Quindaro Ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, are one step closer to National Historic Landmark status
On Tuesday, three U.S. House representatives, two Democrats and one Republican, introduced a bill to make the site of the historic town of Quindaro in Kansas City, Kansas, a National Historic Landmark. The town was once a stop on the Underground Railroad and a thriving multicultural community.
Before local preservationists focused attention on the decaying ruins of the town of Quindaro in the 1980s, the overgrown and largely forgotten site, hidden on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, was nearly turned into a landfill. Since then, community members and legislators have pushed for official recognition and the resources that come with it.
Preservation advocates got one step closer to their goal on Tuesday. Three U.S. House representatives, two Democrats and one Republican, introduced a bill to further protect the ruins in northeast Kansas City, Kansas. Sharice Davids (D-KS), along with Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Jake LaTurner (R-KS), introduced the bill Tuesday that would make the Quindaro site one of 2,600 National Historic Landmarks across the country.
“Quindaro is a vital part of our nation's history and served as a beacon of hope and freedom for Americans fighting to end slavery in the mid-19th century," said LaTurner.
Such an upgrade would mean access to federal money from the Department of the Interior, grants through the Historic Preservation Fund and expert guidance from the National Park Service.
Since 2019, when Quindaro was granted National Commemorative Site status, proponents of federal recognition have hoped that additional resources could fund new excavations and improvements like walking trails and a museum to house artifacts. Parts of the site, which includes stone foundations, ruins and graves, have already been excavated and documented by archaeologists over the years, but more remain untouched.
The town of Quindaro was an integrated community of American Indians, free and formerly enslaved Black people and “free-soil” settlers before the Civil War. It was established in the 1850s by the native Wyandotte Tribe and quickly became a boomtown as a point-of-entry into Kansas for anti-slavery “free-staters” and enslaved people fleeing bondage from across the river in Missouri.
Today the site stands as a symbol of empowerment and a reminder of the egalitarian, multiracial, democratic community which once existed there.
“The Quindaro Townsite is an important piece of regional history that tells the stories of those seeking to uphold our national commitment to liberty and freedom for all,” said Representative Cleaver.
Davids said that the Quindaro site has been ignored.
“For too long, our community has lacked the proper investments needed to preserve this important site," she said in a statement from her office. "A National Historic Landmark designation will build on the bipartisan effort I led in 2019 to establish Quindaro as a National Commemorative Site and help protect its history, keeping its stories alive for generations to come.”