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Conceived as a ploy to bring customers to visit the Heim Brewing Company in 1899, the original Electric Park at Chestnut and Guinotte streets grew into an attraction in its own right. Each night, the 100,000 lights that gave the park its name illuminated a roller coaster, scenic railway, carousel, skating rink, swimming pool, bowling alley, alligator farm, dime museum, theaters, dance pavilions, bandstand, penny arcade, shooting gallery, flower beds, lake, and rental boats. Most alluring were the nightly performances of costumed young women who danced to a colorful electric light show on a platform in a large fountain in the center of the lake. Sometimes known as Kansas City's Coney Island, it served as the city's greatest amusement park for nearly two decades.
Since The Kansas City Public Library launched "What’s your KCQ?" last October in partnership with the Kansas City Star , we’ve answered many reader-submitted questions about Kansas City’s history, traditions and quirks.
In recent months, we’ve explored how Kansas Citians used to travel between downtown and West Bottoms, if a reader’s father did really pay a nickel to see a giant whale in Kansas City in the 1950s — Long story short, the whale’s name was Winnie. — and why Kansas City has a bridge to nowhere.
In the Kansas City region, the name "Quantrill" is largely associated with William Clarke Quantrill, the infamous Missouri guerrilla who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and led a violent raid on the Unionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, on August 21, 1863. The Quantrill name came up in a recent What’s Your KC Q? submission by Star reader Tony Rome. Rome’s mother attended the old Benjamin Harrison School (now the Kansas City International Academy) near Interstate 435 and East Wilson Road. He recalls her mentioning a “Quantrill Park” just east of the school and asks, “Who was that Quantrill?” At the risk of reviving old border war animosities, historians in the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections searched the department’s newspaper, map, and photograph collections for the answer.
Robert Felix, a Kansas City native who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and now lives in Shawnee, has always known about the old cable car tunnel that runs below Eighth Street from downtown to the West Bottoms. As the new Kansas City Streetcar system gains popularity he wondered: Could the Eighth Street Tunnel/streetcar line be restored and used to link the two parts of the city?
Reader Wayne Moots recently asked us how people used to travel up and down the rocky bluffs that separate downtown from the West Bottoms. Moots works at the revitalized Golden Ox restaurant, and has had plenty of time to ponder this KC Q during his commute.
It’s summer in Kansas City, so it’s time for “What’s Your KCQ?” to take a swing at a baseball question. Ashley Tebbe recently submitted her question to The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Public Library about some local baseball history: "What is the history of Negro Leagues baseball trading cards?"
In October 1953, three brief articles appeared in The Kansas City Times (the morning edition of The Star), detailing the exhibition of a 40-ton, 42-foot, embalmed gray whale named Winnie. Winnie had met an untimely end a year earlier, when she encountered a U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of San Diego and lost her tail. The DuPont Company built and attached a new plastic tail, and Winnie’s preserved remains were sent on a nationwide tour.