Three Kansas City postcards staggered diagonally from top left to bottom right: Riverboat on the Missouri River, Interurban Street Car, and Penn Valley Park near the Santa Fe Trail marker

Rivers, Rails & Trails: Kansas City Before UMKC

In conjunction with the installation of “The Robot”, an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), at Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City, we offer a glimpse of Kansas City before UMKC.

East facade of Robot addition featuring an artistic rendering of an industrial and railroad map of greater Kansas City, dated 1926 - click for full photo
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As seen above, The Robot's east and west facades feature a 1926 Chamber of Commerce map of Kansas City perforated into sheet metal and illuminated from behind, serving as beacon for the UMKC campus and the greater Kansas City community.

Industrial and railroad map of greater Kansas City, dated 1926 - click for full map and detailed view

The original map, from which the architectural rendering was derived, is housed in the library's LaBudde Special Collections. It was chosen because its stark lines so clearly depict the early developments of Kansas City, as residents learned to navigate the rivers, travel to nearby cities via interurban rail or take long voyages by train that began and ended at Union Station.

The Santa Fe, Oregon, California and Mormon trails – famous overland migration routes – all left their mark on the greater Kansas City area. Modern trails, in the form of pedestrian pathways through parks and sweeping boulevards teeming with automobiles and trolley cars, reflect the vision of the City Beautiful movement of the late 1800s, largely promoted by William Rockhill Nelson, founder of the Kansas City Star, and implemented in Kansas City by landscape architect George Kessler and civil engineer August Meyer.

Interactive Map
section title: Introduction