The Historic Parks & Boulevard System of Kansas City, Missouri

Dona R. Boley May 1, 2010
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO HISTORIC BOULEVARD

George Ehrich, former Professor of Art History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, wrote in Kansas City, Missouri an Architectural History 1826-1976

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

“In many ways the most notable design achievement of the 1890s was the park and boulevard system which had been designed by George E. Kessler and constructed under his supervision. . .

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

“His plan for the city was a bold and effective demonstration of the concept of the “City Beautiful.”

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

“The conversion of blighted bluffs and ravines into parks, which were linked by a boulevard system of considerable extent, presented a model to be emulated by others.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

“The plan was intended to affect the placement and design of buildings, and it indeed worked that way.”

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

To fully appreciate the significance of the parks and boulevard system, one really needs to understand a little history of the city prior to the system. In spring of 1834 John Calvin McCoy found a flat stone outcropping at the base of the future Grand avenue and widened the horse path through the forest to West Port. The four-mile ride from the landing to West Port took about two hours. Major John Campbell platted West Port in 1835. Town of Kansas formed in 1838. In 1850 the settlement was recognized as a town and in 1853 it received its formal charter and its new name, City of Kansas. The name Kansas City would not become official until 1880.
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Kansas City Census
% change 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 2007 est 4,400 32,300 55,800 133,000 164,000 248,000 324,000 459,000 634% 73% 138% 23% 51% 31% 41%

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

City Limits
Missouri River on the north Stateline on the west South & East Boundaries (approx)

1859 1885 1897 1909
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

20th & Troost 31st & Cleveland 49th & Eastern 77th & Eastern

Early Events
• 1872 offer of 40 acres for park turned down • Newspaper agitation urged buying of parkland • 1880 William Rockwell Nelson arrives • 1881 George E. Kessler hired to design excursion park in Merriam, KS • 1882 August R. Meyer arrives
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

August R. Meyer
Millionaire industrialist Educated in Europe Avid outdoorsman & nature enthusiast Became a social & civic leader To him city beautification was imperative:

“A community must attract with more than just tax concessions and columns of figures.”
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Parks Board
• 1889 charter sets up board of park commissioners • 1892 amendment defines board financial power • 1892 first park board appointed • Meyer becomes first president • Kessler hired as secretary at $200 per month & as Engineer to the Board without pay
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

George E. Kessler
Educated in Europe
Received private instruction in forestry, botany, and landscape design Worked at major German plant nursery Studied technical engineering Studied at premier horticultural library in Germany Completed civil engineering course “Of all of it,” he later said, “the travel was of most value.”
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Toured Europe & England for one year study of civic design in major cities

Park Board Challenges
• Only appropriated $5,000 • Several residential areas already deteriorating—need to improve eyesores • Need number of small parks to benefit the most • Economy still recovering from real estate collapse & unemployment is high
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Park Board Challenges
• Southern city limits getting close to Westport & the new president lives in Westport & not Kansas City • Big Blue Valley is becoming industrialized • Current residential development is spotty & haphazard • City’s bonding capacity is tapped out

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Mayor W. S. Cowherd charged the Board of Parks & Boulevard Commissioners with investigating and researching pleasure-grounds and boulevards for the city. Result was 1893 Report of the Board of Parks & Boulevard Commissioners. Prepared by George E. Kessler, Kansas City Park Board Secretary, and August R. Meyer, President, Kansas City Park Board Commissioners.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Report
Detailed and comprehensive look at Kansas City’s topography and traffic patterns, population density and growth, its industrial and residential sections, and its prospects for future development. It was, in a word, planning. It contained three primary sections: a letter of transmittal to the mayor; a detailed report from the board, and a technical report [engineer’s report].
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Report of the Commissioners
• Growth of the Sentiment in Favor of Parks in Kansas City • Aim & Justification of Park Improvement • Preliminary Work of the Park Commission • The Value of Beauty • The City's Duty • Effect of Parkways or Boulevards Upon Real Estate Values • Experience of Other Cities
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Bold Plan Went Outside the City Limits
Included: Boulevards & Parkways The Parade (for large
demonstrations & public gatherings)

