Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.]


CHAPTER XXVIII.

KANSAS CITY OF TODAY.

Part 1


FIGURES SHOW SUBSTANTIAL GROWTH - AN ERA OF IMPROVEMENT - THE FLOOD OF 1903 - THE NEW CITY HALL - MUNICIPAL WATER WORKS - A MUNICIPAL ELECTRICAL PLANT - PARKS AND BOULEVARDS - KANSAS CITY POST OFFICE - NEW POST OFFICE BUILDING - STREET RAILWAY FACILITIES - FIRST INTERURBAN RAILWAY - FINANCIAL STRENGTH - HOTELS OF OLD WYANDOTTE - THE MERCANTILE CLUB - OTHER CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS - CHARITABLE AND CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS.

The Kansas City, Kansas, of today is a city of homes; of schools, libraries, churches, clubs, societies, places of entertainment. It is a city without an open saloon or a gambling joint; a city of street railway facilities, rapid transit interurban lines, bridges, viaducts, paved streets, macadamized driveways, parks and play-grounds; a city of public buildings, business houses, commercial enterprises; of banks, loan and trust companies, financial institutions and insurance companies; a city of mills and elevators, foundries, machine shops, steel works, cotton mills, soap works, brick yards, lumber yards and factories of many kinds; a city of stock yards, packing houses, oil refineries, power plants, water works and electrical works; a city of transportation lines, car building and repair shops, round houses and terminal yards. In fact, it is a city in which is combined those things that are essential to a vigorous, healthy, progressive municipal life.

Good material was welded together in the making of the city, in the year 1886. The old city of Wyandotte, organized in the territorial days of 1857 and rich in historic Indian romance, rested on the picturesque hills overlooking the valleys of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The former city of Kansas City, Kansas, incorporated in 1868, occupied a narrow strip of Kansas soil lying between the state line and the Kansas river. The ambitious little city of Armourdale, chartered in 1882, was building up the valley on the north side of the Kansas river.

These three combined gave Kansas City, Kansas, 21,299 inhabitants to start with. It was a good start, for they were people possessed of the Kansas spirit. From the year of that consolidation the city has never ceased to grow. At times it was by slow degrees, and at other times it was by leaps and bounds. In the first ten years the city doubled its population. In the second ten years it doubled its population again. In 1910 it had a total of 82,331 inhabitants, and this is almost four times the number of people it had to start with, twenty-five years ago.

FIGURES SHOW SUBSTANTIAL GROWTH.

The official census figures for Kansas City, Kansas, since the act of consolidation became effective, in 1886, form the best evidence of the steady growth of the city. These figures follow:


1886, state census at consolidation 21,299
1890, United States census 38,316
1900, United States census 51,418
1910, United States census 82,331

AN ERA OF IMPROVEMENT.

A serious problem confronted the first administration of the new city. It was the linking together of the cities and towns that had been built, each independent of the other. But the problem was solved through the inauguration of an era of public improvements. Streets were graded and paved and viaducts were built over which main thoroughfares were opened between the Wyandotte, Armourdale and old Kansas City divisions, that their people and their interests might be brought together as one. And well did the "city fathers" do their work. The new civic spirit thus awakened found expression in many ways for the betterment of conditions. In the first five years of the new city's life more than $2,000,000 was expended on the grading, paving and curbing of streets, and the building of sidewalks, sewers and bridges. And in the years that have followed, although periods of depression came, this same spirit has been undaunted. Today the city, covering an area of nineteen miles, has ninety-seven miles of well paved streets, with many miles of granitoid and brick sidewalks, and also a great system of drainage and sanitary sewers, such as can be found only in the most progressive cities.

THE FLOOD OF 1903.

