Kansas City, Missouri was incorporated as a town on June 1, 1850, and as a city on March 28, 1853. The territory straddling the border between Missouri and Kansas at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers was considered a good place to build settlements.
The Antioch Christian Church, Dr. James Compton House, and Woodneath are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Exploration and settlement
The first documented European visitor 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 response to the Native American attack on Fort Détroit, he had deserted his post as fort commander and was avoiding French authorities. Bourgmont lived with a Native American wife in a village about 90 miles (140 km) east near Brunswick, Missouri, where he illegally traded furs.
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, making him the first to adopt those names. French cartographer Guillaume Delisle used the descriptions to make the area's first reasonably accurate map.
The Spanish took over the region in the Treaty of Paris in 1763, but were not to play a major role other than taxing and licensing Missouri River ship traffic. The French continued their fur trade under Spanish license. The Chouteau family operated under Spanish license at St. Louis in the lower Missouri Valley as early as 1765 and in 1821 the Chouteaus reached Kansas City, where François Chouteau established Chouteau's Landing.
After the 1804 Louisiana Purchase, 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 what would become the city. They built the first school within Kansas City's current boundaries, but were forced out by mob violence in 1833 and their settlement remained vacant.
In 1833 John McCoy, son of missionary Isaac McCoy, established West Port along the Santa Fe Trail, 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away from the river. In 1834 McCoy established Westport Landing on a bend in the Missouri 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.
By that time, the Town of Kansas, Westport and nearby Independence, had become critical points in the United States' westward expansion. Three major trails – the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon – all passed through 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.
American Civil War
The Kansas City area was rife with animosity just prior to the U.S. Civil War. Kansas successfully petitioned the U.S. to enter the Union as a free state that did not allow slavery under the new doctrine of popular sovereignty. Missouri had many slaves, and slavery sympathizers crossed into Kansas to sway the state towards allowing slavery, at first by ballot box and then by bloodshed.
A cannon and plaques mark the location of the Battle of Westport within modern day Loose Park.
During the Civil War, the city and its immediate surroundings were the focus of intense military activity. Although the First Battle of Independence in August 1862 resulted in a Confederate States Army victory, the Confederates were unable to leverage their win in any significant fashion, as Kansas City was occupied by Union troops and proved too heavily fortified to assault. The Second Battle of Independence, which occurred on October 21–22, 1864 as part of Sterling Price's Missouri expedition of 1864, also resulted in a Confederate triumph. Once again their victory proved hollow, as Price was decisively defeated in the pivotal Battle of Westport the next day, effectively ending Confederate efforts to regain Missouri.
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, largely losing its Southern identity. 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 be extended 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 a population of 163,752 residents.
Junction of Main and Delaware Streets in 1898
Kansas City, guided by architect George Kessler, became a forefront example of the City Beautiful movement, offering a network of boulevards and parks.
The relocation of Union Station to its current location in 1914 and the opening of the Liberty Memorial in 1923 provided two of the city's 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. He built the R.A. Long Building for the Long-Bell Lumber Company, his home, Corinthian Hall (now the Kansas City Museum) and Longview Farm.
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 gained clout in the city, with the one led by Tom Pendergast dominating the city by 1925. Several important buildings and structures were built during this time, including the Kansas City City Hall and the Jackson County Courthouse. The machine fell in 1939 when Pendergast, riddled with health problems, pleaded guilty to tax evasion after long federal investigations. His biographers have summed up Pendergast's uniqueness:
Pendergast may bear comparison to various big-city bosses, but his open alliance with hardened criminals, his cynical subversion of the democratic process, his monarchistic style of living, his increasingly insatiable gambling habit, his grasping for a business empire, and his promotion of Kansas City as a wide-open town with every kind of vice imaginable, combined with his professed compassion for the poor and very real role as city builder, made him bigger than life, difficult to characterize.
Post–World War II
Kansas City's suburban development began with a streetcar system 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 in 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 and 1970s.
