Art, blog, History, Kansas City, music, photography, Story, Uncategorized

The Outfit, my house the trading post

54old car

In 2011, FBI agent, William Ousely, involved in the prosecution of organized crime figures of Kansas City, published a book, “Mobsters in Our Midst, The Kansas City Crime Family.” He wrote several books about the mob era, 1900-1980s. In his testimony as an expert witness on mob activities, he claimed his sixth sense alerted him that danger was imminent or something big was going to happen. The existence of a Mafia-like organization has been disputed since the 1950s.

Do you know how funny, (lack of better word) to see your husbands name in a book related to organized crime? Bob Simons, my husband, a Kansas City attorney, has had the misfortune of associating with some of the city’s notorious criminals during his 40 years practice of law. He tells me of the days when favors and money flowed freely; but his secretary was murdered, and his law partner was shot in the head. As he recalls those days, the hair on the back of my neck and all along my arm start to feel like a cool air has passed over.

The historical reality is that the old Kansas City underworld has been a part of the fabric of Kansas City life. Prohibition helped fuel the growth of the vice and corruption between the crime family and the political alliance. The corruption was at the level of the judges of both the federal and Jackson County courts.  Mobsters in Kansas City played rough, leaving behind hundreds of bloody stories of gangland activities since the 1900s.

The mobs criminal activities have been referred to as the national alliance of crime families, La Cosa Nostra, the Outfit, or the Clique. By 1931, twenty-six U.S. cities were suspected to have similar crime families that were restricted to men of Italian descent who had political, economic, and good social standing in the community. No crime family has ever referred to itself as the Mafia.

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The Italians settled in the Northland of Kansas City. One of the founding fathers was Sicilian-born. In the early 1900s, the Italians of the Northland adhered to the culture and protocols of the Old World Sicilian Mafia. In 1940, Nick Civella was a member of the Kansas City outfit. Many have remained in the shadows, never being identified.

Joe Bonano was identified as the Who’s-Who of Hoods of New York in 1957. Along with, Joe Filardo and Nick Civella, who were identified as being part of the Kansas City Missouri mob family. Kansas City’s organized crime society has tried to avoid scrutiny. Their formula relied on ignorance, forgetfulness, and apathy on the part of the public and their political influence. The sponsors of the mob were members of the business community.

The Bonano family of Kansas City is responsible for the beautiful stone and masonry work in my backyard. Read the Garden of Eden for more about the backyard. Visit my blog again, myhousethetradingpost.wordpress.com for more stories of Kansas City’s unknown past.

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Art, blog, History, Kansas City, music, photography, Story, Uncategorized

Fire Safe, my house the trading post

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From the time the log-cabins fell into disuse and the first frame business and house dwellings began to appear, Kansas City has had fire protection. Few cities have been so fortunate as Kansas City in escaping disastrous fires. In the beginning, neighbor helped neighbor. Later fire companies were formed which were also social organizations. The few men who formed the fire company were associated with both socially and in fighting fires. The head of the fire company’s social order was the foreman.

The first fire company in Kansas City was organized in 1837. After the war, the revival of commercial enterprises and erection of new buildings, came the need for better fire protection. Not long after the water works department had been established the city installed fire hydrants. Today, the Kansas City Fire Department is operated by the city under the command of fire Chief, Paul Berardi. There are 34 fire stations under Kansas City’s seven battalions.

My husband and I have a game we play, taking pictures of the fire truck and the firemen at the local Westport grocery store. We see the fire truck at the grocery store a lot. We try to get a picture of the guys buying junk food and stuff in between emergency and non-emergency calls. We understand that when there is a non-emergency, the fire trucks often have time to stop at the grocery store after going on a call. But their impulsive buying habits make my husband and I laugh.

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Art, blog, History, Kansas City, Story, Uncategorized

Streets Covered In Snow

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In Kansas City there is a natural road, the old Indian trail, provides the easiest route for me to drive about the city. There are two nice highways, constructed, in the Twentieth Century. Interstate-35, North and South, zips through the city. Interstate-70 takes drivers East and West.  However, the Indian trail, now paved, consist of a variety of inner city streets that are often S-shaped or at an angle to the block streets that dip and rise throughout the city.

During the cow town years, the clay roads became impassable when wet. In 2014, the streets in the “bottoms” still flood. The city around Westport floods. The cement city cannot absorb the rainwater fast enough on most rainy days. Many drivers have lost their cars and lives in Kansas City due to high water. I have been caught in such a scary situation before.

Your heart is racing, the streetlights providing the only light to guide you. Unless the transformers have blown up, lighting strikes out the streetlights. The darkness hides the dips in the road that are under water; if you drive into a street under water there is a chance your car will float away into a deep ditch and sink. I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes. With the children still young, screaming at the top of their lungs in the back seat, out of fear for their life.

