True to our expectations our rain gear was needed on the morning of May 29th. The air was also thick with adrenaline driven excitement and anxiety. Our bikes and gear were loaded for the 26 mile drive to the Makah Indian Reservation and Cape Flattery.
We had with us a large banner that would be prominently displayed at the events we attended over the summer across the county.
The sixteen of us assembled for a group picture before we walked the half mile trail that would lead us to the platform overlooking the Cape.
The view, enhanced by the sound of waves crashing upon the rocks, was exhilarating. More pictures and it was time to return to the vans, unload the bikes, and ride.
The ride across northwest Washington featured narrow roads and no shoulders. Huge logging trucks often blasted past us at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour.
The margin between us and a disastrous encounter with one of those trucks measured in inches. We got used to it. Our Guardian Angeles developed ulcers.
26 miles qualified as a very short day, but no one was complaining. We regrouped at the trailer park in Clallam Bay where a shed had been made available to us for overnight storage of the bikes.
Whether the ride of the day was a short couple of hours or a butt numbing 100 miles, the afternoon always included Mass. We would gather in whatever space was convenient and Father Matt would unpack his mobile alter “kit”.
He would spend some quiet time pondering the events of the day and craft a 5 minute homily that was relevant to our mission and our experiences. These were among the most treasured of moments.
Day one was in the books with everyone safe. It was a good start.
Next: Part 7, Back to Seattle.
Peace Everyone. Pete
-The message of our mission was always on our minds. In my own effort to quantify poverty in America I drew an analogy from the bicycling that lay ahead of us:
May, 2010. “The Circle of Lives”
A bicycle wheel is 700 millimeters in diameter. That works out to 27.56 inches. The circumference of that wheel is 86.58 inches, or in other words, approximately 7.25 feet. There are 5,280 feet in a mile, so a bicycle wheel rotates 728 times each mile. Our across the United States journey to raise funds and awareness for the cause of ending poverty is 5,000 miles. Therefore, the wheels on each bicycle will rotate 3,640,000 times over the course of this mission. As there are 12 of us riders intending to complete the entire crossing… our combined effort is approximately 43,680,000 revolutions. That is approximately how many people in the United States now live below the “poverty line”. If the thought of the number of times these bicycle wheels will spin as we cross the North American Continent is mind-boggling, then imagine that every one of those revolutions is a hungry child, a homeless father, a destitute mother… a life on the margins of despair.
May 27, 2010. Read on a wall at the bus depot in Seattle: “A man in the station, old or young, or maybe a woman, sitting on cold ground, scared, with hungry eyes, and worn shoes. Don’t worry, you are still loved. We wait together. You asked for change, I offered you my heart and my soul. You just wanted change.”
We only had the day of the 27th to take in a few of the sights of Seattle.
On the 28th we drove 135 miles northwest to Clallam Bay Washington, located about 26 miles from the C4C starting point of Cape Flattery, the farthest northwest point in the 48 contiguous States.
It was damp and bone chilling cold. The skies were foreboding. It seemed certain that our foul-weather riding gear would get immediate use on the 29th, the day of our “launch”.
As concerning as that might have been it paled in comparison to what we beheld as our first two night’s “accommodations”. We were to be lodged in a mostly vacant logging camp comprised of 60’s era mobile homes. Christine and I shared our “home” with 4 other C4C members.
Level? Like a carnival fun-house. Water? Cold but running. Bathroom? Well it did flush. Heat? None. Mattress? Lumpy and with the faint odor of blue cheese. Under the bed, I dared not look.
Suzanne and Kathy at Kansas City Catholic Charities were in charge of arranging accommodations. They did their best. Our route would take us to many places less-traveled, and Cape Flattery was one of them. To their credit we never had to camp. Their resourcefulness guaranteed us 3 meals and a bed. The variety of accommodations made every day a bit like opening the “surprise” in a box of Cracker Jacks.
Over the next 100 days we found ourselves lodged in:
A Retreat House…
Motels (some of which appeared more accustomed to charging by the hour than by the day)…
…and even an incredibly palatial hotel in Miami Florida.
We celebrated our arrival at Clallam Bay with the first of many group meals to come. Forget organic… forget vegan… just “comfort food” shared with friends. Tomorrow the real work would begin.
On Sunday May 23 2010 the St. Francis Xavier parish came together to offer blessings to the C4C members.
