Kansas City History

Liberty Memorial Kansas City commercial real estate

Liberty Memorial

Kansas City is a town with a colorful past and a promising future; it is big and sprawling, diverse and dynamic, sophisticated and down-home.

We are big in miles, straddling a state line and encompassing (depending on which government agency is doing the counting) from eight to 13 counties. In the 11 most close-in counties, we encompass more than 4,000 square miles and number more than 2 million people in more than 100 cities. There is a Kansas City, MO., and a Kansas City, KS., and the larger of the two and the urban center of the metro area is on the Missouri side. Many locals, even those who live 50 miles away from the Kansas City, Mo., city limits on either side of the state line, are apt to reply when asked where they’re from – “Kansas City.” It’s a big name for a big place.

We could have been Possum Trot. That was one of the names suggested for the town that grew up on banks of the Missouri River in the mid-19th century. The Town Company, which purchased the original 271 acres in 1838, finally settled on the Town of Kansas, naming the new town for the Kansa Indians who had long inhabited the area.

We are a pretty city, not the flat prairie or arid wasteland some picture. The Missouri and Kansas rivers meet just north of downtown Kansas City. They – and their tributaries – have carved valleys and bluffs over the landscape. In the late 19th century some far-sighted city fathers committed to a program of interconnecting boulevards and parks that placed this town in the forefront of the nationwide “City Beautiful” movement. We have as many – probably more by now – boulevards as Paris, and, with more than 200 fountains, we’re second only to Rome. (In 1973 a City of Fountains Foundation was established to ensure the construction of new and upkeep of the older fountains; from them, you can obtain a map for a driving/walking tour of some of the city’s prettiest.) We do not have an ocean or a mountain, but we have limestone bluffs and thousands of acres of lakes, rivers and streams.

Almost smack-dab in the middle of the United States, we have always been an important trade/transportation center. The same year Missouri came into the Union, a French trader, Francois Chouteau, came upriver from St. Louis and established a trading post at a bend in the river. A few miles and a few years later, another entrepreneur, John McCoy, set up an inland store on the Santa Fe Trail that became Westport and an important outfitting spot for wagons headed west. We have been an important rail center (today second in size nationally only to Chicago) since we opened a railroad bridge across the Missouri in 1869. Today, too, we have what many call the nation’s most user-friendly airport: Kansas City International sees about 400 flights a day, and the distance from curb to aircraft is less than 75 feet.

We are a cowtown and an art center. The stockyards made us one of the world’s major cattle markets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At its peak in the early 1900s, the Kansas City Livestock Exchange was the largest building in the world devoted exclusively to livestock interests. We still commemorate that heritage every year during the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show and Rodeo, more than 100 years old and one of the nation’s largest.

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