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This morning the snow laid on the ground, all the neighborhood covered in white. I love the snow. I also love to drive in the snow, or at least I don’t mind it. My husband and son were not as thrilled that I drive at all. I drive a Mustang. I am an old’ fashioned girl; every woman in 1850 owned her own pony. I own a modern pony.

My son was late for work; he needs to get up an hour early to be able to ride the bus to work. He rightfully lost his drivers license (years ago), and walks to most of his destinations. The metro bus driver zoomed past his stop, earlier in the morning at 1:00 am.

E-mo had just gotten off work. Pappa John’s is right in front of the Metro Bus stop, so E-mo knows the bus had not stopped yet. He stood in the dark of the night, the snow falling, and the streets becoming harder to maneuver. The metro bus came roaring down the street. E-mo was the only person standing on the sidewalk, among the white snow, his black and red Pappa Johns hat obvious below the streetlight. The bus drove past him, never stopping.

Behind the bus traveled three cars. The first car passed by. E-mo put out his thumb to hitch a ride. The second car had three men swerving in the snow, laughed and flipped E-MO off. The third car was a Jimmy John’s delivery car. All appeared to pass E-mo by in the snow, so early in the morning. E-mo looked up, and saw that the first car that drove behind the bus had stopped. The car was backing up, he was coming back to pick him up. E-mo had a ride.

The driver was an out of town man, driving a rental. He was Asian and had a bit of an accent. E-mo thanked the man for picking him up. Promised to give the man a free pizza if he’d like to visit Pappa John’s and buy a pizza.  The man appreciated the offer, however, he was just in town for a business meeting and wouldn’t be staying long. The stranger seemed to know the streets, like he’d been to Kansas City before. I prayed for the stranger after he dropped Emo off at the house.

The stranger was now in the oldest part of town. The streets dip and rise to an elevation that is impossible to drive up. In the distance I can hear the tires of a car stuck in the snow. The city plow trucks will not be done with the streets for many hours.

The morning comes too soon, when it snows; E-mo overslept, and needed a ride to work. His only option was for me to drive him in the snow with my Mustang. I was up, dressed, and warming up my car. My husband shaking his head “no.” My son dragging his feet in the snow wishing I didn’t have to drive him. He was scared. Bad memories from the days of the flash floods. Snow is different.

I learned how to drive, growing up in Chicago, my birthday, is December 21. Do I have to give any more references to my snow driving qualifications? I can out drive any Missouri driven SUV or 4WD, on a snow day. Do not get in the car with me on a bright, clear, warm, sunny day; then my mind wanders and I drive like an idiot.

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The first route I took the tires on the Mustang spun and spun; however I was proud to have gotten up the hill further than the Camaro that I passed.  I turned the Mustang into a driveway, backed up into the street and headed down hill. The car picked up speed and I used the slippery snow to make the turn at the bottom of the hill. My son holding on to the dashboard and the side handle of the door. Taking a one-lane, Side Street that is rotted with potholes, now smooth in the snow. I ride the car through the stop sign so that it will pick up speed and make it up to Rainbow Boulevard. I’m in Kansas now. In Kansas, they have all their streets cleared of the snow. I have to get back over to Missouri, and up to 20th street.

I turned onto Westport Road, merging back into Missouri, the snow is several inches thick on the roads, and the plows are in front of us; three trucks in a row. The snowplows were barely skimming the pavement. It appears that the Kansas City snowplows are traveling too fast and the shovel isn’t engaged low enough to move any snow off the street. I’m driving and thinking their technique doesn’t look right. Then I turn onto McGee, and 20th, and drop Emo off in front of Pappa John’s Pizza.

The return trip was uneventful, except I followed three more snowplow trucks that were driving in a row without the shovels low enough to move snow off the street.

Sunday, in Kansas City, is like a ghost town. The buildings look empty. The streets are lacking of people. The lonely cars parked along the streets, the only indication people are near by.

snow-dogsSnow-angel

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Art, blog, History, Kansas City, music, Story, Uncategorized

My House The Trading Post Pioneer Days

Chapter 1

Early Settlers In Pioneer Days

1900's
1900’s

Kansas City was one of the stopping places for early settlers in pioneer days. At one time people traveled through Kansas City by boat, horseback, and stage-coach. Missouri offered all a man could desire, 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.

A small group of men organized to form the town of Westport in the 1820’s. These early settlers liked 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.

Gillis house

The first structures were log cabins. Boards were applied to the esteriors 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. My house is that tavern.

