Although Kansas City began as a simple trading post to serve the needs of early trappers and the westward bound pioneers, the site soon grew into a booming city. Still an agriculture and rail center, Kansas City has a diverse history relected in the many museums and historical sites available to those who wish to trace the past.
Begin a journey into the city’s history at the Kansas City Museum in Kessler Park (3218 Gladstone Boulevard). Within the walls of Corinthain Hall, a fifty room former mansion, visitors find a working 1910 soda fountain where they can quench their thirst. Other exhibits feature rivers, the land, the early trappers and settlers, Osage Indians, and much more. A hall of natural history and a planetarium are also on site.
Other museums within the metropolitan area include The Libery Museum of World War I at Pershing and Main streets downtown. The 217 foot tall tower is visible for blocks and the museum complex offers a video presentation to complement the other exhibits that include canons, caissons, and other memorabilia.
Echoes of the city’s African-American history can be found at The Museums at 18th and Vine in the heart of the old jazz district. The American Jazz Museum traces the musical roots of the jazz movement and the Negro League Baseball Museum nearby offers an insight into the days when even sports were segregated.
In the River Market area, vistors can relive the era of steam travel at the Arabia Steamboat Museum. Discovered buried beneath the surface of a farmer’s field along the Missouri River in 1989, the Arabia sank in 1856. Items recovered from the sunken ship include frontier supplies, vintage clothing and shoes, firearms, medicines, bottled fruits and vegetables, jewelry and more. Stand on the full size reproduction of the deck to experience a moment from the past.
If playthings from the past are of interest, visitors to K.C. will delight in the Toy and Miniature Museum on Oak Street. Antique toys that include dolls and trains cover a vast area and include more than 80 furnished doll houses.
Union Station, a former railway station, at 30 West Pershing houses a science museum, theaters, and restaurants. Half of all GI’s deployed during the second World War passed beneath the landmark clock and more than 70,000 trains travled through this terminal in World War I. The site became infamous when several high profile gangsters were gunned down outside in what was dubbed “The Kansas City Massacre”.
The city’s emphasis on agriculture can be traced at the American Royal Museum and Visitor’s Center west of downtown. A film is available on Kansas City’s history and interactive displays educate both old and young.
Shoppers will find ways to pass the time with a visit to Country Club Plaza, the first planned shopping center in the United States. First opened in 1922, Country Club Plaza remains a viable shopping district today. With 55 acres of shops that include anchors Saks Fifth Avenue and FAO Schwarz, Country Club Plaza is at 47th Street and J.C. Nichols parkway. During December, many visitors come to see the lighted shopping center in a long standing holiday tradition.
Nearby, those with an interest in former Presidents can visit the home of President Harry Truman at 223 Main Street in Independence, Missouri. The site where both Truman and his wife lived until their deaths is open to the public and filled with the Victorian furnishings that date to their marriage.
A trip to Independence offers the opportunity to visit The Truman Presidential Museum and Library, located on U.S. 24 and Delaware Street.
Nearby Kearney offers a look into the criminal mind at the Jesse James Musuem, a historic site that is the birthplace of the noted outlaw. Restored to James’ boyhood era, the home is open to the public.
Kansas City is both cowtown and cosmopolitan center. The city offers an abundance of musuems and historical sites. Additional information can be obtained from the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City at ll00 Main Street, KCMO, 64105 or by calling 1-800-767-7700