One of the greatest disasters that ever befell an American city was that which came to Kansas City by the flood of 1903 in the Kansas river valley. In the extent of damage, though there was no loss of life, it is exceeded only by the San Francisco earthquake disaster, the Galveston flood and, perhaps, the Johnstown flood. During the entire month of May of that year it rained almost incessantly throughout the entire Kansas river water-shed. The consequence was that every branch, creek and every stream of any kind poured great volumes of water into the Kansas river, which already was swollen, to such an extent as to flood the valley from bluff to bluff, from Junction City to the river's mouth at Kansas City. The June rise in the Missouri river coming at the same time had swollen that stream, and with the addition of these rains the Missouri and the Kansas waters meeting here inundated the entire valey[sic] from Turner to the Hannibal bridge to a depth of six to ten feet, and in some lower places to an even greater depth. Every bridge that spanned the Kansas river from Topeka to the mouth of the Kaw, except the Missouri Pacific Railroad bridge, which was weighted down by forty locomotives, was wrecked. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, business houses and factories wrecked, and other property damaged to an amount estimated at thirty-four million dollars in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Business was almost entirely suspended for a period of three months, while the thousands of people who had been driven from their homes, and the railroads, the manufactories and the great business concerns were righting things as best they could.

The flood had the effect of checking for a time the growth of the city, but it did not check that undaunted spirit of our people. Before the end of the year plans were set afoot for the improvement of the Kansas river's banks to protect the property from future overflow. It took seven years, pending which there were overflows in 1904 and 1908, to set things in motion for the carrying out of these plans. The Kaw Valley Drainage law had been passed by the legislature, a board had been organized, engineering plans had been outlined, and almost endless litigation by opposing interests had been fought to a successful conclusion before the Drainage Board was able to start its improvements. With bonds voted by the people to the amount of $1,750,000, contracts were let, in 1910, for the widening of the channel of the river and the building of dikes on both banks from Turner to the mouth of the Missouri river, a distance of eleven miles. This has been an undertaking of such magnitude as scarcely to be comprehended by those who are unfamiliar with the conditions and circumstances. These improvements at this writing are nearing completion. The property interests along the river through the drainage district, representing a value of more than $40,000,000 in Kansas City, Kansas, and as great a value in Kansas City, Missouri, are now assured of protection from the overflow of the river even at a depth almost as great as that of 1903. The railroad companies, in conformity to the plans, are expending three million dollars to improve their property. Every bridge along the river in the district, nineteen in number, has been rebuilt. All along this great valley there is now a feeling of absolute security and millions of dollars anually are invested in the building of new industrial plants, new business enterprises, new and better homes, and in all those things that are essential to the life of the city. To the unswerving loyalty of the members of the Drainage Board to the people and their interests is due credit for this grand achievement. The board has for its members William H. Daniels, president, Fred Meyn, Bernard Pollman, T. E. Myers and C. C. Craft.

MUNICIPAL WATER WORKS.

Important in the direction of progress for the city was the voting by the people, in 1909, of bonds for the purchase of the system of the Metropolitan Water Company, for its improvement and for extension of mains. The city took control of the plant in the autumn of 1909 and, under the management of a Water Board composed of P. W. Goebel, George Stumpf and J. E. Barker, it paid operating expenses and interest on bonds from the start, even while the improvements were under way. Under the control of the commissioner of water works, James A. Cable, who succeeded the Water Board, the plant has been thoroughly overhauled and many miles of new mains and many new hydrants have been installed, thus increasing the facilities for fire protection and the distribution of water for domestic consumption. The total of bonds issued by authority of the people was $2,000,000, and the plant that has been builded is of sufficient capacity to supply water to all the city for present needs and for several years to come.

A MUNICIPAL ELECTRICAL PLANT.

On the expiration of the twenty-year franchise of the Consolidated Electric Light and Power Company the citizens of Kansas City, Kansas, realizing that cheaper electric lighting could not be obtained by a renewal of the franchise, voted $350,000 of bonds, February 14, 1911, for the construction of an electrical plant to be operated in connection with the municipal water plant, and for a distributing system sufficient for the entire city. The plans have been prepared and the electrical plant is at the date of this publication under construction. On the completion of the plant it is estimated that the city can supply electricity to the consumers at five cents a kilowat and to small manufacurers[sic] at a rate of not to exceed three cents a kilowat, while are electric lighting for streets may be supplied at about one-half of the old rate of sixty-five dollars a year for each light paid by the city to the old company.

