What's Your KC Q?

What do you want to know about our community? The Library and The Kansas City Star combine resources to find answers to questions about regional topics ranging from the history of barbecue to the stories behind local landmarks. Readers submit questions, the public votes on their favorites, and a team of librarians and reporters digs in and reports back with answers.

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You Asked, We Answered

J.P. Morgan of Olathe suspects most people haven’t noticed the bridge that goes nowhere in Kansas City, even though thousands of drivers pass it on their daily commutes.

It’s in the Benton Curve on Interstate 70, between Benton Boulevard and Indiana Avenue.

"I’ve seen it for years and I was always wondering,” Morgan said. “I’ve tried to look it up online but found no information on it whatsoever."

What's Your KCQ?

Is Kansas City the home of baseball's original fans? The almanac On This Day in America credits a local newspaper, presumably The Star or The Times, with making the first-ever reference to the sport's followers as "fans" in March 1889. We investigated the claim.

Unidentified Kansas City baseball team with dozens of fans seated in the grandstand, ca. 1880s. Photo: Missouri Valley Special Collections

With the Chiefs hanging up their cleats until next fall, Kansas City sports fans turn their attention to the beginning of Royals spring training. As part of our ongoing What’s Your KC Q? collaboration with the Kansas City Star, we’re asking for your questions about Kansas City’s long history with America’s pastime.

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A recent What’s Your KC Q? submission asked us to explain the odd, seemingly arbitrary state line between Kansas and Missouri as it passes through the West Bottoms. The asker describes himself as a geography nerd with an interest in maps who’s always wondered why the Missouri border doesn’t extend to the Kansas River. When you look at it, the line does seem strange. Just to the north, the state line begins following the more obvious Missouri River. Why not just push the line a few hundred yards west to make things nice and neat? Seems like a no-brainer.

What's your KC Q graphic

The excitement at Arrowhead Stadium during the divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts got Tom Solon to wondering how the stadium got its name. “I’ve always thought it was an awesome name for a stadium,” Solon writes to KCQ, a recurring feature in which The Kansas City Star, in partnership with the Kansas City Public Library, answers readers’ questions. Read on for the back story on the naming of the stadium.

Arrowhead Stadium

The name River Quay (pronounced “key”) harkens back to the settlement of fur trader François Chouteau, who established a landing post in the 1820s near today’s River Market. Quay, a word of Old French origin meaning “loading platform” or “wharf,” was used to describe the natural rock ledge that served as a landing place for steamboats delivering cargo to the burgeoning towns of Westport and Independence.

What's your KC Q? The River Quay

Driving around Kansas City in late December this year, you’d be hard pressed to spot any snow, let alone a humongous snowman. Yet, if you could take a step back to the winter of 1964 you would see one towering high over Gillham Park. Frosty was designed that year by Vernon Jones, the Kansas City Parks Department’s then-supervisor. Each year, Frosty, Santa, toy soldiers and other displays visited the park just south of Gillham Road and 39th Street at Christmas time as part of Santa’s Wonderland.

What happened to the snowman that was displayed in Gillham Park?

UPDATED Question: What happened to all the Christmas decorations that used to be downtown, particularly the crowns strung across the streets with garland?

In our first response to this question, I reported that the Merchants Association began displaying crowns at busy downtown intersections in 1957. Thanks to an observant reader with a special connection to the crowns, I now realize that this date is incorrect. In fact, evidence points to the crowns first being installed in 1962.

How many man-made underground spaces does KC have? Like SubTropolis or the tunnels connecting the buildings around Barney Allis.

Beneath Kansas City’s urban edges exists more than 20 million square feet of business, said Mike Bell, vice president of Hunt Midwest , which owns SubTropolis — a sprawling underground complex that’s “wide enough to hold 42 Arrowhead Stadiums.” It was developed by Lamar Hunt’s family, who also owns the Chiefs.

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Question: How did “Union Station” get its name and why do so many other older railroad stations have that name?

It’s true that Kansas City’s Union Station doesn’t have a unique name. In fact, I found a similar question had been addressed by The Smithsonian Magazine in November 2017. The author explains that the term “union station” was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to indicate a hub in which multiple railroad companies operated. For example, you could enter a union station via a train on a small regional line and then switch to a larger national line to continue your journey. By today’s standards, it would be like changing airlines during a layover at an airport.

Union Station postcard

Question: What happened to all the Christmas decorations that used to be downtown, particularly the crowns strung across the streets with garland?

A timely question as we enter holiday light season in the Kansas City area. Short of digging through the attic at City Hall, my first thought was to consult Monroe Dodd’s 2001 book Christmastime in Kansas City: The Story of the Season. According to Dodd, the Christmas shopping season was a modest affair in the years before World War I. The economic boom that followed the war changed things, and beginning in 1924, a group of downtown retailers pooled their resources to festoon the streets with garland and other decorations. In 1925 they added a parade to kick off the holiday season.

postcard showing a christmas crown decoration

The KCTV broadcast tower at 31st Street and Grand Avenue once served as a 1,042-foot tall beacon at night, visible for miles around with more than 1,300 white lights tracing its four legs. But the tower has been unlit for more than a decade. Kansas City native Todd Hembree wonders why — and if — the lights will ever return.

KCTV5 Tower

Question: What happened to the really cool looking city hall at 5th and Main?

Answer by Michael Wells, Missouri Valley Special Collections Librarian

Really cool looking is definitely an accurate description of Kansas City’s second City Hall building. To gain a better sense of what’s so cool about it, I began by consulting architectural historian George Ehrlich’s Kansas City, Missouri: An Architectural History, 1826-1990.

City Hall

Since The Library launched “What’s Your KC Q?” with the Kansas City Star, we’ve received dozens of questions about Kansas City from curious readers. We’ve answered questions about Kansas City street signs, the possibility of a downtown Royals stadium and the history of Kansas City’s name. We’ve explained how to find answers on your own. Now, we’re opening our first voting round with three reader-submitted questions.

This voting round is currently closed

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Self-proclaimed grammar nerd Don Beggs of Brookside reached out to The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Public Library “What’s Your KC Q?” team to ask about the city’s street signs.

The city seems to be lacking style, Beggs said. More specifically, it appears the city doesn’t follow a stylebook when it comes to abbreviating or capitalizing street labels.

31st and Troost street sign