The rules and manners of the parties attended in the frontier times is much the same today. Those rules and manners are at the discretion of the host. Although dancing was forbidden in Kansas City in 1850, this old trading post was known as a dance hall. Parties in the old Westport Saloon would have involved a sing along to the tunes of guitars and banjos, just like we do here today. Afterwards we share supper and a slice of pumpkin pie with friends. In the frontier times the evening would end with running through the woods with candles while looking for a partner to kiss. Today we stroll through the plaza enjoying the holiday lights where a kiss is shared between couples on a holiday quest.
A small group of men organized to form the town of Westport in the 1820’s. These early settlers lived in the wilderness area west of Independence Missouri and North of Saint Louis. Lewis and Clark, years earlier, had noted the territory was perfect for resting the horses with its sheltering woodlands and clear running springs.
Kansas City was one of the stopping places for early settlers in pioneer days. In those days, people traveled through Kansas City by boat, horseback, and stage-coach. Missouri offered all a man could want, rivers, valleys, hills, and plains. Yet, people were on the move West. The reasons for travel varied from fur trapping, hunting, adventurers or quest for gold.
The first structures were log cabins. Boards were applied to the exteriors later. The general shape of these oldest buildings like my house, had small panes of glass, and an outside chimney. One of the popular establishments that developed in those early days was that of the Trading Post. Trading practices with the Indians flourished because traders had a great influence with the Indians and the government relied on this relationship. The Indians were extended credit and the traders were soon able to replace the log cabins with two-story Taverns and Dance Halls.
Westport became a rough and rowdy frontier town. The town was overrun with gun-toting renegades, drunken Indians, and Mexican War soldiers. A man named, Vogel, ran a tavern in Westport. Taverns in those days were used for community business, socializing, weddings, and funerals, which took place in the large main room, often fitted with a bar and some shelves.
A priest traveling in 1840, to the frontier town of Westport noted during his travel in the Missouri wilderness, that he encountered an abandoned cabin where a poor Indian woman had died a few days earlier. Imagine Westport, where Indians with shaggy ponies tied up by the dozens to poles along the houses and fences of Westport Road. Indians, with shaved heads and painted faces, other Indians with long flowing locks and a few wrapped in blankets, all strolling down the streets and lounging about the shops. Also note, it was illegal to sell whiskey to the Indians.
This building I call home, was once a structure of an old Westport original tavern. One owner sold his old two-story wooden tavern building for $5.00. Several stories indicate that a two-story building was rolled along Westport road on huge tree logs, pulled my mules. Those logs are still under my house, to this day. The building sits on the plot of land once owned by Mr. Patterson, at the corner of Mr. Harris’ plat. Later Mr. Vogel purchased all of the Patterson’s land.
My house is about 200 yards from the Kansas Indian Missionary and Schoolhouse. The Indian School is now a museum and tourist site. It isn’t possible to walk to the missionary school from my house today, because tall, modern cement, stone and brick buildings line the roads and form multiple blocks that created a barrier where the wilderness once allowed a path. The local newspaper of Old Westport, reported that a “particular tavern not more than 200 yards from the Indian Mission was suspected of selling spirits of alcohol to the Indians and contributing to the derelict behavior of the savages.”
I live in one of the oldest wood trading posts, remaining, since the days of the pioneers. It was the last place to stop for provisions on the way west, and the first chance to buy a beer after a two months cattle drive on a dusty Santa Fe trail. (1822-1880)
- 1960 Antique Store
In 1860, the place was a tavern, by 1909 it was a general store. Shortly, thereafter if fell into the hands of a contractor. By the mid-20th century the property had seen its best days gone. In the 1950’s, it was owned by a junk dealer who had the place packed to the ceiling with antiques and had two rental apartments upstairs. It was in that condition that our good friend, Drake, acquired the property and started those late 1970 renovations. He needed a commercial building for, Drake Design, a company that made fiberglass molds for the auto industry.
My husband Bob, bought the property from Drake. After 12 years of solo labor, Bob, was able to convert the house into its present condition and design. Bob has lived here for over 30 years, practiced law, worked on his art, and rehearsed a band or two. I have lived here for five years and absolutely love the place.
The original building was a rectangular, 2 story building with a large main room on the first floor. In the late 1800’s an American Indian man, who owned the trading post/tavern, enlarged the building on the north side, doubling the size of the building to 5000 square feet, utilizing a slant in the roof for a lodge pole, the technique matched the traditional structures built by his tribe.
I first fell in love with the Trading Post when I became friends with the previous owner. He and his roommate were pattern makers, prototypers, mold-makers, and inventors. They were living in the building, using the first floor for business and rehabbing the building at the same time.