It was a somber moment as we contemplated leaving our homes and families. We were mindful of the dangers that lay ahead for each of us.
After Mass Catholic Charities of Kansas City hosted a sendoff luncheon. This would be the last pre-departure event.
Most of the members flew to Seattle later that week. We were to assemble there prior to driving to Cape Flattery, our Memorial Day weekend departure point.
5 of us were tasked with driving the vehicles and equipment from Kansas City to Seattle, a journey of over 1,800 miles. Bethany Paul and Jeremy Ruzich drove one of the vans, while Stephen Belt and Carol Beckel drove the other van with trailer in tow. Christine and I drove the SUV which would be our “chase car” during the rides.
Christine and I passed through South Dakota where we made the obligatory stop at Wall Drugs.
We passed through Butte Montana where long deceased members of my family had been employed in the copper mines.
Onward we drove through Idaho and into Washington where the majesty of the northwest was on full display.
We arrived in Seattle on May 27th where we joined other members of the group.
The day before leaving for Seattle I was given to contemplation and I began journaling my thoughts… tapped out over the course of the next 3 months one finger at a time on my early generation palm sized iPod:
May 23, 2010, Unanticipated Sacrifices
Tomorrow my wife and I drive to Seattle, Washington. We are transporting one of the three vehicles that will provide support for me and the other C4C bicyclists. My professional life will be “on hold” until September 13th. We will miss the near daily contact with our children and grandchildren. Our clothing and personal effects for nearly 4 months have been packed into two “carry-on” sized bags. Space is at such a premium that we have focused on carrying the minimum of such things as socks (4 pair), shoes (one pair), long pants (two), shorts (one), and enough “unmentionables” to get us from one wash day to the next. These items are separate from our bicycle specific clothing. Except for 3 nights in July when we pass through Kansas City, we will not enjoy the comfort of our own bed for nearly 110 days.
We have been mentally and emotionally prepared for the anticipated sacrifices. Sacrifices of comfort… sacrifices of family… sacrifices of finances… sacrifices of privacy…. But, as tomorrow has drawn near I have been troubled by an annoying disquiet. I have pondered this to the point of distraction because it has caused me to be more critical, a bit less adaptable, and according to my wife, a bit more annoying (than usual). I have come to the conclusion that my reactions are the product of some unanticipated sacrifice.
For most of us, childhood was punctuated by the litany of “When I grow up, I won’t have to …”, “When I grow up, I can … whenever I want to.” The light at the end of the tunnel of childhood was self-determination and control. As adults we continue to embrace the illusion of achieved mastery of the management of our personal kingdoms. Such “mastery” is an illusion, since most of us have schedules, employers, responsibilities, duties… but these are shrouded in the trappings of our “rights”, and our “command” over our homes, persons, and property. We are comfortable in the illusions of our personal security and control.
Tomorrow, I leave the camouflage of my “grown-up” security. I again must accept being told when to rise, when to sleep… when to eat, and even what to eat. I will be a nearly anonymous servant. In some respects I have accepted a vow of 110 days of poverty and obedience. Since I will travel with my wife I hope to avoid the vow of chastity. The loss of the illusion of control over my life is a sacrifice that I had not anticipated. It will take some getting used to, now that I am a “grown-up”.
In 2010 46 million people in the United States lived in poverty. 15% of the population… one in every six people. Worse: 22% of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty.
Next to the Federal Government, US Catholic Charities is the largest social safety net provider in the Country, delivering services to over 12 million people from its 2,600 locations.
In 2010, its Centennial year, US Catholic Charities announced an initiative to reduce poverty in America 50% by the year 2020. Father Matt saw in this the prospect of making his departure from St. Francis Parish (SFX) and 3 month sabbatical into something grand and good. Matt often focused upon a core message in the Gospel of St. Matthew; Our duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked… minister to the needs of the poor and forgotten. Father Matt saw that bicycling across the United States could draw attention and contributions to the Catholic Charities campaign.
Matt had already established himself as both an adventurer and gifted fundraiser. In 2004 he sought to reduce or eliminate the SFX parish debt. Seeking donations, Matt kayaked from the headwaters of the Missouri River over 2,300 miles to St. Louis. He raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
“Cycling for Change” was Matt’s creation and his message:
“I can not think of a better way to spend my sabbatical than by helping those most vulnerable across the country… Our Cycling for Change Team is a small group of pilgrims helping those in poverty all over the country by supporting the work of Catholic Charities and raising money to expand the services of the Caritas Center in Kansas City.”
