Once a thriving town through which the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails passed, Westport marked the passage into the great western frontier and set the precedence for what is today a thriving entertainment and shopping district. This historical legacy allows visitors to travel back in time to the days of mountain men, wagon trains, and Civil War battles. Discover one of Kansas City's historical treasures.
|THE HISTORY OF WESTPORT
The history of Westport is evident in the beautiful buildings lining the town's busy streets. You can learn a lot by taking in the details of the architecture and by reading the historical markers around town. To learn the most about this important area or to become an active participant in preserving and educating others about the history of Westport, turn to the Westport Historical Society.
The Westport Historical Society gives tours of the area, runs the Harris-Kearney House, publishes intriguing documents and works with locals and business owners to keep Westport's history alive. Visit their website to learn more about the society, Westport's history, or to join!
As the town grew, supplies were brought to the area on riverboats which unloaded near Independence, Missouri a four-day, round-trip journey from Westport. McCoy eventually convinced the riverboats to unload their goods at a landing point closer to Westport. This new landing area, located at the base of what today is Grand Avenue, allowed the boats to unload supplies and settlers closer to the trails. The landing site became known as the "Town of Kansas," and eventually Kansas City. Because of Westport's proximity to the Missouri River and the trails, it quickly became a popular jumping-off point for the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails.
In the 1860s, the Civil War brought a new level of activity to Westport. With the free state of Kansas just one mile to the west, Westport frequently found itself caught between the northern abolitionists and the southern sympathizers of Missouri. Before the issues of the war between the states were finally laid to rest, the Battle of Westport, referred to as the Gettysburg of the West, was fought and ended the Civil War in the West. Monuments commemorating this event can be found in Loose Park, located at 51st Street and Wornall Road, Kansas City, Missouri.
Eventually, the landing area McCoy built on the river became so popular that unfortunately, Westport's role faded. The river community to the north was rapidly growing closer, and finally in 1899, Westport was absorbed by the new city of Kansas City. Westport, however, had already made its mark on Western history.
|TOURING THROUGH PAST AND PRESENT
Kansas City's Westport area is a colorful tapestry of unique restaurants, charming boutiques and hot night spots interwoven with remnants of the area's historical past. It's a place where Kansas City's modern sophistication converges with 19th century charm and frontier history. This district, which once welcomed traders and westward-bound pioneers, today welcomes visitors and residents with its distinctive blend of entertainment, shopping and dining.
Visitors can choose between two tours pertaining to Westport and its heritage. One tour, the Battle of Westport tour, is a driving tour which incorporates 23 markers/monuments symbolizing the historic battle throughout the area. The tour begins at a marker located in the northeast corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania.
The other tour, a walking tour of the town of Westport, begins at the crossroads of Main and Westport Road and heads west down the historic, scenic blocks of Westport Road. On the north side of the street at 118 Westport Road stands the ALLEN LIBRARY. Opened in 1898, the building became the first branch library of the Kansas City Public Library System and is currently undergoing restoration. Across the street at 109 Westport Road is the original site of the FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF WESTPORT. Today the site is home to PRYDE'S OLD WESTPORT, a family-owned landmark containing gourmet housewares, tabletop and home accessories from around the world and a large selection of Kansas City's own Creative Candles. Just south of Pryde's is the HARRIS-KEARNEY HOUSE. Located at 4000 Baltimore the house is on the National Register of Historical Places. Built in 1855 by John Harris, proprietor of the famous Harris House Hotel, the home once stood on five acres of land on the southwest quadrant at the intersection of present day Westport Road and Main Street. It was moved to its present location in two sections in 1922 and today is home to the WESTPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY. As one of only a few antebellum buildings left in Kansas City, the house has been restored and is open to the public.