When my predecessors acquired the building it had no foundation, the first floor was open, undivided, unfinished, with a cracked and deteriorated concrete floor, giving way here and there to native soil. The second floor contained two small, shabby apartments.
In a fashion I would later learn to be typical of their cleverness, they first jacked up the building and poured a foundation UNDER it! (Originally the Trading Post had been built up the hill. When a new road was put in on the other side of a small pond separating it from the building, the owner drained the pond, hitched the building to mules, and dragged it down the hill to rest on a shale outcropping back-filled with dirt. And so it settled for more than a hundred years.)
Then they stripped the inside of the building and restuded it in its new configuration. After applying interior wall surfaces, they stripped the outside and resurfaced it as well.
Midway in the project, in 1982 they moved their business to a large, downtown commercial building and decided to part with the trading post. Years before, after dreaming someday it would be my home, I told them if it was ever for sale- I wanted it at whatever price they deemed reasonable.
You see, I am an attorney by profession, but I have been an artist showing in galleries since childhood, and a musician who has played in public almost that long. It was my dream, locked away in my law office on the 18th floor of a bank building downtown that someday I would live, work, and maintain music and art studios all in the same place.
One glorious day I received a call from Drake, the remaining partner/owner- “make me an offer!” I secured open-ended financing and met with him to learn his price. He stated a desired sale price and I unhesitatingly agreed! Two days later Drake called and requested a meeting. After a lengthy preamble about all the things wrong with the building, the failing water heater, the 5 roofs dating in part to the Civil War era, the unfinished 2/3 of the interior, Drake lowered the price by $5,000 and gave me a stern lecture on never accepting the first offer!!!
Well, after this magnificent display of compulsive honesty we became friends for life, in early 1983 I became the glowingly proud owner of the Trading Post. The first day as I sat delighted in my huge empty building the doorbell rang. A little old man from up the block came to welcome me to the neighborhood. He told me about the long history of the building- trading post, saloon where it is said Doc Holliday ran the card game, grocery store, plumbing contractor, junk shop, design studio, and finally to me. He gave me a wonderful old picture of himself as a boy standing his uncles in front of the building with wood-spoked wheel delivery trucks and handlebar moustaches when he worked in the grocery store.
Despite all the work they had put into the restoration I was still left with a daunting task. The first floor was an undeveloped disaster. I had to stud in and build walls, pour a 2000 square foot floor, build a law office and studios, a darkroom for photography, and so forth. The second floor living space of 2500 square feet could only be entered by a 45-degree ladder from downstairs, or by climbing pile of wooden peach crates to reach the two doors, unaccountably hanging 4 feet above the ground! (The building was on a slope so that both floors were theoretically ground accessible.)
The living space was partially beautifully finished in oak truck bedding, doors, window treatments, and trim. Drake had purchased a freight car load of oak left unpaid in a bankruptcy and the whole interior shoe with luscious red oak, but there was a looooong way to go!
At first the building was wonderfully empty which suited my “Italian Industrial” style taste. The problem was that decades upon decades of settling and decay had warped and tilted every floor and angle in the place! Without adding optical illusion furniture and wall hanging placements one quickly felt like a drunk in a fun house walking about the building!
Of course the spare gallery look was not to last. As the work progressed, the artwork and guitars accumulated, and the junking expedition prizes were turned into furniture and light fixtures it took on a different look. In truth it was a full 12 years before I declared the job “done.” But of course it was not. A new roof, the yard cleared of anything that had to be mown for rock garden, hot tub, an 8’x30’ herb garden, and an outside home for our duck, many revisions, new bathroom, this and that, and here we are today.
Somehow 30+ years has filled the building with art work, one of a kind furnishings, odd antiques, musical instruments, and my new art hobby 1:12 scale miniature buildings, 10 of which now crowd the living room display space along with an enclosure for our two bunnies. Hardly room for another drawing!
Today it is a quirky but wonderful home for my wife, a scientist and talented artist, and I. What will it become next? Who is to say? Check with Terrie regularly on her blog Myhouse thetradingpost.com to find out!
Bob Simons’ artwork has been featured at many of the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District and local art galleries, as well as galleries in Santa Fe. Denver, and elsewhere. The popular work of Bob Simons is now available to online shoppers.
A unique photographer and artist, he captures interesting subjects in his works. His photographs, prints, and paintings have added electric color and interest to the walls of this old Westport house. I have been trying to get Bob to share his great art with collectors and decorators. One way I have tried to market Bob’s art is on ETSY and EBAY. I thought for sure others would love to hang a print in the bedroom, dress up a wall behind the sofa, wherever; these prints would make a perfect gift for those who love art.