The C4C campaign stood exclusively upon two pillars; raise awareness and raise money. There was a third pillar, individual in nature. It was the pursuit of an adventure. I confess that but for “the adventure” I would not have committed to those first two “pillars”.
2009 and 2010 lay before us heavy with an array of events, duties, and tasks.
In addition to phone and in-person solicitations I sent out over 150 letters and countless emails to friends, family, and colleagues in the legal community. Christine engaged in similar personal fundraising efforts. Together we raise over $25,000.00 on behalf of C4C.
There were meetings and committees.
I began assembling the tools and supplies to be our bike mechanic on the road, including building and “trueing” spare wheels for the group.
We began cycling together, joining the SFX parish “Flying Fish” bicycle group in organized metro rides.
Matt spoke at Kansas City’s Irish Fest.
We staffed a booth at the Tour of Missouri event.
We rode together in the 2 day MS-150 event.
We sponsored and headlined our own C4C group ride event in Kansas City.
There were informal C4C gatherings that cemented our group identity.
A grand fundraiser was hosted at the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.
A weekend retreat was held at Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri. … and there were (many) training rides. The most significant being in Colorado; a week in June to give us experience riding roads and highways in the mountains.
Until the June 2009 Colorado ride Christine had been content to let me pursue C4C on my own. No thought had been given to her personal participation. She was not a “cyclist”, however Christine was an organizational wizard and gifted manager of people. She accompanied us to Colorado for the fun of it, but by the end of the week everyone acknowledged the virtues of including Christine as the chief “cat herder”.
Matt’s original vision was to ride from the farthest northwestern point of the contiguous 48 states, Cape Flattery Washington, to the southernmost point, Key West Florida. (We traversed the Card Sound Bridge which is just north of Key Largo, the farthest southeastern point.)
Matt is a person of vision, but not necessarily detail. As of June 2009 others had begun to assemble the day-by-day routing and logistics. Christine became an active part of that planning after the Colorado ride.
C4C was taking shape in a serious way, inertia enough that Catholic Charities of Kansas City secured an SUV, two large vans, and a dual axle trailer for our use on the campaign across America.
2008 ended with a collision of bitter and sweet. In October our daughter Renee’ gave birth to naturally occurring quadruplets. They were very early and very small. Our other daughter, Alexis, announced that she was pregnant and would deliver in 2009. Renee’ encouraged Alexis to seek an early sonogram on the chance that mega-multiples now ran in the family. When later told by her doctor that she was carrying twins Alexis exclaimed in relief, “Thank God!”. In a span of 30 months our family would grow with the birth of 9 grandchildren.
Tragedy arrived in December. All four of the fragile babies remained in NICU. (Simon would not join his siblings at home until he was 6 months old.) Daphne was losing her struggle with life. On December 6th she drew her last breath while held in her mother’s arms. The family was devastated.
Father Matt arrived at the hospital the next morning to give solace. Lissa Whittaker, a Eucharistic Minister at St. Francis Xavier Church (SFX), called to say that she would take care of the arrangements for Daphne’s service. That eased one burden. We knew of Lissa and her husband Tom, but I was not yet aware that they would be among those bicycling across the Country. From the moment of Lissa’s call she and Tom became dear threads interwoven into the fabric of our family.
Father Matt officiated Daphne’s funeral and a few months later he baptized her three surviving siblings, all of whom have grown and thrived in spite of their early difficulties.
The Cycling for Change (C4C) through riders would number 12. In addition to Father Matt and his parish assistant, Bethany Paul,
we would include:
Dr. Tom Whittaker, JD MD. Physician and surgeon, University of Kansas Department of Ophthalmology.
Lissa Whittaker, Owner of Rapid Transcript, a Federal Court Transcription service.
John Mocella, retired and a volunteer with Catholic Charities of Kansas City.
Jason Christiansen, CEO of Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs.
Our support team on the road would consist of:
Stephen Belt, Flight training director St. Louis University.
Tom and Joy Comeau, SFX parish members. (Joy passed away late in 2018. In less than a month Tom followed. Love long shared resists separation.)
and my wife, Christine, owner and Director of Northland Dependency Services.
