September 26, 2014

Inter-City Fire Spurs Calls for Revitalization

 A fire that destroyed an apartment in the building at 8900 E. U.S. 24 has renewed calls for the revitalization of the 24 Highway corridor, which leads visitors from around the world from Interstate 435 to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. 

   Four fire trucks responded to the blaze of August 9, as flames were seen shooting six feet in the air. 
   The building, located across the street from the iconic Inter-City Bait & Tackle, began as a grocery store and in the 1960s and 1970s was run as a tavern.  An industrial garage was later added.

     “This area looks more like Detroit every day,” commented a resident, pointing out the yellow fire line tape which still surrounds the building more than a month after the blaze.  He added, “The building wasn’t much to look at before the fire,” calling it typical of the vacant and run-down commercial properties that dot this section of the highway system that Harry Truman helped create.

   In 2004, the Cities of Independence and Sugar Creek began a comprehensive study on the roadway’s potential and in 2006 issued a report called the US 24 Highway Corridor Study Plan.  

   This study identified many of the problems that were keeping this area economically depressed, and outlined several long-term solutions to revitalize the area. 

   Some of the solutions suggested in the report are in the works, such as the expansion of the 353 Tax Abatement, a program that rewards home and business owners for improving their buildings (see Page 5). Many of the report’s other suggested strategies fell by the wayside after the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed.

   Independence Mayor Weir has promised to make the revitalization of western Independence a priority.
    The building that burned has been listed for sale with Block Real Estate Services, LLC. 

   According to a Block Real Estate representative the property remains for sale, but the price of the 5,600 square foot building and lots is undetermined at the moment, pending negotiations between the building’s owner and insurance company.   Visit the Block Real Estate website at if you are interested in purchasing this site for future development.  

Travel Back in Time at Sentimental Journey

   There are some things Sue Wiggins wants you to know about Sentimental Journey Antiques, located at 1101 W. 24 Highway in Independence.

   First of all, with 4,200 square feet of antiques and collectibles, “We’re bigger than we look,” she says.

   Sue and her husband Bob have been serious antique collectors for decades, and their storefront, as seen from 24 Highway, doesn’t do justice to the rooms of antique clocks, pop-culture memorabilia, antique car parts, ice cream scoops and memorabilia, and somewhere around 300 Aladdin Lamps that are displayed, the largest collection of Aladdin Lamps in the Metro area.  They also repair and service lamps of all kinds.

   Sue would also like you to know that it’s easier to park and to get in and out of the parking lot than it looks.  There’s a parking lot on the side of the building, offering easy access from 24 Highway and many people don’t realize this when driving by.

  Sue and Bob came to Kansas City in the early 1960s. She grew up in Arkansas, and he’s from southern Missouri. They call themselves retired; Bob retired from General Motors and Sue from the AMC Theatres.

Their love of collecting began 35 years ago, when they began collecting ice cream scoops as a hobby.     They are avid members of the Ice Screamers, an international collectors club for lovers of ice cream parlor memorabilia.  They travel all around the country to meet and “swap scoops” with other ice cream enthusiasts from around the world.

   Sentimental Journey is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., though occasionally the store may be closed due to medical appointments or jaunts out of town. 

   Someday Sue and Bob would like to truly retire in order to spend more time traveling.    They would gladly sell their building and everything in it to another collector, but for now they enjoy spending their days taking visitors on a Sentimental Journey that begins the moment you walk through the door.

Meet Inter-City News Staff Photographer Joe Calton

The Inter-City News is happy to welcome to our team local photographer and writer Joe Calton.

   Joe became hooked on photography at the age of 13 after joining the 8th grade Photography Club. His first camera was an all plastic “Diana” model from a dimestore that set him back $7.00.    

   Joe Calton has a particular love for architecture, Americana, macro photography and turning common, everyday subjects into abstract images.  With his camera in hand he travels the region and the country, capturing snapshots of beauty in sights that often go unnoticed, and locking in time breathtaking moments of nature.

   Joe grew up in Excelsior Springs, but his home is in Independence now.  He’s spent countless hours roaming around the Inter-City area, bringing us a wealth of stock photography.  He is dedicated to preserving the history of the area while helping all of us make the Inter-City area a better place to live and work.

   You can see and download more of his work by visiting his online gallery at


“Don't let them bury me in Kansas City,” Charlie Parker told his wife Chan.

   Bird got his wish. He is not buried in Kansas City, he is buried right here in Inter-City, at Lincoln Cemetery next to his mother Addie in Unincorporated Blue Summit.

   Charlie “Bird” Parker was born August 29, 1920 in Kansas City, KS. The saxophonist got his start playing Kansas City nightclubs in the late 1930's and through collaboration with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pioneered the highly improvisational form of jazz known as “bebop”. Miles Davis once said “You can sum up the history of jazz in four words. “Louis Armstrong Charlie Parker”. Charlie Parker died March 12, 1955 in New York. He was only 34 years old.

