A Quality Day in Kansas City

Historic Kansas City Foundation
Facebook page (the best place to keep up):  https://www.facebook.com/HistoricKC/


I’ve always been interested in history, and everywhere I travel I make an effort to learn about the local history, and take tours with local experts.   I realized about a year ago that I could do that in my own hometown, but I hadn’t.  I’m lucky to live in a city that values  history and historic buildings, and cares enough to share both with the people who live here.

The Historic KC Foundation, a non-profit organization, hosts regular Heritage Hikes led by knowledgeable and passionate Lucinda, who has lived in Kansas City long enough to know “what used to be here…” all along the way.  I finally made it to one of the hikes this past weekend — a tour of Quality Hill that was interesting, educational, and fun.  It was a group of 15 local folks of all ages, all with a passion for learning more about the history of our favorite city.   It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and I highly recommend the Heritage Hikes (don’t let the word “hike” scare you — it’s really an urban walkabout).

We met at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral but I arrived early for the hike and couldn’t resist the lure of the pylons.  I love these KC skyline icons — well, not the pylons (which are designed to hold up the cables that hold up the building over the freeway) as much as the metal sculptures atop each pylon (my fave is the hairbrush sculpture).

Plus my other fave skyline icon…the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts



Quality Hill, which runs from Broadway up the hill to the bluffs overlooking the West Bottoms and the Missouri River, was originally where the “quality” KC founders lived in gorgeous mansions in the 1800’s.  Also known as the Silk Stocking Ridge to denote the wealth of the residents, the area reached its peak in the 1880’s. Not long after that, the residents left en masse, in spite of the beautiful views, due to the aforementioned West Bottoms, which housed the burgeoning stockyards and meat packing plants and associated odors.  The beautiful mansions have been razed or re-purposed over the years into apartment buildings, schools, hospitals.

In recent years the area has been renovated and is flourishing because of its proximity to downtown and to the Power & Light District.  The worst of the buildings have been razed and replaced with upscale apartments and condos.  There is only one single-family residence left.  The architecture is varied and spectacular.  We started our hike at one of the historic churches.

Grace and HOLY Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

415 W. 13th Street

This Norman-style cathedral, built in 1881, has a beautiful interior with spectacular stained-glass windows, including several Tiffany windows.

Kansas City Southern Railway Headquarters

427 W. 12th Street

The railway archivists at KC Southern have gathered fun memorabilia for the lobby of their headquarters, which is designed to be reminiscent of elegant old train stations.  We were treated to a tour of the facility by Doug, a gentleman who has worked for the railroad industry since he was 19.

Just outside the back door of the lobby is one of the highlights: the restored Harry S. Truman train car.  It has been renovated into a meeting room, which they use a couple of times a week. What a fun place to have a meeting!  Doug told us that President Truman (or, more often, Bess) would call them up, after they left the White House, and say “We need to go to New Orleans.”  And KC Southern would pull out this car and hook it up to the end of the next train going to New Orleans.

An unexpected find in the garden: a Luis Jiminez sculpture of a stallion, Mesterio (Mustang).  The very-red eyes light up at night, which sounds super-creepy.  Also super-creepy: the sculptor tragically died recreating this sculpture super-sized for the Denver Airport, when it fell on him in his studio and severed an artery in his leg.  Eeewww.

The grounds and lobby of the headquarters are open to the public for self-guided tours. And dogs are also welcome on the grounds!!!



The walk up the hill passes by numerous historic homes, beautifully restored.  The Historic Foundation provided us with a great info sheet that mapped out the walk and identified each point of interest along the way.


These two homes were rescued by Shirley Helzberg, united by a glass walkway, and currently house a law firm.

The overlook from the bluff at the top of Quality Hill. It overlooks the also-very-historic West Bottoms and the spot where the Kaw and Missouri Rivers merge, which is where Lewis and Clark camped for four days.

James Pendergast (older brother of Tom Pendergast), and two unrelated children, added later to balance out the statue.  Seriously.


Clark’s Point – Case Park

611 W. 8th Street

The hill culminates at a beautiful Eugene Daub statue of  Lewis, Clark, York, Sacagawea, and Lewis’ dog Seaman.  With sweeping views of the Missouri River,  the statue is in view of the spot where Lewis & Clark’s team camped in 1806, on their way West.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

411 W. 11th Street

The golden dome of this church is one of the most iconic sights of the Kansas City skyline, and beckons from the nearby freeway.  The Catholic cathedral was built in 1882, but in 1960 the dome and cupola were covered in 23-carat gold leaf, making the tower a shining beacon anchoring the Quality Hill district.


The Quaff

1010 Broadway Blvd.
Trip Advisor Reviews

This is the kind of neighborhood sports bar that’s been here long enough for several layers of linoleum to wear all the way through to the original wood floors (see the hallway outside the restrooms!).  By local bar standards, though, it’s huge, and appears to have overtaken their neighbors over the years (just my guess).

The menu is laminated and the food is KC bar food (meaning a healthy dose of BBQ + a lot of fried food — my kind of place).  So I was surprised to see the Impossible burger on the menu, as a meat substitute for any of their regular burgers. I had the cowboy burger and is was delicious — I couldn’t tell the difference between the Impossible burger and a regular burger. And the fries were amazing. Others at the table had a tenderloin sandwich where the tenderloin was “as big as your head,” which is apparently how you judge tenderloins.




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