Friday, March 27, 2009

Harlem in KC










On the north side of the Missouri River between the Heart of America Bridge and the Downtown Airpot lies Harlem. Called by that name since the middle of the 1800s it was for many a village in an urban setting. Harlem had church, school, markets and quite the fishing industry for years despite being flooded repeatedly . 1881, 1903, 1951... just to name a few. Comes from being right on the riverfront. Today the levee blocks most of the view of the city to the south and only a few homes remain. This part of North Kansas City is now mostly industrial. St. Peter's Church, picture above, proclaims itself Orthodox Catholic.


22 comments:

  1. I used to live at 315 Harlem Road. House is long gone. Back then you could go up on the levee and then down, right to the river's edge. My cousins and I also used to climb the steps up ASB Bridge and walk across.

    Danged if I don't think that Catholic Church used to be Harlem Baptist Church, where my cousin and her other grandma used to sing in the choir. It sure looks like the same building.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

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    1. The church is the old Harlem Baptist Church. The baptist church closed in late 2005, but has still been functioning as a church. This past September we hosted a reunion at the old church (107 years the building has been there)

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  2. It certainly looks more Baptist than Catholic. Seems to be well maintained so must have an active flock. The houses that I show in this are all that are left... a couple others have been converted to businesses. That would have been a wonderful place to be a kid!!

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  3. Wonderful in some ways, but a bit risky; it wasn't the best of neighborhoods. I recall being rather mauled by a couple of boys on the school bus; scared me to death, and after that I sat in a seat close to the front.

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  4. Am wondering if Eddy's is still down there.
    Oh, you forgot the "great" flood of 1908 as well!
    I had a client (liquor distributor) just to the east of there during the 93 flood. Missouri River was literally inches from cresting the levee. When I openly asked about that, indicating surprise they were still there, I was met with a very quiet "shhhhhh, we're not talking about that".

    Very interesting place.

    Sportster
    ...get the rowboats!

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  5. Didn't see "Eddys".... really nothing anymore for "visitors".. all industrial or vacant. All but two of the remaining homes are occupied... sorta....

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  6. When you Google Harlem Baptist Church kansas City, and St. Philip Catholic Church, KC, you get the same address.

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  7. Good detective work Donna. I'll bet the Baptists sold to the Catholics... thank goodness some history is saved in this town.... although for how long who knows.

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  8. Best not tell the city of Kansas City about that church. They'll have it down in a heartbeat.

    Sportster
    ...sniffin out history to knock down

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  9. I remember as a kid going to work on Saturdays with my Dad. He worked at a conveyor manufacturing company in NKC. When we'd drive over the bridge, I could see an old raggedy-tent-scrap-wood structure in Harlem. I was told that an old Indian lady lived in the place. I don't know til till day if this was the truth or not, but seeing and wondering about her life was a memory-point of my younger days. I always wanted to go to Harlem and look around, but never got to it. How do you get there now?

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  10. Also, we just got back from Naples, FL. One of our touristic stops was Ave Maria, Florida. I put some pix up on the Old St. Patrick Oratory blog (http://www.oldsaintpatrick.org). Please don't judge the photography. But the place is really neat.

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  11. It's easy really. Go north across the Heart of America Bridge and turn left at the first stoplight. Turn left again at the first stop sign and follow the road to the levee ... runs right into "Harlem Road".... you're technically in Harlem after you turn at the first stoplight... but there's nothing left until you get to the levee.

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  12. St. Philip is ACNA - Anglican Church in North America. It's a new collection of orthodox Anglicans formed since the recent ordination and other controversies.

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  13. my grandparents (father's side) used to live next to the Harlem Baptist Church on what used to be North Baltimore across from the Hammer/screen mill. The mill bought my grandpa's property in the late 1980's and expanded the parking lot across the street and over where the house stood. My other grandparents lived at the corner where Harlem Rd takes the sharp left and crosses the rr tracks...the house burned a few years ago but he concrete block outbuilding behind still stands. The building where Eddy's used to be is behind there; it used to be a commisarry where all the inflight meals for TWA were prepared when Municipal Airport was still open.

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  14. You are lucky to have such good memories. I wish I could have seen Harlem in its heyday.

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  15. I am currently working on a full length novel set in Harlem, beginning in the 1870's and spanning the years into the depression. There is a lot of history there...Frank James (Jesse's older brother was born in Harlem) and Jesse's cousin (Zerelda Mimms) who he wound up marrying owned a boarding house in Harlem during the Civil War. Jesse recouperated there after being shot in 1865.

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  16. Fascinating... never knew about the James connection. I would imagine there are a thousand stories in the Naked Harlem (so to speak) :)

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  17. The levee that stands today was built after the 1951 flood, it is much higher and considerably more substantial than the one that managed to protect Harlem and all of NKC from the high water. The levee was never breached by the water but men who lived in Harlem constantly peformed walking patrols on top of it. Many of the properties that we adjacent to the levee, my grandfather's included, were inundated with seep water that came under the levee. Where N. Balitmore ended at the levee the water was approx. 9 feet deep. There were a number of squatter's homes outside the levee that were carried away when the water rose out of the river's banks as well.