Local parks Pleasure-grounds (Penn
Valley Park, West Terrace & North Terrace)
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

North Terrace Before

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

North Terrace During

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Cliff Drive (North Terrace) After

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

West Terrace Before

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

West Terrace After

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Map of Parks & Boulevard System
Shows system prior to the 1909 extension of the city limits System greatly expanded Parks connected by Boulevards & Parkways Swope Park donation outside the city limits
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Penn Valley Park

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Hyde Park

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Armour Boulevard

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Harrison Parkway

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1920 System
• 1,992.25 acres of parks • 676 acres of parkways • 89.40 miles of improved boulevards & park drives

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1920 Planned
• 37.20 mile of boulevards & park drives • 24.40 miles of roadways in parkways • 762.34 acres in parkways • 40.72 acres in parks
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1920 Total System
• 151.00 miles of boulevard & park drives improved and planned • 3,471.31 acres of parks & parkways acquired and planned

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Total Cost as of April 19, 1920
Acquisition of Lands Construction Maintenance Total
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

$ 8,333,968.19 5,365,244.20 3,220,660.64 $16,919,873.03

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Map Showing Park System & Extensions to 1915
Proposed Blue Valley Parkway was never implemented. A moveable dam would have created a 140 acre lake and filled the Blue River from 10 to 20 feet through Swope Park, making a boating course 15 miles in length. This naturally pretty stream would have become “one of the most useful and beautiful waterways in the country.”
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Designed Historic Landscapes
Designed historic landscapes are one type of landscape within the broader category of historic landscapes.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Ladies-on-Karnes-Roanoke

https://mail.google.com/mail/? Lkg-NE-near-37th-Wyoming 1906 ui=2&ik=f00ad9a8ba&view=att&t h=12850a11bd559495&attid=0.1& disp=inline&zw

https://mail.google.com/mail/? Roanoke-Rd-lkg-W-36-Belleview ui=2&ik=f00ad9a8ba&view=att&t h=12850a11bd559495&attid=0.2& disp=inline&zw

https://mail.google.com/mail/? ui=2&ik=f00ad9a8ba&view=att&t h=12850a11bd559495&attid=0.3& disp=inline&zw

P-R3-015-Inter-Tiernam-dr-main-roadwa

P-R3-012-Summit-St-entrance

https://mail.google.com/mail/? ui=2&ik=f00ad9a8ba&view=att&t h=12850a7313f06cc6&attid=0.3&d isp=inline&zw

P-R3-011-East-of-Belleview-1907

P-R3-010-Holly-St-1907

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Roanoke Park Bluffs

The main part of Roanoke Park is in a natural valley, surrounded by outcroppings on three sides. Other 'extensions' of the park contain huge trees growing along steep hills. The Colman Highlands Neighborhood is to the North, Volker is to the West and Roanoke and Valentine are to the east of the park.
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

National Historic Register Significance Criteria

• Design or work of art • Work by a master using a recognized style or • •
tradition Has historical association with person, trend, event, etc. in landscape architecture Relationship to the theory or practice of landscape architecture

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Many historic landscape are eligible for the National Register primarily on the merits of their historic landscape design, a substantial number also possess significance in other areas. New York’s Central Park, for example, has significance in social history and transportation, although its primary significance is landscape architecture.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Parks & Boulevard System Historic Resources Survey
• 1988 • Prepared by Deon K. Wolfenbarger • Prairie Gateway Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects • Missouri Department of Natural Resources with funds from Department of Interior, National Park Service
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Parks & Boulevard System Historic Resources Survey
• • • • • • • • Benton & Independence Boulevards Budd Park North Terrace Park (Kessler Park) Penn Valley Park The Grove The Parade The Paseo (partial) West Terrace Park

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1988 Historic Resources Survey
• Document research • Field survey with documentation in detail to permit evaluation & registration in the National Register of Historic Places • American Society of Landscape Architect’s National Survey Form • Evaluation of integrity & significance with National Register Bulletins 16 & 18
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Parks & Boulevards Significance