   For many years now, local musicians and jazz enthusiasts have gathered at Lincoln Cemetery on the last Sunday in August to pay tribute to Bird. Although the size of the gathering can sometimes be depressingly small, this year was different. Sponsored by KC Jazz ALIVE and in partnership with Jazz Friends, Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors and the American Jazz Museum, “A Kansas City Charlie Parker Celebration” took place at many venues in the area from August 14 through August 30, culminating with a “21 Sax Salute” in Lincoln Cemetery held on Saturday, August 30 and Sunday August 31.   

A local group called “Top of the Bottoms” which models itself after traditional, New Orleans Mardis Gras Krewes kicked off the festivities with an elaborate, colorful and moving Second Line funeral procession.

The graveside serenade was joined by local saxophonists, trumpeters, percussionists, and anyone else who wanted to participate in a rousing rendition of Bird's signature tune “Now's The Time”.

Bird's step daughter Kim Parker was in attendance and gave a short talk. She shared her memories which included her not understanding people's reaction to this large black man walking a young white girl to school in New York. She concluded by yelling “WAKE UP, BIRD!”

Poems were read, speeches were given and even some tears were shed. It was a very moving and heartfelt celebration of a short life that gave so much.

Should you find yourself on Blue Ridge Boulevard between Truman Road and Independence Avenue with some time to spare, stop by Lincoln Cemetery, leave a flower or some Mardis Gras beads, and feel free to yell “WAKE UP, BIRD!”

Les Miller Keeps Bees Busy

Les Miller of Miller’s Honey Farm in Independence will tell you that bees are smarter than humans, and that without bees there can be no life for human beings.  

   Miller’s honey, which he sells at the Independence Farmer’s Market, is organic, and his beekeeping methods are all-natural and holistic.  But like beekeepers around the world, he sees the bees dying off and disappearing at an alarming rate.

   More than 30% of the world’s bee population have disappeared in recent years, and Les says the people who depend on them to pollinate the crops of the food we eat are the very ones responsible for their disappearance.

   “People kill bees, with the poisons they use to kill weeds and other bugs, and sometimes they just kill them whenever they see them because they’re afraid of them.”

   Miller is not afraid of any bees or any other insect, and he’s especially fond of pollinators.    He’s been raising butterflies since he was 8 years old, and as a child he watched his father raise bees and make honey.  He decided to take up the profession of beekeeping 14 years ago, after decades of being a mechanic took a toll on his back and on his health.  “One day I got stung by a bee, and my back quit hurting,” he says.  He decided to learn everything he could about bees and beekeeping, and now he earns a living doing what he’s always loved, “playing with bugs.”

   All pesticides and herbicides threaten the bee population, he says, but points out that certain chemicals called Neonicitinoids are particularly deadly. Neonicitonoids have been banned in Europe and there’s a push by U.S. environmentalists for them to be banned in the United States as well.

   Miller’s bees gather pollen and nectar from flowering trees, wildflowers, and gardens.  “Dandelions are really important for the bees. If they survive the winter, dandelions are the most plentiful source of nutrition bees have before the trees come into flower, but too many people see dandelions as a bad thing and they poison them,” he says, adding that dandelions are important to soil health as well as bee health.  “Every kind of poison you put on the ground stays in the ground, and it gets in the groundwater, and it’s killing the bees.”

   Bees find a safe-haven in Miller’s hives, though, and his pure, all-natural honey is prized by honey connoisseurs around the region. If you can’t make it to the Independence Farmers Market, call Miller’s Honey Farm at 254-3702 and place an order.

School Kids Really Need Your Help

   Teachers and staff members at the Sugar Creek and Mallinson Elementary Schools are asking the community to donate warm clothing, shoes, and food items to students whose families are struggling financially.  Office staff at both schools told us that they are frequently called upon to make emergency shoe repairs, using hot glue and duct tape. Staff at both schools spoke of kids without jackets who have outgrown their winter coats.  Children’s socks and underwear would be especially appreciated at Sugar Creek Elementary, school to about 200 kindergartners and first graders.  Both schools are in need of shoes and warm clothing.  Kids at Sugar Creek Elementary generally wear sizes 4 to 8.  Kids at Mallinson Elementary need clothing in sizes 6 to 14.

   Mallinson Elementary School is in the process of setting up a food pantry, and welcomes all donations of non-perishable food items.

   You can drop off clothing donations at either school, and food donations at the Mallinson school at 709 N. Forest Avenue, between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

   Both schools also participate in the Box Tops for Education and the Labels for Education programs.  Visit and to find out which products carry the labels you can cut out and bring to the schools to help Sugar Creek kids.