Prints are available on 8×10 inch, 11×14 inch, 16×20 inch, 16×24 inch, and 18×24 inch paper. The prints can be made to order in custom sizes up to 48 inches. Also available as wonderful transparencies that combine the magic color of rear illumination with sufficient “night” light to illuminate a hallway. I am happy to teach and encourage buyers to inquire about transparency projects. Placing a transparency picture in a light box is a special way to display art.
- In 1909, Mrs. Carrie Westlake Whitney, the librarian, wrote of her account of her first visit to Westport (1881), “there was incessant hammering and banging from a dozen blacksmith’s sheds, where the heavy wagons were being repaired, and the horses and oxen shod. The streets were thronged with men, horses, and mules. While I was in town, a train of emigrant wagons from Illinois passed through to join the camp on the prairie. A multitude of healthy children’s faces were peeping out from under the covers of the wagons. Here and there a buxom damsel was seated on horseback, holding over her sunburnt face an umbrella or a parasol, once gaudy enough, but now miserably faded.”
My house the trading post, in Westport (Kansas City, Missouri), once catered to the families of sturdy, good people, whose life was that of the frontier. The rules and manners of the parties attended, were at the discretion of the host. A party at the old Westport saloon would have involved dancing and a “kissing” game. This would be followed by a “supper” that included pumpkin pie, peach pie, and buttermilk. Afterwards, the fun would continue with a run through the backwoods with candles.
With the room lite with candles that “shone brightly upon the fair maidens with glossy water-falls, delaine tissue dresses, hoop skirts and family jewels.” In 1850, dancing in Kansas City, was forbidden by the churches. The young folks were allowed to have large parties, accompanied by some older persons, but the kids refused to call them “chaperons.” For fun, packs of teens, would take a passage on one of the Missouri River Boats, and dance on deck to the fiddler music. A jolly captain, with a crew that supplied the teens with good southern cooking, made this excursion highly enjoyable.
The most desired and eligible young men were from Westport. The prettiest and wealthiest girls were from Kansas City or Independence. The finest parties were hosted by the sons and daughters of the first trading post merchants, saloon owners, and farmers. The Santa Fe trade made these families wealthy. Their parties were legendary and drew in all the prettiest girls.
Before bridge parties and book clubs were popular, quilting parties were the social occasion for the mothers and daughters. Some girls would travel ten miles to arrive as early a nine o’clock in the morning, to quilt. The ladies arrived by carriage, pulled by one of the girl’s own personal riding horses. The women sat on rush bottom chairs around a quilting frame while stitching in different areas. In the company of the other quilters, pioneer women, brought up with cortly manners and elegances, kept their words polite.
The Belles of Kansas City, Missouri in 2014, are beautiful, well-mannered ladies, with charisma and a flair for taking pictures. Among the popular activities in Kansas City for kids to do include, playing soccer, hanging out at the Plaza and Union Station, and joining a modeling class. Here are a few more photos:
Work is like this old fable, The Wolf and the Crane.
“A Wolf who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone. When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed: “Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf.”
Westport Missouri, from the time it was formed until present day, has been a working class neighborhood. Wars have taken place, the burning of Mormons, the Mexican War, Civil-War, Women’s Rights and other notable history. Business continued despite these events.
I write my blog from my house the trading post. The past owners of this property were young and old people. This building holds the ghosts of the pioneers, Indians, and business owners. Its greatest contribution to history is the fact that it just exists. It has to be noted that it is a wood structure. It is remarkable that the building has existed this long, despite the number of wars, battles, and fires that took place, and the capitalist nature of the city to knock it down and rebuild. And it survived Missouri weather.
The history of Kansas City, too often discuss the same characters, like; McCoy, McGhee, Yoacham, Boone, Ewing, Vogel, Harris, Wornall, Hickman, Thomas Hart Benten, Samuel C Roby, Henry Clay Pate. Here is a short list of who had a trading post or tavern in Westport in the 1800s. It is important to note that this is not a complete census. The town was already, very big by the time the pre-civil war saloon, I live in, was built in 1853.
The goal or lifestyle of the Westport Missouri residents would have been work. They were young working class men and women. Many of the first settlers would have been in their twenties. As the town grew successful and Kansas City dug away the dirt and flattened the cliffs along the Missouri river, these pioneer families grew wealthy and moved into new homes and buildings creating downtown Kansas City. The growth in downtown Kansas City established new public-houses and buildings; built in a wise manner, with a more expressive display of dignity, even though some of the establishments were for the distribution of spirituous liquors.
This was the nature of the city, and has been ever since. Kansas City tends to invest in a new construction project, often centered on building another shopping and entertainment area, and then new construction for residential housing communities. Problem is, we haven’t run out of land. Kansas City has about 116 square miles of real estate. In Kansas City we don’t build up, we build out. Creating older communities that struggle for business. New city projects always bring in the newest technology, however, the consumer only needs the basic comforts from life.