PARKS AND BOULEVARDS.

For many years the parks were neglected, because so many other things were needed, and it was not until a few years ago that agitation for the beautification of the city by the laying out of parks and boulevards was considered seriously.

In March, 1907, the Kansas legislature passed a law giving the city authority to organize a park board, and gave this board the power to levy special taxes for a park and boulevard system. The law was declared valid by the supreme court, the way made clear for work, and the city began preparations to lay out a system equal to any in the country for a municipality of its size. George E. Kessler, a park engineer who is conducting the work of beautifying eight important cities - among them St. Louis, Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City, Missouri - was engaged to make plans for parks and boulevards in Kansas City, Kansas, that it will take fifteen to eighteen years to complete the prejected[sic] system. The work was started, in 1909, when the park board began making Washington avenue a boulevard, one hundred feet wide, from Fourth to Eighth with a connection on Fourth street to the west end of the Intercity viaduct. This boulevard was first extended to Eleventh street, from which point parkways and boulevards were built southwest to the City Park and northwest to Klamm Park, in conformity with the system that eventually is to embrace some twenty-five miles of boulevards and parkways.

The park system now has reached a stage in its development where the people of the city can point to it with pride. In the many parks, playgrounds and athletic fields that have been and are now building are embraced two hundred and thirty-two acres, while upwards of twelve miles of boulevards have been and are now building. The park and boulevard system was under the control of the commissioners provided for by the act of 1907, until the commission government law went into effect. Then the park board was retired and the commissioners of parks and boulevards assumed entire jurisdiction over it. The men who served on the park board during its brief existence were Dr. S. S. Glasscock, James Sullivan and J. P. Angle; Dr. George M. Gray, who was mayor at the time the board was created, succeeded Dr. Glasscock. The system is now under control of the city commissioner of parks and public property, Henry E. Dean.

It should be known that the father of the park and boulevard system in Kansas City, Kansas, is Doctor Gray. The writer, in the ten years that elapsed before the law was passed, accompanied Doctor Gray in many drives through the city and almost the identical plan of boulevards that was adopted was mapped out by the eminent physician and surgeon.

THE NEW CITY HALL.

City Hall in Kansas City, Kas.
CITY HALL IN KANSAS CITY, KAS.
(CORNERSTONE LAID MAY 25, 1911.)

The new civic awakening, resulting from the commercial and industrial activity and the general growth of interests, has called for public buildings in keeping with the dignity of the metropolis of Kansas. The old city hall, a two story building erected the year of the consolidation, had outgrown its usefulness when, in the spring of 1910, bonds were voted at a special election for the erection of a new city hall. The plans were at once prepared by Rose & Peterson for such a building as would meet the requirements of the city for years to come. The plans provided for a building reaching along Sixth street from Armstrong avenue to Ann avenue, covering a half block. The property adjoining the old city hall on the south was acquired and contracts were let for the south half of the building, which is now being erected, the proposition being, after its completion, to raze the old city hall and extend the new building to Armstrong avenue as orginally[sic] planned. The corner stone of the city hall was laid April 25, 1911, and the work of constructing the south half of the building is to be finished by the end of the year. The building is to be fire-proof, containing splendidly arranged offices for all departments of the city government and, in addition, eventually it will contain a great public auditorium sufficient in size to seat four thousand persons.

The city now has eight splendidly equipped fire stations and two others are being erected. These stations are so situated as to facilitate the fighting of fires in all portions of the city. There are four police stations in the city, other than the headquarters, situated with reference to the conveniences of this public service. The city workhouse in the Argentine district had in the twelve months of its existence proved to be one of the most effective remedies in solving the problem of what to do with the petit criminals, the idlers and the "hobo" class.

The city maintains an effective health department under the jurisdiction of the commissioner of public health. Through this department the sanitation, the pure food and the health laws are effectively enforced.

THE KANSAS CITY, (KANSAS) POST OFFICE.