• • •

For the role they played in the legal establishment of the entire parks system. As the first efforts of community planning in Kansas City. As representative of George E. Kessler’s work.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Parks & Boulevards Significance
The system was the result of a detailed and comprehensive look at Kansas City’s topography, traffic patterns, population and growth, commercial, industrial, and residential sections. The plan included redevelopment of three blighted areas in Kansas City—the west bluffs, the Penn Street ravine, and the narrow block which was to become The Paseo.
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

1893 Parks & Boulevards Significance
As significant as these early parks and boulevards are, it is important to note that they never existed together as a system except in the 1893 report. By the time the legal battles were completed for some of the parks, new parks had been added to the system, and the boulevards extended. The final evaluation of the 1893 parks and boulevards could not be made until they were placed in the proper context. For their relation to the design of the entire park system as it exits today.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Landscape Architectural/Historic Survey of Parks & Boulevards, 1893-1940
• 1990 • Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioners, KCMO • Missouri Department of Natural Resources with funds from Department of Interior, National Park Service • Tourbier & Walmsle, Inc., Architectural & Art Historical Research & Theis Doolittle Associates
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Landscape Architectural/Historic Survey of Parks & Boulevards, 1893-1940
• Surveyed 29 Parks & 31 Boulevards • 1940 System covered sixty square miles • System, except for central business district, was evenly distributed over the developed city • Included 72 features such as bridges, buildings, fountains, etc.
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

George E. Kessler & The 1893-1940 Parks & Boulevard System
• Kessler’s relationship with KCMO Parks & Boulevard Board lasted from 1893 to 1923, his death. • All but 4 parks & boulevards in the survey were designed between 1893-1922, within Kessler’s lifetime. • The Kansas City, MO, parks & boulevard system is the most complete fulfillment of Kessler’s ideas for a citywide network of connected parks. • No other city has such a complete system of parks & boulevards.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Historic Significance
System is remarkable for both its comprehensiveness & degree to which it was completed, in accordance with Kessler’s overall design during his lifetime. And continued by others who had worked with him and understood his intentions.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Survey Results
The system itself warrants special recognition and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a Designed Historic Landscape significance for its landscape architecture and as the work of a master.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Individual Park & Boulevard Evaluations
**** *** ** * o Exceptional significance High or major significance Some significance Minor significance No significance

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Survey Star Rating Results
**** 6 parks, 9 boulevards & 1 part of a boulevard *** 5 parks, 10 boulevards & 4 parts of boulevards ** 7 parks, 4 boulevards * 5 parks, 1 boulevard & 1 part of a boulevard o 6 parks, 2 boulevards & 4 parts of boulevards
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Survey Star Rating Results
Landscapes in the top two categories should be treated with the greatest priority, and may even be so designated for extra special attention. Opportunities through planning and management should emphasize preservation and restoration. Necessary changes and additions should be most sympathetically considered.

Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Purpose of the System

• Increase property values by giving permanent
residence character to sections of the city

• Support healthful minds and bodies with rural
surroundings & beautiful natural scenery

• Draw businesses & population by providing
beautiful city
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Purpose of the System

• Hold unbroken highlands for residential and the
principal valley lands for transportation & industrial uses

• Provide pleasure drives for light driving
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Epilogue- Roanoke Park Assessment in 1990
•The 1990 Landscape Architectural/Historic Survey of the parks and boulevard system determined that Roanoke Park, Karnes Boulevard, and Valentine Boulevard are 4 stars, the highest rating. They are exceptionally significant. •Landscapes in this category should be treated with the greatest priority, and may even be so designated for extra special attention. Opportunities through planning and management should emphasize preservation and restoration. Necessary changes and additions should be most sympathetically considered.
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

KCMO Parks & Boulevard History

The Historic Parks & Boulevard System of Kansas City, Missouri

Dona R. Boley May 1, 2010
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Karnes nearby 36th
April 2010
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO

Karnes by Belleview
April 2010
Historic Parks & Boulevard System of KCMO