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  18. Harlem was a once booming frontier town. Harlem was Harlem, when Kansas City was Westport. Kansas City‟s beginning has been dated as 1838 when land began being auctioned off for “Kansas Town”, a year after John Calvin McCoy hired a man by the name of Pierre Roi to build a road starting in Westport, and leading down to the southern bank of the Missouri River where the river boats had started landing. Before the road had been built, a landing point on the Little Blue River known as Blue Mill Landing, had been the main landing point for traders and travelers traveling west on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trials to Westport to stock up on their goods needed before heading out on their journey.

    The first people started settling in Harlem close to 1827 - a year before Jackson County Missouri came into existence. Before the Hannibal Bridge, Harlem was either the last or first stop after crossing the Missouri River from Jackson County. Many ferries operated out of the Harlem Harbor. At its hey day Harlem had a post office, a courthouse and jail, a three room school house, saloons, livery stables, a bank, a semi-pro baseball team, and held weekly bare knuckle boxing matches down by the river.

    The most famous family in Harlem's history is the James family. Sallie Cole, the mother to Zeralda Cole, married a man by the name of Robert Thomason and moved to Harlem. Then in 1841 the parents of Frank and Jesse James, Zeralda Cole and Robert James were married. Zeralda moved to Harlem while her husband returned to Georgetown University to continue his education. Robert returned home during breaks from school, and their first child was born at the Thomason's boarding house in Harlem. The child‟s name was Franklin Alexander James and he was born on January 10, 1843. In the fall of 1865 Jesse James returned to Clay County Missouri after fighting in the Civil War. During the Civil War Jesse rode with “Blood” Bill Anderson before becoming a member of Quantrill‟s Raiders4. Both Anderson and Quantrill were southern sympathizers who conducted guerrilla warfare. After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth, a group of Union solders in Missouri plotted to get even despite the countries promise of acceptance. This group of Union solders waited outside of Liberty, Missouri for a group of Quantrill‟s strays. It was here that Jesse took a .36 caliber slug in the left rib cage, close to his heart. His brother Frank, with the help of a local farmer transported Jesse to Nebraska to the home of the Samuels. Jesses family had moved there after being displaced when Union General Thomas Ewing issued General Order No. 11.

    While in Nebraska, Jesse, figuring he was dying, begged his mother not to let him breathe his last breath on Northern soil. It was here that the family cautiously placed Jesse on a ferry heading to Harlem, Missouri to the home of Zee‟s brother, John Minns.6 It was here in Harlem that Jesse met his future wife, Zerelda “Zee” Minns. Zee was Jesse‟s first cousin and responsible for nursing him back to health. When Jesse recovered it was then that he realized that Zee‟s care for him helped to pull him back to health, and although the close blood line, he fell in love with her.

    Harlem also played a role in some of the Civil War battles to happen around Blue Mills Landing and Randolph. President Grover Cleveland came to Harlem while campaigning for the presidency and Amelia Earhart flew into the old Municipal Airport and stopped in at Harlem. Sally Starr, one of the countries prominent television personalities during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, was born in Harlem to Charles and Bertha Beller on January 25, 1923. Her first acting job was on the Three Stooges television show.

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  19. Ha! I was going to say that I had been to that church when it was Harlem Baptist Church. Then I see my friend Jason on here-- the one who invited me. How funny!

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  20. I rode by there today. The sign again reads Harlem Baptist and has times listed for service. Perhaps the Baptists have moved back in.

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  21. Liberty Tribune October 22, 1880
    HARLEM-
    The entertainment given at Capt Gilkison’s last Friday evening was a very enjoyable affair, notwithstanding the sudden change of weather. Capt G. and wife exerted themselves to make everything go off nicely, and succeeded; Miss Sallio, assisted by Miss Leary, of Kansas City, did all that mortals could do, and everyone was pleased. We sincerely hope it won't be long before we are again entertained by Captain and Mrs. Gilkison.
    A friend from Moscow writes me that candidates are numerous down there and he thinks one of them has forgotten his horse, as a specimen of what was once a horse has been standing at his gate for several days, and he would like for the owner to come after him as he will no doubt need him to ride up “Salt River” as the boat is liable to be crowded. My friend didn't know he was treading on my toes when he spoke so disrespectfully of that mare. That is the very animal that I bought of Bradley Foulk some time ago. I called her “Tanner” because she had done so much fasting. The mare did not do right by going off. Mr. Thomas Casey is remodeling his house by weather-boarding the front. Mr. Wm. Starke is building a new barn; Jas. Shane is the architect. Mr. J.H. Williams is building a new cellar. Mr. Levi Gillespie is building a fine house, something like Mr. R.H. Davis.'
    Mr. Henry Day, of this place advertises his house and lots for sale. As this is about the best property in Harlem, he will no doubt find a ready sale. Mr. Charlie Miller, who works on the Government work here, had his foot severely injured by a log rolling over it, last Tuesday. Mr. Isaac Orwick dropped a check for a small amount out of his pocket in Kansas City, last Saturday. He missed it in a few minutes afterwards, and went to notify the bank on which it was drawn. Before he got there, the finder had presented the check and skipped with the money. Wm. E. Campbell has returned from New Mexico. He didn't bring a squaw back. Capt Cade of Leavenworth was down last week. TRUTH

    shared by Patty Orwick Pierce (Great Great Grand daughter of Isaac Orwick, one of the subjects in this article) Pierce_patty@yahoo.com

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