The first post office in Wyandotte was opened by Thomas J. Barker in the spring of 1857. He held forth in the old court house building on Nebraska avenue, where he and Isaiah Walker were keeping store. The postmaster brought the mail from Kansas City, Missouri, on horseback, William Chick, of the banking firm of Northrup and Chick, maintained the service in that village for the first year out of his own pocket. The Wyandot Indians were great readers as a rule and it was chiefly to accommodate them that the post office in Kansas City, Missouri, was established. In 1863 Mr. Barker was succeeded as postmaster by Richard B. Taylor who held the office three years. Mr. Taylor was succeeded by Elihu T. Vedder, who served until 1866. He was succeeded by Arthur D. Downs, who held the office until 1881. George B. Reichnecker was appointed under the Garfield Arthur administration and held the office until 1885, when Vincent J. Lane came in under the first Grover Cleveland administration.

In 1886, when the cities and towns were merged into Kansas City, Kansas, many of the old citizens were disinclined to give up the name Wyandotte, and it was three or four years before the citizens of Wyandotte and Armourdale acquiesced and accepted the name of Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. Lane was the last postmaster of Wyandotte, serving under the first administration of President Grover Cleveland, in 1884-8.

It was under the administration of Mr. Lane that the first letter carrier service was inaugurated in the summer of 1887. Of the four first carriers then in the service, O. B. Johnson is now in this branch of government employ.

Mr. Lane was suceeded[sic] by O. K. Serviss, who served under the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. Under the second administration of President Cleveland, Frank Mapes was appointed postmaster and at his death was succeeded by Dr. Thaddeus Fitzhugh. Under the administration of President William McKinley, Nathaniel Barnes came into office, and he was succeeded by Ulyssus S. Sartin, under President Theodore Roosevelt, and the present postmaster, Wesley R. Childs was appointed under the last administration of President, Roosevelt, was re-appointed by President William H. Taft, and has served to date.


POST OFFICE BUILDING.

THE NEW POST OFFICE BUILDING.

It was under the administration of President McKinley that the appropriation of $250,000 was made and the present post office building at Seventh street and Minnesota avenue was erected, in 1900. In 1909, the post office building having become too small for the increasing postal business of the city, another appropriation of $150,000 was obtained and in the fall of 1910 the contract was let for an addition on the south and for raising the height to three stories. While this was being done a three story building on the north side of Minnesota avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets was used for the post office and the United States court.

The postal facilities have been enlarged from time to time until now the mail is delivered for all of the cities on the Kansas side of the state line at this point through the Kansas City, Kansas, post office. There are now six branch post offices and nineteen stamp and money order substations under the jurisdiction of the Kansas City, Kansas, postmaster. They are as follows:

Branch Offices: Argentine, No. 14 S. Spear avenue; Armour, No. 27 Central avenue; Armourdale, No. 604 Kansas avenue; Quindaro, 13th and Quindaro boulevard; Rosedale, No. 1002 Kansas City avenue; and Stock Yards, Basement Stock Yards Exchange.

Sub-stations: No. 1, Thirteenth street and L. Road; No. 2, 823 Osage; No. 3, 704 Central avenue; No. 4, Fifth and Virginia; No. 5, Second and Metropolitan avenue; No. 6, Twelfth and Central avenue; No. 7, Tenth and Ohio; No. 8, 1741 Quindaro, boulevard; No. 9, Eighteenth and Central avenue; No. 10, Twelfth and Osage; No. 11, 1324 Kansas City avenue, Rosedale; No. 12, 1803 Parallel avenue; No. 13, 658 Quindaro boulevard; No. 14, 1968 North Third; No. 15, 1900 West Thirty-ninth street, Rosedale; No. 16, 520 Southwest boulevard, Rosedale; No. 17, Tenth and Minnesota avenue; No. 18, 339 North Tenth; and No. 19, Thirteenth and Wood.

At the beginning of the year 1911 there were twenty-four clerks in the main office and twenty-two clerks in the outside stations. Fiftyfour regular carriers and seven substitute carriers are needed to handle the mail for the city under the free delivery system. Practically all of Wyandotte county outside of the city is served by rural delivery carriers. The receipts of the post office for the last year from the sale of stamps and money orders was $245,000.


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