Kansas City’s streets, prior to 1872, were frequently impassable by reason of the soft clay, kept continually wet by the overflow of spring water in the streets. The Johnson family were one of the first settlers to cross the Blue river, which is south of Westport. The Blue river was redesigned and gave birth to Brush Creek. The road that crossed their land was called Woodland Avenue, because when it was first laid out, there was a heavy growth of timber which gave the name to the street.
The peculiar bend in lower Main street is explained by the fact that when the street was opened and graded southward the city encountered an obstacle at Missouri Avenue. A Mr. McDaniels lived in line of the new route and he wanted one hundred dollars for interfering with his well and front yard. After several weeks spent in negotiation the city council decided the city could not afford to pay for such improvements. They compromised by turning the street westward, thus saving Mr. McDaniels’ yard and well.
Some of the streets were named for Kansas City people: Guinotte, Hardesty, Shelley, Scarritt, Bales, Goodrich, McGee, Troost, Garland, Scott, Warner, Watkins, Winants, Tichenor, Smart, Ridge, Heist, Campbell, Chouteau, Merceir, Martin, Mastin, Hasbrook, Munford, Hale, Henderson, Gregory, Holmes, Hunter, Baird, Salisbury, Hopkins, Marsh, Shcaffer, Merrill, Anderson, Allen, and Dunham.
The following thoroughfares were named for cities and states: Baltimore, Denver, Brooklyn, Colorado, Quincy, Illinois, Delaware, Alton, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Milwaukee, Michigan, Lawrence, Lexington, Rochester, Santa Fe, St. Louis, Virginia, Wyoming, St. Paul, Springfield, Fort Scott, Richmond, Winchester, Frankfort, and Independence.
These streets were named after statesmen, authors, and soldiers: Madison, Douglas, Lincoln, Lafayette, Franklin, Blaine, Monroe, Jefferson, Washington, Jackson, Cleveland, Harrison, Garfield, Benton, Fremont, Clay, Sherman, Hamilton, Gladstone, Irving, Whittier, Bryant, Randolph, Peery, Boone, Fulton, Aberdeen, Bayard, Pendleton.
Numerous changes have been made in the names of Kansas City’s streets since the period shortly after the Civil war. Previous to that time most of the streets bore the names of the members of the old pioneer families. A few have been retained.