To maintain a reasonable life-style I must work forty plus hours a week. The hours each day reserved for work are not my favorite. The work day begins at 5:30 am when the alarm goes off. I have to work at waking up. It is my habit to push the snooze until six or six thirty. I could stretch it to seven but then I wouldn’t get breakfast or have time to pack a lunch. I plan my lunch the night before. I usually have it set aside, in one area of the refrigerator. The extra time allows me to make last-minute changes as I fill my lunch bag in the morning.
I have to follow a routine to get through the hurried work morning. I shower, dry hair, moisturize, and dress. My wardrobe picked out the night before, it doesn’t have to be dressy. I choose between a blue or black, or pink uniform, and if they are dirty, I wear jeans. I prefer to wear the hospital uniform because I work in a laboratory. I perform medical testing, and I splash a lot of serum. If I’m in my scrubs when I get home, I remember I am still contaminated, but when I’m in my jeans I get comfortable, and forget I may have blood splashes on my cloths. Ack!!
By 7:30 am I am on the highway. I start the first mile or so at normal speed. By 7:37, traffic is 20 mph. I have never figured out why each day traffic slows to a crawl for several miles. Then a few minutes later I’m traveling the speed limit again and there is my exit. I manage to get into the parking lot at 7:57, my shift starts at eight. On Saturday’s shift, I get to work fifteen minutes earlier, because there isn’t any traffic.
My work days, at the laboratory, vary between Monday through Friday, or Tuesday through Saturday. By 9:00 am, I am homesick. But I don’t let on. I blow my nose, and keep looking for specimens. The morning is slow. Not many doctor offices have sent in any specimens, we are just working on orders that were added on, overnight. This is the hard part, the blood specimens have been put into a numbered order in the walk-in refrigerator. Some associates love the cooler, I hate it. But I’m responsible for the chemistry testing and must find seven specimens, in seven different boxed compartment, in the cold. My white lab coat provides some warmth. Burr!
The first weekend of every month I coach/teach a girls modeling class. A very long weekend. I feel kind-a catatonic. Zombie-ish. I try to incorporate some of that positive thinking I teach the girls, but I get tired, tired, tired. Then I don’t care, and find conversing to be a chore. Believe it or not, I like my jobs…but when striving to make another person a buck, I wonder about a lot of things. Like, why am I here?
Then it is ten in the morning, and I smile, because it is break time. I leave my white jacket on the chair, and I go to the little room that contains the only clean sink and food worthy refrigerator. I have fifteen minutes. In my pocket, I set my phone timer. During this time I wash my hands, blow my nose, wash my hands, go to the toilette, wash my hands. I nibble on fruit, salami, and cookies, while I guzzle a coke-cola. My stomach gurgles, and I give a small belch. A silly little tone vibrates from my pocket, it is time to go back. Later, I’ll take a thirty minute lunch and if time allows another fifteen minute break in the afternoon-right before I go home for the day.
With my lab coat on, I pray the hours will go by quickly. Number, after number, specimen after specimen; slowly I turn, checking name, identification number, and test order against the computer screen. Two computer screens, 1500 specimens, and a chemistry analyzer that has a mind of its own. I run several monstrous size equipment that divides the entire room. These analyzer perform the testing that once upon a time a scientist performed in test tubes with titration biurets and apparatuses. At four o’clock, I set the timer for 4:30. I try to bring the beast down, but the specimens keep coming in, I saw on the pending list that we only had 38 specimens left to complete, now there are 128. This happens every night. Doctors add more tests, after they have received the testing results. Thanks to modern computers, what the doctor sends in that day, the doctor can get results for. But, I’m contracted to stay till 4:30. We are technically, open until 5:00pm. I feel this is so similar to the fast food service industry. “May I help you?”
A few of those specimens will not get done tonight. The laboratory manager will be tense and I do not want to tell the doctors whose test results will be delayed. The lab will open at four in the morning and start the whole process all over again.
The work day may bring the blues, but the treasures within this house can almost always brighten my mood. In my bed cloths I move from room to room in this huge saloon from long ago. I carry a load of laundry through the house. I put the load of dirty cloths in the washer. I drop a quarter into the juke box. A 1954 Wurlitzer plays my selection, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” With no one in sight, I dance and sing along. At work I have my I-phone tunes, but at home I have the treasures the wolf left behind.
A Saloon’s Treasure
Jade is the color of Spring. March is the color of green. Shades of green jade are peaking out from the gray winter. It brings a smile and thoughts of being young.
Remember high school? A Friday party in class. The classroom windows open for the fresh air. There is a knock at the door. A tray of icecream cups arrive. Oh joy!