Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A wonderful story in Sunday's Kansas City Star inspired me to investigate the Quindaro area of Kansas City, Kansas. I'd known of the town's history as a beacon of black independence, but I'd never heard of Western University.

The Star's feature prepared me for Quindaro's decrepit condition, but it was still shocking to see the extent of the decay. This weathered sign bears witness to the area's unfillfilled promise.

I really wanted to see the ruins so ignored this "no tresspassing" notice. Although the area seemed completely abandoned, I half expected to see a team of archeologists working at the site.

Two clearly agitated policemen jumped out of their car as I admired this scenic overlook. They stared me down and seemed annoyed by my apologetic wave. But instead of hassling me, they ran into a nearby abandoned building.

One of the creepiest structures I've encountered, it's an ideal location for a climatic scene in a horror movie. And based on the policemen's behavior, I'm guessing that bad stuff regularly goes down here. I'm not easily frightened, but I began to realize that I was putting myself in harm's way. I didn't shake the willies until I navigated back to Quindaro Boulevard thirty minutes later.

The policemen sped off without talking to me. I sensed that they made a mental note to recover my bullet-riddled body later that day. I began to feel sorry for this battered sculpture of John Brown.

The Star notes that it's "all that's left" of Western University. These two close shots don't really tell the story.

A wider angle photograph more accurately depicts the area's status.

This informative site claims that this historic building is a "community center," but it sure looks abandoned to me.

The Star notes that much of the area's history now lies beneath 635.

I couldn't locate the Quindaro cemetary. I'll call this number before my next visit; I'd love a guided tour.

I explored the area's side streets. It has a rustic feel reminiscent of the Ozarks.

While many of the buildings have official "not fit for habitation" notices posted on them, a handful of hardy souls apparently reside in the hills. And they own horses.

Sadly, the area also serves as a dumping ground. It's a tragically symbolic image of Quindaro's unrealized potential.


Blogger Donna. W said...

I had no inkling that Quindaro had some historical significance. I'm fascinated; this makes me want to go poke around there, but of course I won't.

All I knew about Quindaro is that back in the early 1960's when I rode buses to work and switched downtown, some of the buses had "Quindaro" written as a destination.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Mark Smith said...

Great post and pics. I wrote about my trip to the area a while back. http://midtownmiscreant.blogspot.com/2008/01/quindaro-pearl-of-kansas-city-kansasor.html

Unforunatly I forgot my camera that day. Saw the cemetary, was not good.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may or may not know I have a rather strong obsession with abandons. KCK seems ripe for exploration; this report has moved it up to the top of my list for next time I visit. Now that I can walk the streets from the safety of Google street view, it's positively urgent.

Thanks for the post--this is great stuff.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Happy In Bag said...

When I saw Chuck D last night, Donna, he spoke at length about the tragedy of not knowing our own history.

Your post, Miscreant, is more explicit than mine. It's rough around there.

It is incredibly fascinating, BD. You might also search out the sites that detail breaking into the old tunnel between the West Bottoms and downtown KCMO. That's something I really need to do.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny--that's exactly what I was doing over lunch. There's a thread in the KC urbex forum that starts out by asserting what a big secret it is, the entrance, and by the end practically gives GPS coordinates.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Miles Bonny said...

as someone who works in KCK community, I feel strongly that there is very little accountability in the county.

They need a strong independent, grass-roots community organization to turn things around.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Linjah said...

I grew up in KCK in the 50's and 60's. I didn't live in the part where Quindaro township was but I attended the old Quindaro Elementary School and knew people from areas closer to the old townsite. Also, my father owned a small restaurant in the area just after WWII. The unique history did not seem to be well known at the time, at least not among white families (I'm white), but I heard about it from both my father and a teacher at the school.

Interestingly, I think knowledge of Quindaro history helped make me a better person. Many, probably most, whites in that area were racially prejudiced in those days. Even my own parents, while not anywhere near being of the KKK ilk, believed in segregation at the time (they changed later). But even as a child, when I heard the stories about the original black community, the underground railroad, the Jayhawks and Nancy Quindaro Brown (who was part Native American, as I recall), there was a heroic and inspirational quality that seemed to make me see things differently so that I rejected any form of racism at an early age.

On a lighter side, as a child, I was facinated by that tunnel and wanted to find it!

Later, in 1971, I worked briefly for Headstart and remember taking a field trip to the John Brown statue...even then, it was a horribly poor and depressed area, although there was still a black-run neighborhood bank at the time, I recall. I wonder if that still exists in any form.

I had previously read online that more archeaological studies had taken place and hoped to visit the site some time(I've lived out of state for years) but from your descriptions and photos, it looks pretty gruesome. Sad to see both how people live and how history is lost. But I do appreciate reading about your visit. I enjoyed the midtown miscreant's blog about it as well.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Happy In Bag said...

Miles- I mean to get back with you.

Thanks for the insightful contribution, Lindi.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Naomi said...

My mother attended Western University in the early 1900s,however, I can not verify this info. since known records are not available. If anyone can help me please feel free to contact me.

11:24 AM  

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