Kansas City — History

[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Kansas City, often referred to by its initials, K.C., is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the predominant city of a metropolitan area of more than two million people spanning the Missouri–Kansas border. It encompasses 316 square miles (820 km2) in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties. It is one of two county seats of Jackson County, the other being Independence, which is to the city’s east.

Kansas City was founded in 1838 as the Town of Kansas[5] at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers and was incorporated in its present form in 1853. Situated opposite Kansas City, Kansas, the city was the location of several battles during the Civil War, including the Battle of Westport. The city is well known for its contributions to the musical styles of jazz and blues as well as to cuisine, notably Kansas City-style barbecue. In March 2012, downtown Kansas City was selected as one of America’s best downtowns by Forbes magazine for its rich culture in arts, numerous fountains, upscale shopping and various local cuisine – most notably barbecue.[6]

Kansas City, Missouri, is often abbreviated as KC (abbreviations often refer to the metro area). It is officially nicknamed the City of Fountains. With over 200 fountains, the city claims to have the second most in the world, just behind Rome.[7] The fountains at Kauffman Stadium, commissioned by original Kansas City Royals owner Ewing Kauffman, are the largest privately funded fountains in the world.[8] The city also has more boulevards than any other city except Paris and has been called «Paris of the Plains.» The overwhelming popularity of soccer, both professionally and as a youth sport, in the city as well as Sporting Park being a popular home stadium for the US Men’s National Team has led to the city being known to many as «The Soccer Capital of America». Residents are known as Kansas Citians. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as the Heart of America as it is near both the population center of the United States and the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states.

Westport/Kansas City founder John Calvin McCoy and Mountainman Jim Bridger who owned Chouteau’s Store.
The first documented European visit to Kansas City was Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, who was also the first European to explore the lower Missouri River. Criticized for his handling of a Native American attack on Fort Détroit, he had deserted his post as commander of the fort and was avoiding the French authorities. Bourgmont lived with a Native American wife in the Missouri village about 90 miles (140 km) east near Brunswick, Missouri, and illegally traded furs.

In order to clear his name, he wrote «Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony» in 1713 followed in 1714 by «The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River.» In the documents he describes the junction of the «Grande Riv[ière] des Cansez» and Missouri River, being the first to refer to them by those names. French cartographer Guillaume Delisle used the descriptions to make the first reasonably accurate map of the area.

The Spanish took over the region in the Treaty of Paris (1763), but were not to play a major role in the area other than taxing and licensing all traffic on the Missouri River. The French continued their fur trade on the river under Spanish license. The Chouteau family operated under the Spanish license at St. Louis in the lower Missouri Valley as early as 1765, but it would be 1821 before the Chouteaus reached Kansas City, when François Chouteau established Chouteau’s Landing.

After the Louisiana Purchase, in 1804, Lewis and Clark visited the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, noting it was a good place to build a fort.

In 1831 a group of Mormons from New York settled in an area that would later be part of Kansas City. They built the first school within the current boundaries of the city, but were forced out by mob violence in 1833 and their settlement was left vacant.[9]

In 1833 John McCoy established West Port along the Santa Fe Trail, three miles (5 km) away from the river. Then in 1834, McCoy established Westport Landing on a bend in the Missouri River to serve as a landing point for West Port. Soon after the Kansas Town Company, a group of investors, began to settle the area, taking their name from an English spelling of «Cansez.» In 1850 the landing area was incorporated as the Town of Kansas.[10]

By that time, the Town of Kansas, Westport, and nearby Independence, had become critical points in America’s westward expansion. Three major trails – the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon – all originated in Jackson County.

On February 22, 1853, the City of Kansas was created with a newly elected mayor. It had an area of 0.70 square miles (1.8 km2) and a population of 2,500. The boundary lines at that time extended from the middle of the Missouri River south to what is now Ninth Street, and from Bluff Street on the west to a point between Holmes Road and Charlotte Street on the east.[11]

The Kansas City area was rife with animosity during the period just prior to the Civil War. Already situated just inside a state bitterly divided on the issue of slavery, southern sympathizers in the area immediately recognized the threat posed by the neighboring state of Kansas that was petitioning to enter the Union under the new doctrine of popular sovereignty. Infuriated by the idea of Kansas becoming a free state, many from the area crossed into Kansas to sway the state towards allowing slavery, at first by ballot box and then by bloodshed.

