The National Park Service has added the Kansas City, Missouri, parks and boulevard system to its National Register of Historic Places.
The historic district includes parks and boulevards dating from 1895 to 1965. Three parks are on the list: Kessler Park, Penn Valley Park, and The Parade, as well as seven boulevards: Gladstone, Linwood, Armour, The Paseo, Benton, and Broadway.
Kansas City's network of parks and boulevards traces its roots to the City Beautiful movement of the turn of the 19th century. Landscape architect George Kessler's designs, and later those of landscape architecture firm Hare & Hare, paved the way for urban planning paired with beautifying efforts, such as fountains and statues.
"We're very grateful to their vision and we're very proud that Kansas City is getting the national recognition that it so well deserves," says David Mecklenburg, a board of parks and recreation commissioner.
In 2014, the city contracted with Cydney Millstein, of Architectural & Historical Research, LLC, and Paul J. Novick, of Confluence, to seek a listing in the National Register. Parks and recreation department director Mark McHenry says the designation provides an ability to continue to build the parks system, but with some limitations.
"We want to be very smart in how we develop. We want to be knowledgeable about what we do," McHenry says. "So I've kind of looked at it as another tool in the toolbox. We do want to preserve and protect the system."
The listing, McHenry says, could lead to funding opportunities in grant applications, such as historic tax credits for park restoration.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.