Logistics and administration in Kansas City would be in the hands of Catholic Charities staff Suzanne Cronkhite and Kathy Conwell.
C4C was scheduled to begin on Memorial Day 2010 in Cape Flattery Washington and conclude 100 days and 5,000 miles later with riders crossing the “Finish Line” on Labor Day in Key West Florida.
As viewed in January of 2009, Memorial Day 2010 seemed a long way off, but there was so much to do. Each participant had committed to engage in considerable group and individual fundraising. There were events to plan and host, promotional rides to organize, meetings… and of course the training. Each of us had to continue with the routine challenges of home, family, and work while juggling the significant requirements of C4C. The 16 of us began 2009 as relative strangers. By the end of that year we were family.
Every story has a beginning and this one dates to 2008: I was 56 years old. Married for 31 year, a father for 30 years, an attorney for 28 years, and we had welcomed 2 new grandchildren into our lives early that year. There would be a total of 9 born within 30 months of that January. I had dreamed of riding a bicycle across North America… never… not even once.
After a 40 year hiatus I had rediscovered bicycling in 2006 and stood as proof that once learned, one never forgets how to ride a bike. My bicycle was a far cry from the 26” chrome fendered beast that I rode as a young teen. My “Seven” (the brand name) was a sleek custom build titanium job that had cost almost twice what my first new car did (a 1974 Toyota Celica GT). “Guy jewelry.” was my curt reply to Christine as she gasped upon reading the invoice. It explained everything, and nothing. I ride it to this day.
My father had long suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and so it was natural for me as a bicycle enthusiast to participate in the MS-150 charity rides sponsored in Missouri. In 2006, 2007, and again in 2008 I had ridden over 150 miles in the course of the 2 day event. I considered that to be quite an achievement.
Bicycling 5,000 miles coast to coast, crossing through 16 States, was unthinkable… certainly beyond my contemplation.
In 2008 we lived in Liberty Missouri but traveled weekly to Kansas City for Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church (SFX), the Jesuit parish next to Rockhurst University. From 1977 to 1989 we had lived a short walk from SFX and were very active in the parish. I had served a term as President of the Parish Council and Christine served as President of its School Board. By 2008 we had long retreated to pews nearer the back of the church.
In the 1950’s SFX could boast 1,500 registered parish families. In the 70’s and 80’s there were perhaps 150. The architecturally significant church was cavernous. In the early years of our attendance it rarely approached capacity except at Easter and Christmas.
The church was the spiritual home for a small but dedicated core of parishioners.
Around the year 2000, SFX experienced something of a renaissance with the arrival of its newest pastor, Father Matt Ruhl, S.J.. Among homilists Matt was a “rock star”. He drew a following from across Metro-Kansas City and SFX once again enjoyed near capacity attendance each Sunday. Matt was never one to presume the mind of God. Words like “God wants you to…” were usually absent from his sermons. Instead he challenged us to know and love ourselves and thus our neighbors in thought provoking presentations. He preferred to forego looking down upon us from the pulpit, instead walking up and down the aisle among the congregants. Mid-sermon he would often shake a hand, pat a shoulder or wink an eye without skipping a beat of his message.
His popularity was legendary and perhaps the source of jealousy from Kansas City’s Diocesan bishop at the time who ended up ordering Matt to return to the pulpit as was “expected” of a dignified clergyman. That bishop would later find notoriety as the first of his standing to plead guilty to the crime of failure to report the sexual abuse of children.
It is said that all good things must come to an end and so it was with Matt Ruhl’s tenure at SFX. One Sunday in mid-2008 he addressed the congregation and announced that in May of 2010 he would be leaving for another assignment. Those were sad words for his dedicated followers.
It was a rare Sunday for us as we were joined in the congregation by our adult children, their spouses, and our two infant grandchildren.
Matt’s message was not of particular interest to the family until he added an unusual twist: Father Matt had received permission to take a sabbatical over the Summer of 2010. Joined by a few hand chosen riders he would bicycle across the United States, delivering the message of the Catholic Charities’ campaign to reduce poverty in the United States. He and his cycling companions would raise both awareness and funds as “Cycling for Change” (C4C). Matt would be seeking riders to join for segments of the journey. The members of my family collectively gasped as they turned to look at me. Mesmerized, I stared up at Matt. Bicycle… across the United States… across America… Wow. My family knew me all too well.
