It keeps happening. Every time I visit KC, I fall more in love and discover more unique areas to explore. I have heard about the West Bottoms but put it on the back burner because there are always so many other KC rituals that I like to fit in on my visits there. A colleague of mine knew how much I like antique stores and vintage shops so he directed me to the West Bottoms.
As soon as we crossed the bridge to enter the area, I was gasping at the old architecture. We found a place to park and started strolling not just store to store to admire the antiques but also to study the structure of the buildings. Beauty and decay colliding into one… Artistic details on the facades and yet, birds flying in and out of holes in the rafters of some back alleys.We talked to merchants and soon found out that West Bottoms has its own first Friday crawl event. It is also known for having the scariest haunted houses in the U.S., according to one saleslady. (those start in September)Coffeehouses and decor shops were the majority of the businesses there. We found the old stockyards and bars nearby. A fashion shoot was going on under the gorgeous old bridge.
Naturally, we became curious about the history of West Bottoms. It was originally called the French Bottoms due to its history of being a trading site between French trappers and Kansas Indians. Its location near the Missouri River made it a port for receiving goods from steamships when western immigration and Santa Fe trails trade took off. It had a definite feel of the industrial era.
The birth of the railroad brought about even more significance to this area and by 1871, the city grew around the introduction of the stockyards. The original Union Depot was built here which ushered in restaurants, hotels and bars.
A majority of KC’s value was found in the West Bottoms (according to some info)..until 1905, when a catastrophic flood occurred. The stockyards seemed to flourish until the 1940’s when WWII ended. The hardships of the economy caused a huge loss of jobs when military construction stopped. A few years later, a flood in 1951 caused more damage. Reportedly, in a few short years, the combination of the latter two events caused 50,000 lost jobs (approximately). In 1974, the building of the Kemper Arena hoped to revive the area. The 1976 Republican National Convention was held in the Kemper Arena. Now, the area flourishes with home decor boutiques, coffee houses, etc. Event venues were alive on a late Saturday afternoon and we even saw a bride in a warehouse window getting ready for her wedding photos.When you are in downtown KC, cross over the bridge into this time capsule of history. Take your camera.Next time we go, we are checking out the Stockyard brewery. Bottoms up!
Photos by Gina
(click on Get Started and then the West Bottoms graphic for a listing of events and stores)