In 1950, African Americans represented 12.2% of Kansas City's population. The sprawling characteristics of the city and its environs today mainly took shape after 1960s race riots. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was a catalyst for the 1968 Kansas City riot. At this time, slums were forming in the inner city, and many who could afford to do so, 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. The city's population continued to grow, but the inner city declined. The city's most populous ethnic group, non-Hispanic whites, declined from 89.5% in 1930 to 54.9% in 2010.
In 1940, the city had about 400,000 residents; by 2000, the same area was home to only about 180,000.2), more than five times its size in 1940.
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 covered approximately 316 square miles (820 km
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 US history.
Downtown Kansas City re-development
In the 21st century, the Kansas City area has undergone extensive redevelopment, with over $6 billion in improvements to the downtown area on the Missouri side. One of the main goals is to attract convention and tourist dollars, office workers, and residents to downtown KCMO. Among the projects include the redevelopment of the Power & Light District, located in the area to the east of the Power & Light Building (the former headquarters of the Kansas City Power & Light Company, which is now based in the district's northern end), into a retail and entertainment district; and the Sprint Center, an 18,500-seat arena that opened in the district in 2007, which was funded by a 2004 ballot initiative involving a tax on car rentals and hotels, and was designed to meet the stadium specifications for a possible future NBA or NHL franchise. Kemper Arena, which was replaced by Sprint Center, fell into disrepair and was sold to private developers. By 2018, the arena was being converted to a sports complex under the name Hy-Vee Arena. The Kauffman Performing Arts Center opened in 2011 providing a new, modern home to the KC Orchestra and Ballet. In 2015, an 800-room Hyatt Convention Center Hotel was announced for a site next to the Performance Arts Center & Bartle Hall. Construction is expected to start in early 2018 with Loews as the operator.
From 2007 to 2017, downtown residential population in Kansas City quadrupled and continues to grow. The area has grown from almost 4,000 residents in the early 2000s to nearly 30,000 as of 2017. Kansas City's downtown ranks as the 6th-fastest growing downtown in America with the population expected to grow by over 40% by 2022. Conversions of office buildings such as the Power and Light Building, Commerce Bank Tower, and others into residential and hotel space has helped to fulfill the demand. New apartment complexes like One, Two, and Three Lights, River Market West, 503 Main, and others have begun to reshape Kansas City's skyline. Strong demand has led to occupancy rates in the high 90%'s.
While the residential population of downtown has boomed, the office population has dropped significantly from the early 2000s to the mid 2010s. AMC and other top employers moved their operations to modern office buildings in the suburbs. High office vacancy plagued downtown, leading to the neglect of many office buildings. By the mid 2010s, many office buildings were converted to residential uses and the Class A vacancy rate plunged to 12% in 2017. Swiss Re, Virgin Mobile, AutoAlert, and others have begun to move operations to downtown Kansas City from the suburbs as well as expensive coastal cities.
The area has seen additional development through various transportation projects, including improvements to the Grandview Triangle, which intersects Interstates 435 and 470, and U.S. Route 71, a thoroughfare long notorious for fatal accidents.
In July 2005, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) launched Kansas City's first bus rapid transit line, the Metro Area Express (MAX), which links the River Market, Downtown, Union Station, Crown Center and the Country Club Plaza. The KCATA continues to expand MAX with additional routes on Prospect Avenue, Troost Avenue, and Independence Avenue.
In 2013, construction began on a two-mile streetcar line in downtown Kansas City (funded by a $102 million ballot initiative that was passed in 2012) that runs between the River Market and Union Station, it began operation in May 2016. In 2017, voters approved the formation of a TDD to expand the streetcar line south 3.5 miles from Union Station to UMKC's Volker Campus. Additionally in 2017, the KC Port Authority began engineering studies for a Port Authority funded streetcar expansion north to Berkley Riverfront Park. Citywide, voter support for rail projects continues to grow with numerous light rail projects in the works.
In 2016, Jackson County, Missouri acquired unused rail lines as part of a long term commuter rail plan. For the time being, the line is being converted to a trail while county officials negotiate with railroads for access to tracks in Downtown Kansas City.
On November 7, 2017, Kansas City, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport by a 75% to 25% margin. The new single terminal will replace the three existing "Clover Leafs" at KCI Airport and is expected to open in October 2022.