Did you know that there are two Kansas Cities?
Duh. We know, we know — too obvious. Just like you, we’re here for the deep cuts — and there’s plenty of interesting factoids to go around. As connoisseurs of the quirky and unconventional, we put together a list of KC’S history, oddest characteristics, and more. Maybe you know some of this, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
Either way, test your local knowledge with these 15 interesting facts.
1. Kansas City was named before the state of Kansas. KCMO was chartered as the Town of Kansas in 1850, four years before the territory of Kansas was organized. “Kansas” derives its name from the Kaw nation (Kanza people) living in the area.
3. A popular fact among locals: KC is said to have more fountains than any other city besides Rome — leading to its nickname, City of Fountains.
4. KC crime boss Tom Pendergast was more influential through construction than through Prohibition. It was his concrete company that was used (think: selected by indebted politicians) to build City Hall, the Jackson County Courthouse, Municipal Auditorium, and Brush Creek’s infrastructure.
5. The metro has 240+ neighborhoods — think: mini cities with their own eclectic flair and flavor. Some of them, like Martin City + Westport, actually used to be their own municipalities before they were annexed and became “neighborhoods.”
6. Kansas City is the birthplace of many important inventions, like Mickey Mouse, Bomb Pops, the multiplex movie theater, and of course, the candy coating on M&Ms. KCMO-based Hallmark is also credited with inventing decorative wrapping paper (so thank them next time you get to tear into a present).
7. Before highways took over, there used to be a lot more passenger rails + streetcars than the one running from the River Market to Union Station. One of them is now the Trolley Track Trail (makes sense), and another line went out all the way from downtown to Overland Park.
8. One Kansas City Place — that really big building downtown — is the tallest office building in Missouri + Kansas. At 623 ft tall, it’s just barely shorter than the 630-ft Gateway Arch in St. Louis (which is the tallest National Monument in the country).
9. The Paris of the Plains has produced a lot of popular people — celebrities like Ed Asner, Ellie Kemper, Don Cheadle, and Katherine McNamara were all born here. Other stars, like Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd, grew up here as kids. Here’s a full list of celebrities with ties to the metro.
10. The Plaza is considered by many to be the nation’s first outdoor shopping center. Planners foresaw the need to accommodate cars (this was in the early 1920s), chose a swath of unattractive land south of the city (around Brush Creek), and modeled its architecture on Seville, Spain.
11. KC’s beloved Union Station was nearly torn down in the 1990s. Trains became less popular, and the station’s last tenant left in 1989. A bi-state sales tax raised enough money to restore the landmark — now a popular site used for major events.
12. Although Union Station is now a staple of downtown, it wasn’t KC’s first major train station. The Union Depot came first — a major rail station in the West Bottoms. The depot oversaw 90% of Kansas City’s booming economy before the flood of 1903 prompted leaders to look for higher ground.
14. KCMO used to be second only to NYC in manufacturing clothing. From 1940-1950, one in seven women in the USA wore an outfit produced in KC. Today, the Garment District still stands — with a museum and a giant needle statue.
15. KC consistently ranks high among national comparisons, thanks in part to a robust workforce, excellent schools, strong suburbs, and a low cost of living. The Kansas City Area Development Council has a list of recent rankings + awards. One of our favorites? Apparently, we’re the best place in the world for a workcation.
Bonus round: We asked, and a few of you wrote in with trivia of your own. Here are a couple of our favorites:
- “Did you know the surround of the Eagle Scout Fountain at 39th and Gilliam originally adorned Penn Station in NYC?” — Reader Andrew S.
- The Kansas City Barbecue Society has 8,000+ members, making it the largest barbecue/grilling organization in the world (another reason KC’s the barbecue capital). — via Reader Kenneth G.
Your turn. Think you can get one over on us? Let us know your favorite local trivia tidbit and you just might make it into the newsletter.