Engineered Irony: Octave Chanute’s Kansas City Bridge
There was no greater boon to Kansas City’s early development than the opening of the Hannibal Bridge in 1869. Designed by civil engineer Octave Chanute, it was the first railway to span the Missouri River and transformed a Western frontier town into a commercial hub. Most notably, it gave rise to the West Bottoms’ stockyards industry.
In a discussion of his latest book, Engineered Irony: Crossing Octave Chanute’s Kansas City Bridge for Teams and Trains, 1867-1917, local author, historian, and preservationist David W. Jackson chronicles the history of the engineering marvel that arguably made Kansas City the metropolis it is today. He explores the stories of the men (and a few women) who constructed the bridge, including those who perished performing their craft. He also recounts the great fanfare leading up to its dedication on July 3, 1869.
For the past 20 years, Jackson has researched, written, and published books on Kansas City and Jackson County’s rich history, lectured on the area’s diverse heritage, and advocated for the preservation of historic sites. His presentation is co-presented by the Historic West Bottoms in conjunction with the organization’s 2022 Heritage Days celebration.