After Mass I sought out Bethany Paul, Father Matt’s assistant. “I would like to sign up for the entire ride.” Bethany looked at me without expression. I am sure that my face was familiar to her and Matt, but beyond that I was an unknown. I repeated myself. Politely, Bethany found a blank piece of paper and took down my particulars. They would be in touch. It never occurred to me that I might not be chosen to ride. I began regularly calling Bethany for “status updates”. I ignored that no one had acknowledged my “application”. In retrospect I am sure that I was something of a nuisance. My persistence won out and I was taken seriously. I would be one of the “through riders”. Eventually we would number 12, including Matt and Bethany.
There would be segment riders, and there would be support participants who would drive the vans, one pulling a cargo trailer that would be our SAG (“Support and Gear”).
I had not yet considered how I would meet my commitment to raise $25,000.00 on behalf of C4C. I had not considered how I would suspend my law practice, and thus my income, for an entire Summer or how in my absence I would continue to pay my office overhead and my assistant’s salary.
I had not given thought to being away from Christine for over 3 months. Those were just details. I was going to ride across the United States on a bicycle!
This is the final post in my “Armchair Tour of Kansas City” series. For context you may click on this link to be redirected to the series Introduction: “Armchair Tour Intro”
Pleasant Day Outings:
Watkins Woolen Mill
25 miles to the north is the remarkably well preserved Watkins Estate and Woolen Mill. Waltus Watkins, a resourceful polymath, was born in 1806.
He moved to Liberty Missouri (north of Kansas City) in 1830. In 1839 he purchased his first 580 acres and by 1880 his holdings had grown to over 3,600 acres.
With rolling hills and forest this has become a well-managed Missouri State Park. The Watkins 1850 mansion and 1860 steam operated Woolen Mill are a treat for young and old visitors alike.
Bike and Hike Trails
Kansas City has done much in the last few years to become more bike friendly. According to Trail Link, the metro area features nearly 500 miles of dedicated trails and bike lanes. Among the many are the “Trolley Trail” which follows the old central trolley line right-of-way from near the Plaza south 7 miles through the heart of Kansas City.
Another is Cliffside Drive, which serpentines along the south bluffs of the Missouri River east of downtown.
Swope Park has miles of wooded single-track mountain bike trails. For the truly adventurous, Missouri’s Katy Trail, a “Rails to Trails” State Park and the longest recreational rail trail in the United States, links Kansas City to St. Louis via 240 miles of groomed limestone chat. (An experience I enjoyed in 2010)
This 970 acre botanical garden is located 30 miles east of Kansas City. It features nearly a quarter of a million plants from over 6,000 varieties.
Kansas City has many cemeteries located throughout the metro area. A few are particularly noteworthy for a visit:
In nearby Fairway Kansas is the Shawnee Indian Mission Historical Site and Cemetery.
The Mission’s 3 existing buildings sit upon 12 acres. The Mission buildings are open to the public as a museum.
The Mission was founded in 1830 by Methodist minister Thomas Johnson who sought to educate and convert to Christianity the Kansa and Shawnee Indian tribes. The Shawnees, led by Chief Fish, had been forcefully relocated to the unorganized territory (that later became Kansas) from their traditional home in Ohio.
A few blocks from the Mission is a small cemetery (1839-1930) that was the final resting place for Johnson and members of his family.
About 5 miles west is another cemetery. This small, sad, nearly vacant patch of ground is all that remains of the Shawnee Indian Cemetery, once known as the Blue Jacket Cemetery, named after the family of Chief Bluejacket, whose members were buried here between 1837 and 1870.
The graves are mostly unmarked. A grouping of broken markers have been mounted in a single flat of concrete in an apparent effort to preserve them from further damage or theft.
Union Cemetery was founded of necessity in 1857.
The nearby towns of Westport and Kansas had suffered a devastating Cholera Epidemic and were in need of burial space. 49 acres located between the two towns were secured for that purpose (27 acres remaining today) and the cemetery, a “Union” of the two communities, was established.
It was believed that it would serve the needs of the communities forever. Although Civil War era graves are located within the cemetery, its name is not derived from that conflict. The cemetery is located on Union Hill, near downtown Kansas City.
A few miles east of Downtown Kansas City is 43-acre Elmwood Cemetery.
Formally established in 1872 (although the earliest grave dates to 1840) this is the final resting place for many of Kansas City’s elite and powerful, including mayors, politicians, Civil War generals, business executives, and even Sarah Barret who was sweetheart to Abraham Lincoln.