Continuing west along Westport Road brings sightseers to PIONEER PARK, located to the north on the traffic island at the intersection of Westport Road and Broadway. The park, a $150,000 joint project of the Westport Historical Society and the Native Sons of Kansas City, is home to a nine foot heroic statue of Alexander Majors, whose wagon trains carried tons of goods and supplies westward on the trails; John Calvin McCoy, founder of Westport and co-founder of Kansas City; and Jim Bridger, famous mountain man, army scout and western trail blazer. In addition, a 12' x 8' terrazzo map of the three western trails was constructed. Continuing north on Broadway will lead visitors to the PIONEER MOTHER and the SANTA FE, OREGON and CALIFORNIA TRAILS MARKER. Located on a grassy inlet at 40th and Broadway, the markers commemorate the trails that passed through Westport in the last century. Westport was the last eastern portal of the western trails and remained so longer than any of its predecessors.
By proceeding back down Broadway and continuing west along Westport Road, visitors can enjoy traditional Kansas City blues and jazz at BLAYNEY'S, located downstairs at 415 Westport Road. Located in the north-east corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania is the most important piece of real estate not only in Westport but Kansas City as well. The ground at 444 Westport Road marks the site of JOHN CALVIN MCCOY'S STORE, and later the famous Harris House Hotel. Today, the site is home to local businesses. Also found at this site is a marker signifying a historical point during the BATTLE OF WESTPORT. During the Battle of Westport on the morning of October 23, 1864, Union Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis had his field command post on top of the Harris House Hotel so he could view the battle down along Brush Creek.
Coming to the intersection of Westport Road and Pennsylvania, visitors can tour up and down Pennsylvania enjoying wonderful shops, dining establishments and interesting historical attractions. Turning north and heading up Pennsylvania will bring visitors to MILL CREEK BREWERY. Located at 4050 Pennsylvania, this popular pub provides fresh beer and delectable entrees. THE BEAUMONT CLUB, one of Kansas City's most popular country music venues, is also located here. Turning south and traveling back down Pennsylvania, visitors will find themselves on HUNTER'S BLOCK. Beginning at HARRY'S BAR AND TABLES at 501 Westport Road and running south to the alley on Pennsylvania, this segment of land was given to James Madison Hunter by John McCoy in return for a promise by Hunter to settle in Westport and start a business. On the brick building to the east, a large plaque commemorates John McCoy's accomplishments. At the beginning of the block is MABRY HALL. Located at 4112-4114 Pennsylvania, this building was once home to Dr. William E. Mabry who was the town physician around 1903. The fully restored brick building now houses TORRE'S PIZZERIA, JOHN BULL'S PERIODICALS, TOBACCO AND ANTIQUES and PERFECT SCENTS, an eclectic store that allows shoppers to mix their own custom scents from a myriad of oils such as almond, sandlewood, and waterlily. Directly across the street from Perfect Scents, shoppers can update their wardrobe or their home at IMAGERY, a contemporary boutique. For a chance to sit fireside or under the stars while enjoying fresh, contemporary cuisine, stop by CALIFORNO'S at 4124 Pennsylvania. However, if sipping wine in a bistro setting is more suiting, check out CLASSIC CUP at 4130 Pennsylvania.
Returning to Westport Road and Pennsylvania, visitors will find KELLY'S WESTPORT INN in the northwest corner of the intersection at 500 Westport Road. Kelly's is one of Kansas City's most popular "watering holes" and is housed in the historic EWING-BOONE BUILDING, once operated as a general story by Daniel Boone's grandson, Albert Gallatin Boone, in 1854. The building is on the National Register of Historical Places. Next door to Kelly's at 504 Westport Road, STANFORD AND SONS features comedy seven nights a week in the historic CHOUTEAU-BRIDGER BUILDING once owned by Jim Bridger in 1866. After hiding for half a century under a pressed-brick front, the old building was rediscovered in 1974 when renovation was started.
Continuing west along Westport Road, visitors will find a myriad of quaint shops and eating venues set along the streets of this historical community. Today the Westport community is an integral part of Kansas City, but it still retains its individual identity.
For a more detailed description of the history of Westport and a complete walking tour map depicting historical sites, contact the Westport Historical Society at (816) 561-1821. For more information on the Westport area of today and its activities, contact the Westport Merchants Association, Inc. at (816) 756-2789.
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