In the winter of 1829, a resident of Westport, a Mrs. Rachel Patterson was widowed when her husband had a heart attack. Mrs. Patterson survived with 6 children, I think mostly boys. Sadly, Mrs. Patterson was denied the right to have title to her land where Mr. Patterson had built their homestead. Her land was situated on the far west quadrant of Westport, along the Kansas State Line. Kansas at the time was Indian Territory.

Most mothers snatched their children from the paths of the madmen and travelers in Westport. However, the Patterson children played with the Indian children from the Kansas reservation and grew up friends with the Indians and had a way with making friends with folks around town. This was a lucky thing for Widow Patterson, because, as she took her “land ownership” case to court, she would need a few secret admirers to help her succeed.

Mrs. Patterson vs. the State of Missouri, Jackson County, Westport Kansas City, was a case that is documented to have started in 1830 and wasn’t settled until 1877. Widow Patterson did win her case. But by then, women’s rights had begun, slavery had ended, and the Indians even moved on. The fascinating part of the story, is how Mrs. Patterson survived all those years and how my present day house may have provided income for the Patterson’s family.

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My research has discovered that Mrs. Patterson may have sold whiskey. While, flour mills were in operation in Independence the whiskey business was popular in Westport. By the 1830’s there were two-million people in all the Missouri Territories. The earliest census of Westport stated that there were 12 businesses, including one Indian owned trading post. Nine of those businesses were taverns or trading posts.  Men like John McCoy, had a combination general store, tavern, home, and post office. The women of the time ran businesses, too. These businesses were often, boarding houses, or the women sold fresh bread.

A priest traveling in 1840, to the frontier town of Westport noted that during his travel in the Missouri wilderness, 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.

It is my belief that Mrs. Patterson or her sons ran a tavern on the west of end of town, and sold Whiskey to the Indians. Pieces of history indicate that this building I call home, was once that structure of an old Westport original tavern.  After Kelly’s Tavern burn to the ground as a result of a kitchen fire, men started to remove the old wooden buldings. One owner sold his old wooden tavern building for as little as $5.00.  Several stories indicate that two-story buildings were rolled along Westport road on huge tree logs, pulled my mules. Logs are still under my house, to this day.

Mr. Kelly, a prominent tavern owner, lost his first wooden tavern, at the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Ave., to a fire. Irishmen brought with them a great skill for brick and stone. He hired many talented Irishmen to build a brick tavern on the corner; where it is still in operation today. Kelly’s Tavern in Westport is the oldest surviving tavern in Kansas City. I loved drinking and dancing there in my 20’s (in the 1980’s). Every college kid, from far and near has partied at Kelly’s Tavern.

Other shop owners were jealous that Mr. Kelly had such a fine brick establishment, that many replaced their taverns with brick also. Although, the paper trail ended regarding the purchase of the building and moving it down the street, I believe that a man like, Mr. Harris gave or sold the building to Mrs. Patterson or one of her sons or to someone who rented land. Because 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 create 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.”

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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)

1909 Grocery store.
1909 Grocery store.

A boy, as tall as the gentlemen he poses with, stands in front of the grocery store in a picture, from the year 1909.  That young man was 98 years old, when he shared his accounts of the property. He lived up the street from us. He gave Bob, that picture of our house. The man had worked there, at the time of the turn of the century.  As he tells it, his family owned and operated the grocery store.  When the property was first built, the Santa Fe trail and cattle drive came through Westport.  This property, was the last post to buy something for settlers leaving town and the first place the cowboys saw, coming in.

Originally, the two-story building was fifty-yards up the hill. There was a pond at the current spot of the residence. Once the pond drained down to bed rock the house was set squarely by the road. The house was set along the far side of the pond, by engineering logs under the building, and dragging it down the hill with mules. The dirt foundation was replaced with cement, sometime in the 1980’s. In order to pour the foundation, the house had to been raised, exposing the huge logs for the first time since the logs were used to move the structure in 1855.

Pioneer lunch pail and coffee thermos
Pioneer lunch pail and coffee thermos

During the renovations that began in the late 1970’s,  a portion of an old dirt road and cobblestone curb was discovered in the backyard while Bob was landscaping, along with old medicine bottles and whisky jars. The Five layers of roofing and petrified wood on the house, provided an architectural manual of the different carpentry techniques used, as each layer exposed the years dating back to 1860.

1960 Antique Store
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.

2008 Law Office
2008 Law Office

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.

1867
1867

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.

Old Santa Fe Trail. 45th street facing west toward, Bell Street.
Old Santa Fe Trail. 45th street facing west toward, Bell Street.

During the spring and summers of 1852- 1855, over 90,000 head of cattle traveled the by-way each year. The Stockyards operated in Kansas City’s west bottoms from 1871-1991. Once the railroad was installed it became the main means of transportation after 1870. These events had a significant impact on my house, the trading post, and its history.

