Discover the history of Kansas City through a series of self-guided tours.
Discover the history of Kansas City through a series of self-guided tours.

KC History Self-Guided Tour 🔍

History is made, in ways large and small, every day. Sometimes you know you’re part of a historic moment; sometimes it’s research and retrospection that reveal the significant story ... and in some cases, unravel the truth. 

For instance, was our city really almost called Possom Trot? 🤔

KCUR’s The People’s History of Kansas City podcast, hosted by Suzanne Hogan, relaunched today with a deep dive into the legend. Listen to previous podcast episodes and subscribe to discover the hidden stories of our town. 🎧

Learn how Kansas City has taken shape and changed through the centuries with a variety of self-guided tours, be they virtual, walkable, or drivable destinations. Here's where to start. 🏁

A photo of the Kansas and Missouri rivers at dawn, taken from Kaw Point Park in Kansas
1. By the Convergence of Kansas and Missouri Rivers
Native peoples lived in this area long before anyone considered putting up historic markers where the Kansas and Missouri Rivers meet. 🏞️ Now, the states, the city, the rivers and street names serve as epitaphs to the Kaw, Osage, Neosho, Shawnee, Wyandot, Pawnee, Oto and Delaware nations. Remnants of those histories remain in the region despite centuries of erasure. 

After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Merriwether Lewis and William Clark were sent to chart this territory. To really follow along their route you’d need a canoe, but the National Park Service has a virtual route that follows the entire 4,900 miles. 🚣 In June 1804, they camped three days at Kaw Point, in Kansas City, Kansas. Kaw Point Park links to Missouri via the walkable Riverfront Heritage Trail. 

Fur trader François Chouteau was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but is considered the father of Kansas City. In 1821, he and his wife established a trading post down by the Missouri River, Chez de Canses. The Chouteau Society erected markers to 11 significant locations 📍 related to this French influence, now maintained by the Jackson County Historical Society. 
2. Commerce and Expansion
First came the river trade, then the overland trails, followed by the cowboys, railways 🚂 and highways, centering the region as a hub of commerce and culture in the West. John McCoy founded West Port in 1834. The Westport Historical Society shares history of the area and a walking tour map. 🗺️

Travelers on the overland trails to Santa Fe, Oregon and California helped make the area a transport hub in the 1800s, and this year is the Santa Fe Trail’s bicentennial. 🕯️

Virtually travel the length of the Santa Fe Trail through the National Park Service interactive map, which links to significant locations and local organizations which support them. Historical sites and markers are scattered throughout the metro region, as are the swales cut through the land by the wagon wheels. 
3. Remembering the Civil War
Tension and violence had already sparked in the Kansas City area before the Civil War went national, as pro-slavery and abolitionist factions fought for control of the region in the turmoil of Bloody Kansas.

Learn about Quantrill’s Raid through a self-guided walking tour in Lawrence, Kansas. 🚶

Though the Battle of Westport Visitor Center doesn’t open until April, you can follow the events of October 1864 all the way to Swope Park with this 32-mile self-guided auto tour. 🚗

Marker One starts at Westport Road and Pennsylvania Ave. 🛣️

4. African American Heritage Trail
Launched last year, the African American Heritage Trail is a virtual tour that spans the metro area with significant locations pertinent to the history and contributions of Black Kansas Citians. You can learn about specific sites and use the interactive maps to design your own walking tour of different areas. ⬅️ 🚶

Learn about the Quindaro Ruins and the Underground Railroad. Visit the 18th and Vine District, where you can view the American Jazz Museum Jazz Walk of Fame with bronze markers embedded in the sidewalk to honor significant jazz artists. 🎷

5. Architecture Through the Years
Published by the Kansas City Historic Preservation Commission, “Kansas City: A Place In Time, 2nd Edition” guides you through the various parts of the city block-by-block with detailed street maps. 🗺️

Though the preservation organization Historic Kansas City isn’t doing “heritage hikes” at this time, the organization published a guide to the history and development of the Country Club Plaza Walking Guide. 🚶

Bonus: Contribute to a Guided Tour
Nonprofit group Clio hosts walking tours and heritage trails across the nation, with over 10 Kansas City-specific tours that can be done virtually or in person. The site also includes step-by-step instructions on their website, encouraging students, historians and institutions to contribute to a deeper understanding of their communities. 🕮

Did you receive this email from a friend? 

This was your 82nd Creative Adventure email from KCUR 89.3. Catch up on our past issues here.


Photo Credits:
1. Vincent Parsons
2. Kansas City Public Library | General Collection, Westport, MO
3. Kansas Historical Society

4. Missouri Valley Special Collection | Kansas City Public Library
5. Missouri Valley Special Collection | Kansas City Public Library

Twitter Facebook Instagram
powered by emma