During the Civil War, the Kansas City, Missouri and its immediate environs were the focus of intense military activity. Although the First Battle of Independence in August 1862 resulted in a Confederate victory, the Southerners were unable to follow up their win in any significant fashion, as Kansas City was occupied by Union troops and proved too heavily fortified for them to assault. The Second Battle of Independence, part of Sterling Price’s Missouri expedition of 1864, also resulted in a Confederate triumph. Once again the Southern victory proved hollow, as Price was decisively defeated in the pivotal Battle of Westport the next day, effectively ending Confederate efforts to occupy the city.

Moreover, General Thomas Ewing, in response to a successful raid on nearby Lawrence, Kansas, led by William Quantrill, issued General Order No. 11, forcing the eviction of residents in four western Missouri counties—including Jackson—except those living in the city and nearby communities and those whose allegiance to the Union was certified by Ewing.

After the Civil War, Kansas City grew rapidly. The selection of the city over Leavenworth, Kansas, for the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad bridge over the Missouri River brought about significant growth. The population exploded after 1869, when the Hannibal Bridge, designed by Octave Chanute, opened. The boom prompted a name change to Kansas City in 1889 and the city limits to extend south and east. Westport became part of Kansas City on December 2, 1897. In 1900, Kansas City was the 22nd largest city in the country, with 163,752 residents.[12]

The relocation of Union Station to its current location in 1914 and the opening of the Liberty Memorial in 1923 gave the city two of its most identifiable landmarks. Robert A. Long, president of the Liberty Memorial Association, was a driving force in the funding for construction. Long was a longtime resident and wealthy businessman having built the R.A. Long Building for the Long-Bell Lumber Company, his home, Corinthian Hall now the Kansas City Museum, and Longview Farm, he was known and respected.

Further spurring Kansas City’s growth was the opening of the innovative Country Club Plaza development by J.C. Nichols in 1925 as part of his Country Club District plan.

At the start of the 20th century, political machines attempted to gain clout in the city, with the one led by Tom Pendergast emerging as the dominant machine by 1925. Several important buildings and structures were built during this time, including the Kansas City City Hall and the Jackson County Courthouse—both added new skyscrapers to the city’s growing skyline. The machine fell in 1939 when Pendergast, riddled with health problems, pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Kansas City’s suburban development originally began with the implementation of streetcars in the early decades of the 20th century. The city’s first suburbs were in the neighborhoods of Pendleton Heights and Quality Hill. After World War II, many relatively affluent residents left for suburbs like Johnson County, Kansas and eastern Jackson County, Missouri. Many also went north of the Missouri River, where Kansas City had incorporated areas between the 1940s to 1970s.

In 1950, blacks represented 12.2% of Kansas City’s population.[12] The sprawling characteristics of the city and it environs today mainly took shape after the race riots of the 1960s in Kansas City. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was a catalyst for the 1968 Kansas City riot. At this time, slums were also beginning to form in the inner city, and those who could afford to leave, left for the suburbs and outer edges of the city. The post–World War II idea of suburbs and the «American Dream» also contributed to the sprawl of the area. As the city’s population continued to grow, the inner city also continued to decline. The city’s most populous ethnic group, non-Hispanic white,[14] has declined from 89.5% in 1930 to 54.9% in 2010.[12]

In 1940, the city had about 400,000 residents; by 2000, the same area was home to only about 180,000. From 1940 to 1960, the city more than doubled its physical size, while increasing its population by only about 75,000. By 1970, the city had a total area of approximately 316 square miles (820 km2), more than five times its size in 1940.

The Hyatt Regency walkway collapse was a major disaster that occurred on July 17, 1981, killing 114 people and injuring more than 200 others during a tea dance. At the time it was the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history.

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