A Tribute To Legends
The crack of a bat and the smooth melodies of a tenor sax bring back memories of what was once the heart of Kansas City culture. Known throughout the world as trademarks of Kansas City, Negro Leagues Baseball and jazz music have been rekindled into brilliant reality with a massive revitalization of Kansas City's historic 18th & Vine district.

The Museums at 18th & Vine celebrate their grand opening on September 5, 1997 in the area where baseball, jazz, and good times reigned as part of Kansas City's cultural life. The City of Kansas City, Missouri launched a $24 million project to pay tribute to the historical development of jazz and Negro Leagues Baseball. With the opening of the museums, Kansas Citians and visitors have the opportunity to get a first hand look at some of the greatest legends of jazz and baseball such as Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Lester Young, George and Julia Lee, Satchel Paige, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Josh Gibson. This "who's who" of early jazz and baseball legends is highlighted in brilliant sight and sound with a dynamic look at Kansas City history.

Kansas City Jazz Museum
The Jazz Museum is one of the first museums in the country devoted exclusively to this art form. Kansas City's jazz legacy was nurtured in the 1920s and 1930s in the area around 18th & Vine. Famous talents were often featured in the area including the George Lee Orchestra accompanied by his sister Julia Lee, Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and the incomparable Charlie "Yardbird" Parker.

During the Depression, Kansas City prospered in many ways, and its reputation as being a "wide open" city attracted musicians who honed their craft in the dozens of clubs in the area. Many of the musicians later moved on to New York and other cities where their fame mushroomed. Robert Altman's 1996 film, "Kansas City," provided a look at this bustling period.

The museum's interactive exhibits tell the story of "America's classical music" in an entertaining and educational format. In addition to in-depth exhibits on such greats as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker, the museum includes artifacts such as a Charlie Parker saxophone and a discovery room where visitors can listen to jazz performances. In the evenings, visitors can stop by the Blue Room, an actual jazz club which will feature contemporary Kansas City jazz artists.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The museum is the centerpiece of historical renaissance of Negro Leagues Baseball throughout the nation. The exhibit covers the entire history of the Negro Leagues from their beginning after the Civil War through their end in the 1960s. It looks at the contributions the leagues made to the history of athletics, as well as their contributions to the Civil Rights movement.

In 1920, the owner of the Chicago American Giants, Rube Foster, organized a meeting in Kansas City which resulted in the formation of the Negro National League. Their motto, "We are the ship, all else the sea," illustrated its relationship at the time with Major League Baseball. Throughout the following years, the Negro Leagues games were some of the hottest tickets in town, drawing over 50,000 spectators to games coast to coast.

With the signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the color barrier in baseball fell, signaling the end of the Negro Leagues. Negro Leagues players introduced a level of excitement never before seen at National League games. Such baseball greats as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Roy Campanella all made the transition, leaving an indelible mark on baseball.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum recreates the look, sound, and feel of baseball in the height of the Negro Leagues. A photo gallery captures the earliest days of both integrated and then segregated play. Authentic re-creations of uniforms and a multi-screen video presentation in which former players talk about what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues are part of the museum. Coaching tips, interactive videos, and artifacts put visitors in the front row of this exciting sport and chapter in American history.

Gem Theater Cultural and Performing Arts Center
Constructed in 1912 as a movie house for African Americans, the Gem Theater is now a jewel in the crown of 18th & Vine. This historic structure, with its wonderful neon marquee, has been transformed into a state of the art facility for musical and theatrical performances. This 500-seat cultural and performing arts center will also host dance theaters and multi-media events for the public. The theater's contemporary design means there isn't a bad seat in the house and its beautifully refurbished lobby makes it ideal for special events. The second floor of the lobby will host special rotating exhibits highlighting the arts.

The Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center
Upon entering the museum facility, visitors should take a moment to stop by the Visitors Center to learn about the contributions the 18th & Vine area had made on the cultural, social, and economic development of the Kansas City area. The Visitors Center takes guests on a trip back in time to the 1930s with an audiovisual presentation on the African American experience in the area. Brochures and background information on the area are also available at the Visitors Center.

1616 E. 18th St., K.C., MO. Jazz Museum ( 816-474-8463 .) or Negro Leagues Baseball Museum ( 816-221-1920 ) tickets are $6 adults, $2.50 children. Combination tickets for admission to both museums are $8 adults, $4 children. Group rates are available.

Home | Blues and Jazz | Fountains | Westport | Overland Trails | Harry Truman | KC Barbecue | Kansas City History
City Market | 18th and Vine District | Casinos | Gardens | Zoo | Parks | Shopping | Clubs and Organizations

© 1997 Experience Kansas City
Experience Kansas City is a subsidiary of Multi Service, Inc..
Questions/Comments? Let us know.