Feds to Revitalize Blue River

   Kansas City’s Blue River has been chosen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be part of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a partnership between federal agencies and non-profit organizations with a mission to "restore waterways and their environments, boost recreation, help local economies, create jobs, and protect Americans’ health."

   The Blue River, around which the Inter-City area was created by 19th century KC real estate magnate Willard Winner, was once an active and important waterway used for transportation and recreation.  Decades of industrial misuse and the economic blight brought on by factory closures have left the river in dire need of clean-up and revitalization.  Along with the EPA, the U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Dept. of Conservation, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the Heartland Alliance, and many other agencies and non-profits will be taking part in the effort.

Arthur E. Stilwell - Father of Fairmount

Fairmount got its name from Arthur Edward Stilwell, the man who created Fairmount Park in 1892. 

    In 1891 he built a streetcar line called the “Air Line,” which ran from Kansas City to Independence.  To encourage people to ride his Air Line, Stilwell built the amusement park along the line. 

   In 1892 the park was called Cusenbary Springs.  40 acres of J. D. Cusenbary’s land had been purchased, along with the spring which was dammed to create an 18-acre lake.  That year the name was changed to Fairmount Park. It was likely named after the park in Philadelphia which had the same name, as Mr. Stilwell was actively courting investors from Pennsylvania to help finance his other projects.

   Arthur Stillwell was an entrepreneur who loved building streetcars and railroads.  The Kansas City Southern Railroad was built by Stilwell, who has several cities named after him in states from here to the Gulf of Mexico.  He created nearly 40 towns along the railroad lines he built, like Stilwell, Kansas and Port Arthur, Texas.

   Stilwell was one of Kansas City’s great civic leaders, and Fairmount Park was his playground.  Tens of thousands of people a year came on the Air Line to enjoy a beach, amusement park rides, a zoo, vaudeville, dancing, daredevils,   and it was known as the “Home of Picnics,” with some of Kansas City’s biggest companies treating their employees to a day at Fairmount Park.  It was the home of the Kansas City Horse Show, which would later evolve into the American Royal.

   Arthur Stilwell was enjoying the Horse Show at Fairmount Park on September 11, 1897, when the last railroad spike was driven in Port Arthur, TX, for his Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railway, which connected Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico. The next day a hurricane would tear through Port Arthur, killing 14 people. At the same time, yellow fever quarantine kept all railroad traffic from coming south of Shreveport.

    Within two years Arthur Stilwell lost control of his railroad to the Gulf of Mexico, which was taken from him by bankers over an unpaid $44 printing bill, and renamed the Kansas City Southern Railroad.  He lost Fairmount Park in the bargain.

   Unbowed, Arthur Stilwell embarked on an even bigger project: connecting Kansas City with the Pacific Ocean.  He began building the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway in 1900. Stilwell spent the next decade laying hundreds of miles of tracks throughout the Southwest and into Mexico, when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1912.  Once again his railroad went into receivership.  Though he would lose everything, many of his investors became millionaires several times over when oil was discovered along the tracks of the railroad to the Pacific he tried to build.  One of the biggest beneficiaries of the oil money was the Kemper family of Kansas City.

   After he lost the railroad, Arthur Stilwell spent his time living in New York City and wrote several books, poems, and hymns.  He would claim that little pixies/faeries that he called “Brownies” had given him all of his ideas and inspirations. 

   Stilwell was born in Rochester, New York on October 24, 1859. He married his childhood sweetheart, Jennie Wood, and brought her to Kansas City in 1879.  He died of a stroke on September 26, 1928 in his apartment on 74th Street in New York.  Two weeks later his despondent wife Jenny threw herself from the 14th story window of that same apartment and committed suicide.

Learn more about Arthur Stilwell at Vintage Kansas City

Buried at Mt. Washington - Jim Bridger

By Scott Randolph -

   Bordered by 24 Highway, Truman Road and Blue Ridge Boulevard is the Mount Washington Forever Cemetery. Claiming some of the highest vantage points in the area, this beautifully landscaped 200 acre cemetery is an Historic Landmark originally founded as a not-for-profit cemetery in 1900 by a group of Kansas City Philanthropists.

   Among the 60,000 graves in Mount Washington Cemetery are the final resting places of some of the Kansas City area's most notable figures, including one of Kansas City's earliest residents, James Felix Bridger, known as Jim Bridger (March17, 1804-July 17, 1881). Jim Bridger was among the elite of trappers, scouts, mountain men and guides during the early decades of the 19th century.
   Bridger was of English ancestry and could trace his family roots in North America back to the early colonial period. 

Born in Richmond, Virginia, he began his career in 1822 at the age of 18, as a member of the Upper Missouri Expedition. Bridger was among the first white men to see the geysers and other natural wonders of the Yellowstone area. In 1825, he gained national fame as the first European American to explore the Great Salt Lake in what is today the state of Utah. Due to it salinity, Bridger mistakenly believed it to be an arm of the Pacific Ocean.