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Art, blog, History, Kansas City, Story, Uncategorized

My House The Trading Post & The Phone

1940 Tax Assessor photo, kclibrary.org
1940 Tax Assessor photo, kclibrary.org

Westport was annexed by Kansas City, in 1898, after voters approved it. The town of Westport would cease; but the residents gained better police and fire departments, street lighting and actual streets, and more schools. With the new streets came water lines and electricity. The phone, along with utilities, like water and electricity expanded from 1879 to 1910.

Novice inventors had been playing around with electricity since the 17th Century, for amusement and other zany purposes. It wasn’t until 1820 that a classroom experiment demonstrated an electric current down a wire could move the dial of a compass creating a magnetic field. The brilliant collection of inventions in the 1870’s connected technologies and resulted in the birth of the phone and many other must-have, necessities for life.

Small entrepreneurs started up electric companies.  Electric companies popped up in every corner. However, only the businesses and wealthy residents, in the core of the city could afford the new technology. Power companies consolidated and as another natural monopoly was created, municipal ownership and State registered companies formed. The city was able to provide essential services like electricity to everyone. By 1920, public power had raised the standard of living and brought electric to the rural areas and even to the poorest of households.

Although the concept of the telephone had been on the inventors’ desks since 1853, the telephone didn’t make an impact until electricity became available. In America we give credit to Alexander Bell and his partner Watson for the telephone, and Thomas Edison for lights. Alexander Bell was the first to make it to the patent office to claim the phone. There were actually many working on various projects that together with trial and error became the most used technology.

The house I live in operated as a tavern or saloon and dance hall until 1904, when the streets started to be paved. The neighborhood started to take on a new life. Instead of dusty cowboys needing to quench their thirst, development brought fathers and housewives with children into the tastefully attractive new homes being built. The history of this old Westport trading post building reflects the changes of the community at the time.

The Vogel family owned the land in 1879, acquiring it a piece at a time, from each of the adult Patterson children. Rachael Patterson had won her inheritance claim to the land in 1873. She was an old woman at this time and living with her daughter-in law North of Kansas City. The public tax records of that year indicate that Mrs R Patterson, widow, received $10 for the sale of spirits and rent. This may also mean, that Mrs. Patterson rented the building to Vogel and had to pay a tax because liquor was sold on the property. Vogel was the owner of the saloon at that time.

The Vogel’s had the Patterson farm until 1904 when they sold it to the Charter Oak Lot Company. While crews cleared the land for the new subdivision, the saloon became a spot for a liquid lunch or beer thirty (a phrase for a beer, thirty minutes after work shift ends).

In the last years of the saloon days, a telephone was installed. For the few residents that patron the bar, the phone was a means of messaging to the outside world. A new generation of patrons came to the saloon, he was the street contractor, the crews of men installing the plumbing, electricity, phones, and the tree cutters.The atmosphere wouldn’t have been anything to write home about. The light would have been dim, and the air stale with the smell of liquor and cigar smoke. Items like pickled eggs from a jar and a glass of cold milk might have been the only food available for a working man who might be waiting at the tavern for a call from his family in Illinois.

By 1906, there were 217 homes built on the Vogel land, owned by the Bargain Realty Company. With new residents moving in, the tavern lost appeal. The Vogel family abandoned the saloon. The building was once again sold. This time it became a grocery store. A convenient place for the 217 new homeowners to pick up an item on their grocery list. A mother could send her youngster off to the store with a handwritten note of the items she needed and the store clerk would fill the order and deliver the items himself.

Several men worked at the grocery store. The building was quite large, one large room on the first floor with a double door  entrance under a porch roof. Inside the walls were bare and simple planks of wood lay directly on the dirt beneath. The hum of a motor for the cooler to the meat counter rattled whenever someone stood on just the right floor board. The building, having been moved some 50 years earlier, would have started to sag in places.

Upstairs was divided. The owner rented an apartment to one of the men who worked behind the butcher counter. The other side, leading down to the grocery store, contained the refuge of the years, old bottles and crates, tools and other artifacts; plus the overflow of merchandise from the grocery store. The gentlemen who worked here were cheerful and chatty, they provided delivery service of their goods.

By 1930, everyone  in the neighborhood could afford to have a phone in the house, the store no longer served the community as a place to quench your thirst. The store owner didn’t know your name or let you use his phone for personal use. Outside the building stands a man holding a cardboard, five feet long, with the phone number of the furniture store that occupied the corner of 46th and Bell.

The forgotten wall phone
The forgotten wall phone
Pioneer lunch pail and coffee thermos
 Victorian lunch pail and coffee thermos
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