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Arts & Life
Each week, KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Want to explore Strawberry Hill? Start with this beginner's guide to the neighborhood

Strawberry Hill
Emily Standlee
/
KCUR 89.3
The historic Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood offers a distinct perspective all its own.

Rediscover this unique area of Kansas City, Kansas, with our self-guided tour of hidden gems.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

From high up on Strawberry Hill, you’re able to get a spectacular view of Kansas City and the “Kawsmouth,” the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. But the historic Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood is more than just a lookout point — Strawberry Hill offers a distinct perspective all its own.

Fringed by Minnesota Avenue to the north and Seventh Street to the west, the land was first procured by Mathias Splitlog, a mill owner who later sold it to the Catholic Church and the railroad.

At the turn of the century, families from Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia settled the area and worked the factories and freight houses in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. In 1957, one-third of Strawberry Hill was razed to make way for I-70, forcing many residents to leave behind the homes they’d built.

Seeing as it’s less than 10 minutes from downtown, the Strawberry Hill of today is experiencing a housing boom. Also notable, though, is a marked sense of collaboration between current residents and small businesses — and between history and innovation — that gives the neighborhood its nuanced warmth.

This collection of historic sites, art studios, bookstores and more is only a glimpse into Strawberry Hill as a whole. To get the full vibe, you’ll need to cross a few rivers.

Nature and history

View from Kaw Point
Emily Standlee
/
KCUR 89.3
Finding Kaw Point Park can be tricky, but you'll be rewarded with fantastic views of the city and river.

Just below Strawberry Hill, you’ll find Kaw Point Park and a zoomed-in view of the Kansas (Kaw) River flowing into the Missouri. Lewis and Clark camped near the confluence in June of 1804.

Today, the 10-acre green space features a memorial dedicated to the Indigenous peoples of Kansas and Missouri — such as the Osage, Kaw, Otoe-Missouria, Shawnee and Wyandot — whose ancestral lands stretch out over Kansas City and beyond.

Getting to Kaw Point is part of the fun — trust us. Finding it can be tricky, but you can cut over to Kansas City, Kansas, if you’re already exploring the West Bottoms.

When Ninth Street becomes Central Street at the state line, turn right to take the James Street Bridge over the Kansas River. In the industrial district, follow signs for Kaw Point Park. You’ll be rewarded with glorious city and river vistas, walking trails and a boat ramp. The space seems to occupy multiple worlds simultaneously.

Up the hill from Kaw Point Park is the Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center, a stately lavender building constructed in the Victorian Queen Anne style. The center was established in 1988 with the mission to preserve the area’s ubiquitous Slavic heritage.

Visitors to the museum can tour its culturally meaningful exhibits, take a cooking class or sign up for the 5th Annual Strawberry Hill 5K race.

Extracurricular activities

Epic Arts
Caroline Meek
/
Epic Arts
Epic Arts seeks to provide access to the arts, especially for historically marginalized groups who have not had it in the past, offering affordable pottery classes for kids and adults.

Over on North Sixth Street is a heavily windowed building with the words “Epic Arts” etched above the door.

Inside are pottery wheels for throwing, buckets of glaze and rows upon rows of drying clay. Outside, string lights swing in the wind between a pop-up art container and the building itself.

“We’ve been here since 2010,” says co-manager Caroline Meek. The clay studio — in partnership with the nonprofit organization Community Housing of Wyandotte County — seeks to provide access to the arts, especially for historically marginalized groups who have not had it in the past.

Because art classes can be pricey or geographically out of reach, Epic Arts brings art to the people with open studio time at $10 an hour, plus affordable pottery classes for kids and adults.

Research shows sculpting clay helps expand the imagination and combat depression.

“Working with clay is an inherently grounding process,” Meek says. “It’s a metaphor for life. You spend so much time on the same piece — you get to engage with each part of the process.”

From May to October, the studio organizes Third Friday Art Walks. These take place throughout downtown KCK, including out front on Sixth Street. One year, Meek says, they even brought pottery wheels into the street.

Book smart

Flagship Books
Emily Standlee
/
KCUR 89.3
Flagship Books recently opened its new location in Strawberry Hill. "It’s so nice to be in a real neighborhood," co-owner Ty Malgren says.

Walk a few blocks south down Sixth Street from the clay studio and you’ll come across Flagship Books, merchants of new and used novels, essay and poetry collections, children’s books and more. Flagship's brand new location in Strawberry Hill just opened last month.

Flagship is the kind of place that allows its book-needing neighbors to stop by on a snowy day even if the shop is technically closed. It’s the kind of place that props open the door on nice days.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that the congenial feel is what drew the bookstore to Strawberry Hill in the first place. “If we wanted to grow, we needed a bigger space,” co-owner Ty Malgren says. “It’s so nice to be in a real neighborhood.”

Though Flagship looks back on its Iron District roots with love, Strawberry Hill feels like home, too. “It’s definitely gone well so far,” Malgren says, adding that the shop can’t wait to coordinate with neighboring businesses on future creative pop-ups.

Caffeinated kindness

Kinship Cafe
Emily Standlee
/
KCUR 89.3
Kinship Cafe in Strawberry Hill has something for everyone, and is quickly turning into a space for community fellowship and equity.

Speaking of upcoming events, transforming neighbors into friends and collaborators is something TJ Roberts is quite familiar with. He’s been busy running — and owning — Kinship Cafe, which sits at the intersection of Sixth Street and Ann Avenue in Strawberry Hill.

Kinship invites the outdoors inside, making the most of the building’s funky garage door-style windows on sunny days.

The menu has something for everyone: vegan and gluten-free options, breakfast scrambles, soups and chicken wraps. Even the chai is made in-house, and word on the street is Kinship is becoming known for its flash-brewed coffee.

“Something for everyone” might as well be the Kinship motto, as the cafe is quickly turning into a space for community fellowship and equity. That’s where Roberts comes in. His charisma brings people together. But it isn’t easy, especially when authenticity is hard to find.

“I hate for things to be super transactional,” Roberts says. He’s more interested in ethically sourcing Black-owned products, such as the candles and barbecue sauces that line his cafe’s shelves — just a small sample of products available for purchase.

Since opening in the fall of 2021, Roberts has already hosted hip-hop yoga lessons, vegan brunches, Third Friday Art Walk pop-ups and study nights for students. He even teaches his own pour-over classes.

Along with Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center, Epic Arts and Flagship Books, Kinship Cafe is dedicated to creating a surplus of resources for both neighbors and visitors to Strawberry Hill.

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