In 1830, Bridger, along with a business partner, opened the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to cash in on the lucrative beaver fur market. (In Europe, beaver hats had been fashionable since the 16th century. The beaver pelt was highly prized for its soft yet resilient fur. By the time of the Civil War, the beaver population in North America had been driven to near-extinction.)

   After considerable success as a fur trapper, Bridger, in 1843, established a trading post at Fort Bridger, in the southwest corner of present day Wyoming. From this location, he re-supplied Mormons traveling to the Great Salt Lake as well as pioneers heading northwest on the Oregon Trail.

   Having gained a wealth of knowledge about the country through extensive exploration, Bridger discovered what would eventually be known as Bridger's Pass in 1850. This mountain pass, through the Sierra Madre Range in Wyoming, shortened the Oregon Trail by 61 miles. Bridger Pass would later be used by the Union Pacific Railroad, and Interstate 80. In 1864, he blazed the Bridger Trail, a route from Wyoming to the gold mines in Montana. During these years, Bridger also served as a scout to the US Army in their wars against the American Natives.

   In 1868, suffering from arthritis, rheumatism and other health ailments, Jim Bridger was discharged from the US Army in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. He died on his farm just south of Kansas City, (present day 103rd Street and State Line,) in 1881, at the age of 77. Today, his final resting place at Mount Washington Forever Cemetery is marked by a towering seven foot monument of granite.
The monument faces west, befitting the trailblazer and explorer it memorializes.
Photo by Joe Calton

Camp Jackson: Fairmount Park in 1898

   In April of 1898 the United States of America declared war on Spain over Cuba.  The war lasted 112 days. 2,400 young men from the Greater Kansas City area who were members of the 3rd and 4th Regiments had been mobilized to a place called Camp Mead. Among the men went the band which had played at Fairmount Park for years.

   In September our soldiers were finally on their way home.  Finding them a place to stay while they were mustering out was a problem for the military.  Both Burge Park and Fairmount Park offered to accommodate.  Fairmount won.  A good cafĂ©, bathing in the lake and Cusenbary Spring water swayed the powers that be.

   In Camp Jackson at Fairmount Park it rained a lot.  A soldier could go home if (1) he lived locally and (2) he wasn’t in the brig.  Many were and some were fined their whole $16 a month salary.  Food wasn’t always the best or plentiful.  Some local farmers came up missing chickens, and some of the chicken thieves lost their chickens to other chicken thieves before they could cook and eat them.

   Sick Call was very popular.  A shortage of beds meant that some soldiers had to sleep on the ground, rolled up in their ponchos.

   Major Will T. Stark angered his troops when he forced them to parade by his home in Independence, a round trip of 8 miles in the rain and mud, just to impress a couple of women.
To  be continued…

Improve Your Home or Business and Pay No Real Estate Tax

  This is a great program that the city of Independence offers that some people are not aware of.
  Fairmont-Carlisle and St. Clair Park 353 tax abatement programs are open for enrollment in North West Independence areas. The Fairmont-Carlisle 353 program began in 2007, and in November of 2010 St. Clair Park opened for enrollment. To date 211 parcels are enjoying tax relief with another 165 working on their homes.

   The 353 plan offers residents an incentive to rehabilitate their homes in accordance with the guidelines of the program, and pay no real estate tax for 10 years and 50% real estate tax for the following 15 years. One still pays tax on the land.

   Every home owner should take pride in the property they invested in and keep it up.
Business owners and multi-housing are encourage to participate in this program with 10 year relief.

   For more information, please call Pat Robinson at the City of Independence, 816-325-7426, Tax Abatement Administrator, or email

By Larry Gerling, Board Member  

Free Weatherization for Home Owners

   The U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Missouri are offering free weatherization improvements to homeowners who meet certain income requirements.  Renters can also benefit from this program through cooperation with their landlords.

  Improvements can range from a tune-up of your furnace and hot water heater to a complete replacement of outdated and/or unsafe heating and cooling equipment.

   The benefits to the homeowner and the planet are immediate.  According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, a partner in the program, a home that has been weatherized can reduce fuel usage by 35 percent for the typical low income home.  They say that every $1 invested in the program returns $2.51 to the household and society through lower electric and gas bills, allowing residents to spend more money in the community.  So even if you don’t qualify for free weatherization, investments you make in updating your furnace, a/c, and hot water heater will pay off in a short period of time.
   Qualifications are based on a sliding scale, with a family of 5 with a gross income of up to $55,140 a year could benefit from this program.

   For more information contact the United Services Community Action Agency, the local non-profit agency in charge of administering the Home Weatherization Program in our area.   Their number is (816) 358-6868, or you can visit their website at