Over 36,000 people are buried here. Ella, an orphaned deer born in the cemetery in 2011, was a tame and popular “resident” until she was shot for fun by a 19 year old miscreant in 2013. She was known to follow mourners and stand watch at burials. Her remains were cremated and returned to the cemetery.
By the way, for those who have been looking… we found Waldo.
Finally, Memorial Park Cemetery (also known as Park Lawn Cemetery) adjoins the southern perimeter of Kansas City’s Swope Park. It is the largest privately owned cemetery in the State of Missouri. I mention it only because it’s rolling wooded acres are quite beautiful and it will likely be our final “travel destination” at Fate’s calling.
Wants, Needs, Purpose, and CPR for the Spirit:
Including the Introduction, the “Armchair Tour of Kansas City” consisted of 10 posts. The entire effort, from driving around the metro area, taking pictures, assembling information, and writing copy… through the publication of the last post on May 9th covered about a month. There is so much more to Kansas City than I can hope to have covered. Perhaps I have encouraged readers to better appreciate and someday explore this hidden gem.
I have been much the beneficiary of my own efforts; enjoying the outdoors, visiting the sites, learning, and connecting with readers who have followed along. Most of all, I enjoyed having a “purpose”. Loss of purpose is one of the underappreciated consequences of the pandemic shutdown. Confined to our homes and insulated from our friends and family, many of us have suffered the suspension of purpose.
The grocery story workers, health care professionals, first responders, postal workers, and others who continue the pursuit of their regular “purpose”, do so under a shadow of very real danger. Through their efforts the disruption of our lives has been reduced. We may find that we can not always satisfy our wants, but they are the reason that we can still satisfy most of our needs. To them we own gratitude and thanks.
The quality of life is not defined solely by our wants and needs. There are things that momentarily transport us from our anxieties… experiences that cause us to reflexively smile, to taste a minute of youthful joy: The carefree children riding their bicycles on a weekday afternoon… families walking and playing together… the fragrance of the first blossoms of spring… feeling the kiss of a rain-born breeze fresh upon the cheek. The peace that we derive from moments such as these is subtle, casual, and not the product of intention. There are exceptions…
Recently, at random intersections in the surrounding neighborhoods one might observe an ordinary silver SUV draw to a stop and park at the curb. There is nothing to catch one’s eye until the driver emerges from the vehicle attired in full Scottish Highland regalia.
He reaches into the back seat of his car and tucks a dark bundle under his arm. Striding to the intersection he assumes a rigid posture and unfolds the bundle. Bagpipes. He begins to play.
Children cease their recreation. Families emerge from their homes. Cars stop and park. All face this man, their cares momentarily forgotten. Some in the audience record the performance with their phones, intent on sharing with others not fortunate enough to have been there in person.
For 30 minutes the songs follow one upon the other, concluding with “Amazing Grace”. There is applause and then John Tootle, retired EMT and Kansas City firefighter, returns to his car quietly bound for the next random intersection where he will resuscitate the spirit of another neighborhood.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Next week I begin a new series, “Across America by Bicycle”.
This post is one in a series from my “Armchair Tour of Kansas City”. For context you may click on this link to be redirected to the series Introduction: “Armchair Tour Intro”
Robert Long (1850-1934)
Robert Alexander Long was a lumber baron who established the Long- Bell Lumber Company which was the largest lumber company in the world in the early 20th Century. His holdings included 61 lumber mills and over 500,000 acres of forestland across the United States. He spent most of his life in Kansas City.
Named for Nathan Scarritt (1821-1890), a Methodist minister who taught the Native Americans for many years, this historic district is located high on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River east of downtown. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City, and in it’s day was the most affluent.
Today over 6,000 Kansas Citians reside in this neighborhood. The area includes hundreds of acres of parkland, wooded hiking trails, and stately mansions from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Scarritt Point stands above and in stark contrast to the poor and industrial lower east bottoms.
It was on 3 acres located upon Scarritt Point that Robert A. Long built his monumental “city mansion” in 1911.
It was named “Corinthian Hall” due to the mansion’s large Corinthian columns. Construction required the relocation of two other mansions that were on the site.
