irish played a crucial role in the development of Kansas City.  While their labor helped to literally build the city, their community found members on both sides of the law.

Courtesy of LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Three years ago, Kansas City police re-opened one of the most vexing cold cases in local history. It was the 1970 murder of politician and civil rights leader Leon Jordan. The case was re-opened after an investigation by Kansas City Star reporters Mike McGraw and Glenn Rice.  McGraw told us what one of the original detectives told him about the 40-year-old case.

“'I can’t remember a case with less info, more blind alleys, more possible motives, and more possible suspects than the Leon Jordan murder,'” said McGraw, quoting detective Lloyd DeGraffenreid. 

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