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Five Stories Behind KC Neighborhoods And Parks


Ever wonder how neighborhoods and parks around the city got their names? Host Monroe Dodd was back during Friday's show with a panel of guests to tell the stories behind the names of public spaces and communities in Kansas City.

Joining him was Jeremy Drouin​ of the Kansas City Public LibraryDavid Jackson of the Jackson County Historical Society and Ann McFerrin of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department.

"People want to know the social history of their homes," said Jeremy Drouin, director of the Missouri Valley Room at the Kansas City Public Library. Drouin added that people searching for their residences' pasts are particularly interested in photographs.

If you missed Friday's show, here are a handful of facts from our guests that you might not have known about the city:

  • Hyde Park was first created as a private park for people living in the Hyde Park and Janssen Place neighborhoods to reclaim it from squatters who had settled there. A golf course, tennis courts and a walking trail were all built as part of this urban renewal project.
  • Theis Park is named after Frank Theis, who was on the park board and involved with grain trading in Kansas City. But it's sometimes called Volker Park because its fountain was named after William Volker and was dedicated before the park had a formal name. The park was officially named Theis Park after Frank Theis died in 1965.
  • Westport was originally an independent city and was established before Kansas City itself in 1834 by the McCoy family. The California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails passed through. Residents of Westport eventually voted to become part of the city in the 1890s.
  • Kansas City's smallest park is Andrew Drips Park: It's only 0.16 acres. It's located north of 16th Street between Jarboe and Bellevue, and its namesake was a fur trader whose daughter married a prominent Kansas Citian. (Needle Park in the Garment District downtown probably comes in at a close second for the title of smallest park at 0.76 acres.)
  • Thomas Swope originally planned to use what is now Swope Park as a farm. Swope, though generous with his philanthropic causes, wasn't a proponent of using public land for parks - he originally wanted to donate a library to the city, but one already existed. The story goes that a friend of his talked him into donating the land for a park, which opened on June 25, 1896 to a crowd of about 20,000 people.

If you've got questions about the history of your home, your neighborhood or a park nearby, you can find more resources at the Kansas City Public Library's Missouri Valley Room or the Jackson County Historical Society.

Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
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