Those mansions remain in the vicinity as private homes. The acquisition of the grounds, relocation of the 2 pre-existing mansions, construction of the home, 2 story carriage house and stables (the largest within the city),
reportedly cost over 25 million dollars (2020 equivalent). The 35,000 square foot 72 room French Renaissance structure has been the home of the Kansas City Museum and its collection of over 100,000 artifacts of local and regional history since 1940.
The Museum is currently undergoing an extensive renovation but is scheduled to reopen later this year.
Here are a few historical photos of the mansion’s interior:
In 1913 Robert Long established his Longview Farm and Mansion on the distant outskirts of Kansas City. The 2,000 acre farm had 50 buildings, 250 acres of manicured lawn, gardens, and 4 greenhouses. Construction of the farm took only 18 months but engaged over 2,000 laborers. Craftsmen included 200 Italian stonemasons. The farmstead mansion measured 22,000 square feet with 48 rooms. Long built the farm in part because the stables located at his Scarritt Point mansion (Corinthian Hall) were suitable only for a few dozen of his nearly 200 prized horses.
One feature of the farm that is dear to my heart is the 1915 Longview Chapel.
It was within that chapel that I married Christine in 1977.
At the end of this post are images from a number of information boards for those who wish to delve deeper. Hopefully the resolution will allow them to be read.
Next: Part 9, “Pleasant Day Outings and CPR for the Spirit”
This post is one in a series from my “Armchair Tour of Kansas City”. For context you may click on this link to be redirected to the series Introduction: “Armchair Tour Intro”
Ewing and Muriel Kauffman
Ewing Kauffman (1916-1993) was the founder and driving force behind Marion Laboratories which later merged with Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. Kauffman founded the Major League Baseball franchise Kansas City Royals in 1969.
He is credited with building the 41,000 seat Royals Stadium which opened in 1973. This single purpose baseball stadium is half of the Truman Sports Complex, the other half being Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs.
As philanthropists, Kauffman and his wife Muriel (1916-1995) established the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 1966. The Foundation has an endowment of over 2 billion dollars, with annual revenues of over 150 million dollars. Its mission remains focused on education, civic development and entrepreneurship. The Foundation has established college preparatory schools and programs for disadvantaged youth, including college scholarships. Near our home is the Kauffman Memorial Gardens.
Muriel’s separate foundation is responsible for Kansas City’s stunning Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
The Center is one of the most complex building structures in the world with 40,000 square feet of glass.
The Kauffman Center is 285,000 square feet enclosing 2 principal performance halls. There are dressing rooms for more than 250 performers and 11 rehearsal rooms. The Center is the performance home for both the Kansas City Symphony and Kansas City Ballet Company.
The organ that towers above the Helzberg Hall has over 5,500 pipes, the largest of which is 3 stories tall and weighs nearly a half-ton.
Harry S. Truman. Home and Library
In nearby Independence Missouri are the Truman Home and Presidential Library. Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) was the 33rd President of the United States, thrust into that role upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Truman served until 1953, during some of America’s most difficult times… the final days of World War 2, the dropping of the A-Bombs on Japan, the start of the Cold War, and the Korean War.
He was elected to a second term in 1948 in what was seen as an upset over Thomas Dewey. One of the most iconic political photographs is one in which the victor, Truman, holds up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune which erroneously announced his defeat.
He most famously was quoted as saying, “The Buck Stops Here!”, accepting the ultimate responsibility for the good and bad of his administration.
“As President of the United States, I had the fateful responsibility of deciding whether or not to use this weapon for the first time. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. But the President cannot duck hard problems—he cannot pass the buck. I made the decision after discussions with the ablest men in our Government, and after long and prayerful consideration. I decided that the bomb should be used in order to end the war quickly and save countless lives—Japanese as well as American.” – Harry S. Truman
He was an “ordinary person”, seen by his neighbors in Independence in his later days taking daily strolls from his home to the downtown square.
He attended Law School at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (my alma mater), then known as the Kansas City Law School. His home, built in 1867, is available for tours administered by the National Park Service.
His Presidential Library and museum, where Truman maintained an office in his later years, is located a few short blocks away and is currently undergoing a significant renovation. A number of years ago I was involved in a case that took me to the Library to conduct interviews. In the course of my meetings “nature called”. I was offered the rare opportunity to use the “presidential bathroom and toilet”. Naturally, I accepted.
Dominating the Independence skyline and a short distance from the Truman Home is the world headquarters and Temple of the Community of Christ Church (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).