Kansas City, MO

Quality Hill is a historic area and is said to be one of the first neighborhoods in Kansas City

CJ Coombs

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Quality Hill, Kansas City, Missouri ca. 1918.Source unknown, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a lot of history in the Quality Hill neighborhood close to downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It’s on a bluff where you can look out to see where the Kansas River and Missouri River meet in the West Bottoms that’s also close to the Kansas border.

In 1978, Quality Hill Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It doesn't just include a residential area; there are businesses too.

At one time, this surviving neighborhood was considered fashionable in the late 1800s. It still represents architecture that spread across decades from 1856 to 1929.

It reflects an area which was developed by distinguished 0wners, and residents originally from the East — New York, New England, and Pennsylvania, who played a major role in the early settlement. (Source.)

The birth of Quality Hill

In the late 1850s, Quality Hill used to be an expensive place to live. Large homes that overlooked the West Bottoms were inhabited by wealthy and powerful leaders of Kansas City. At that time, the West Bottoms was where industrial businesses, stockyards, and railroads could be found.

If you read Tom’s Town, then you know all about Tom Pendergast who was the city’s political boss back in the day. His brother, James, owned a saloon in the West Bottoms.

In 1941, a park built on Quality Hill overlooked the downtown airport. That was arranged by Pendergast with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Pendergast had a statue of his brother, James, made which sits in the park. There’s also a Lewis and Clark monument in Ermine Case Junior Park representing where the Lewis and Clark expedition made a stop. a bicycle trail that runs along the Missouri River and along the bluff.

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Jim Pendergast statue on Quality Hill overlooking the West Bottoms in Kanas City, Missouri.Photo by poster in August 2006, CCA-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.
This trail system links the central business district of Kansas City, Missouri, the River Market and Berkley Riverfront to Quality Hill, the Westside, the West Bottoms, Strawberry Hill and downtown Kansas City, Kansas. (Source.)

Changes with Quality Hill

During the 1960s, with people moving to suburbs, the population downtown was going down. There were more upscale areas going up in south Kansas City. People living in Quality Hill were relocating. In time, Quality Hill was losing its lustre.

With later revitalization, Quality Hill was restored to an attractive upscale neighborhood. The architecture is a combination of both old and new with Federal and 19th-century French styles.

As the population of downtown Kansas City grew, Quality Hil's population increased which meant the cost of living went up there as well. According to the 2020 census, the "greater downtown Kansas City’s population jumped 29.4% over the last decade to 27,831 residents."

According to The Kansas City Business Journal's May 2022 published article, Quality Hill Apartments in historic Kansas City neighborhood go on the market, Quality Hill Apartments are on the market. The property consists of 331 units and 16 residential buildings.

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A view of an entrance to the Quality Hill neighborhood in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.Photo: Troy Diggs in 2005, CCA-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons.
The Quality Hill Center Historic District is significant as the first and largest redevelopment project in Kansas City to use state and local urban renewal legislation to finance and enable the acquisition of land for the construction of resources designed to eliminate blight in a targeted area. (Source.)

Logistically, Quality Hill is within walking distance of several venues of entertainment like the Sprint Center or the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

West Terrace Park

West Terrace Park goes back to the early 1900s. Along Kersey Coates Drive, there was a retaining wall and towers designed with a staircase where you could walk down to a grotto and the drive. With parts of Interstate 35 being constructed, part of the architecture was destroyed.

In the 1960s, parts of the park — including a road, a grotto, and a staircase, were demolished for the Interstate 35 extension. Over time, the history and grandeur of what was left of the park was covered by mud, graffiti, trash and invasive bush honeysuckle. (Source.)

An interesting occurrence in Quality Hill was reported on in KCUR's 2015 article, One Kansas City Man Made It His Mission To Dig Out This Forgotten, Buried Park. This article discussed a man's determination to unbury stairs that were buried years before at West Terrace Park, also on the bluff. He grew up in Quality Hill.

It’s really amazing the stairs were uncovered. Click here to read the whole story of how architectural designer and Kansas Citian fulfilled the goal of bringing a piece of history back.

Thank you for reading. Keeping history alive.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO
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