I’ll come clean: I’m really embarrassed to admit that, prior to arriving this morning, I thought Kansas City was in Kansas, when in fact it’s in Missouri. Hence, my celebrations at finally reaching Kansas turned out to be a bit premature (thanks to commenters below, I’ve now learned that Kansas City actually exists in both Missouri and Kansas, with the river as the dividing line; I don’t remember any of this mentioned in my 3rd grade US geography class!).
We didn’t have much time to spend in KC, so we drove around the downtown, passing by what appeared to be a great old theater (the first of many we were to encounter as we headed west):
An old warehouse – not especially notable…
…except for this great, very simple sign:
Old Westport seemed to be the destination in town that draws tourists, so we headed that way – passing this really interesting building at the corner of Westport and Main:
Across from it was an office building…
…covered in very whimsical, ornate patterns. I especially love how rays of light from the lamps are integrated into the design:
Another theater that is no more – the Warwick, which opened in 1912 and could seat 1,022 customers on two floors. It closed in 1953 and now appears to be vacant:
After taking a few wrong turns, we finally found it: Historic Old Westport! Westport was originally settled in 1831 and incorporated in 1857, and thrived as a supply center for migrants taking the Oregon, California, Santa Fe, and Lewis & Clark trails.
Westport was eventually annexed by Kansas City in 1897. Below, the oldest building in Kansas City is the Albert Boone store, once an outfitter for wagon trains during the 1800’s. Today, it’s a bar:
However, as interesting as all this might be, I will forever remember Old Westport for one thing: the home of the one and only Burger Mobile:
Though I’ve never seen another Burger Mobile to compare it to, I really can’t imagine a more perfect rendering:
The Burger Mobile was clearly superior to our Hyundai Accent, and we were shamed to park behind it.
A dusty marker identifying the Santa Fe trail outside the Westport Flea Market bar:
I really hate malls, and the idea of making a detour to visit a mall on a roadtrip is akin to blasphemy…But we had to make an exception to see Country Club Plaza, the very first mall in the world. When we turned the corner and found ourselves on the streets of Seville, Spain, I have to admit that it was not what I was expecting.
To be specific, Country Club Plaza is the very first shopping center in the world designed for customers arriving by car. When developer J. C. Nichols began buying land in a remote area for the purpose, he was ridiculed, and the project was referred to as Nichols’ Folly. Today, it covers 55 acres and is home to a number of upscale stores and restaurants.
Best of all is the architecture, which could be described as Seville by way of Epcot. A Barnes and Noble:
Below is Giralda tower, the tallest building in the shopping complex…
…half the size of its original in Seville:
Country Club Plaza features over 30 murals, tile mosaics, and fountains. Rather than rely on the typical sprawling mall parking lot, parking garages are hidden behind shops, or on top of roofs.
Detail above a door – if only this style of mall had caught on:
Another tower – note the weathervane, as well as tilework on the clock face:
Moorish arches on a Sears:
Tiles outside Starbucks:
This was outside Starbucks as well. At first, I thought the boy was peeing on a frog. Then I realized the frog is spitting on the boy. I’m not sure which is weirder:
One of many tile mosaics on the sides of shops:
That was all the time we had for Kansas City, and we headed west to rejoin our route. Because US-50 mirrors Interstate-35, we decided to follow our guide’s advice and take US-56, ultimately rejoining with 50 in Kinsley, Kansas.
We came to Baldwin City, home to Baker University (notable alumni: the founders of Panda Express). We detoured to drive through their small but charming main drag…
This City Hall building is as classic as they come. I half-expected Jimmy Olson to run out with his latest scoop from the mayor’s office.
Parmenter Hall – the first building built on Baker University’s campus, constructed of native sandstone.
In between towns, we again found ourselves traveling past endless farmland. One in particular…
A closer look:
Looks like we’re finally in Kansas!
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