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This special series explored the history and impact of the most distinct lines in Kansas City: Troost Avenue, the State Line, the Wyandotte-Johnson county line, and the Missouri River.

PHOTOS: Kansas City's Bridges Tell A Story Of Creation And Destruction

As KCUR begins an exploration of how the Missouri River unites and divides the Kansas City metro, we must first consider our unique congregation of bridges. There are 10 of them, if you include the highways. Thirteen if you count the rail tracks that go over the river. And each one — though probably many people can't identify them by name — offers a unique perspective and connection for travelers.

As part of the Beyond Our Borders project, we'll soon take a look at the current state of the bridges and how we use them. But for now, we offer a little bit of history.

In many ways, the story of Kansas City’s first bridge shares a common thread with the bridges that span the Missouri today — a pattern of creation and destruction. These structures uplift, connect and serve until they are replaced by more modern structures.

The Hannibal Bridge, completed in 1869, was the first permanent railway bridge to cross the Missouri River, elevating Kansas City from frontier town to rail hub with connections to Chicago. Octave Chanute, who also designed the Kansas City Stockyards, designed the swing bridge that could open in less than two minutes.

Credit Missouri Valley Special Collections / Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
The Hannibal Bridge as photographed in 1870.


In its earliest days, the bridge was known as the Kansas City Bridge and it survived both flood and tornado before it was demolished in 1917 to make way for the Second Hannibal Bridge which remains standing. It serves railroad traffic, and you can see it operating alongside the Broadway Bridge.


Credit Geography and Map Division / Library of Congress
Library of Congress
This 1869 bird's eye view of Kansas City, Missouri, shows rail traffic crossing over a river bustling with riverboats.

In 1954 the Paseo Bridge opened to much fanfare for its design, but the structure never fully supported the demands of traffic from a growing North Kansas City. It was replaced by the elegant cable-stayed Christopher S. Bond Bridge in 2010.

The present-day Chouteau Bridge, named for prominent fur trader and “Father” of Kansas City François Chouteau, is a four-lane girder bridge on Route 269 across the Missouri River connecting Jackson County and Clay County. It replaced a lost three-span Whipple truss bridge built in 1887, and designed by Charles L. Strobel.

Not far from the banks of the river where Lewis and Clark camped on June 25, 1804, the original Liberty Bend Bridge was built in 1927. In 1973, it was dismantled and today a pair of continuous truss bridges carry Route 291 traffic across the Missouri river.  

The 80-year-old Fairfax Bridge was demolished earlier this year with explosive charges and its sister bridge, the Platte Purchase Bridge, built in 1957, will soon follow. The two bridges connected US 69 with Interstate 635 and will be replaced with a $79 million U.S. 69 bridges project.

This look at the Missouri River 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.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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