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Troost Avenue By Dona Boley PDF  | Print |

Troost Avenue was named after Benoist Troost, one of Kansas City´s earliest physicians and civic boosters. Benoist Troost was born November 17, 1786, in Bois Le Duc, Holland. After serving in Napoleon´s army as a hospital steward, he migrated to Independence, Mo.

Soon the "Town of Kansas" on the levee a few miles northwest beckoned. By 1848 the townsite had four brickyards, one steam mill, ten stores, three taverns and a livery stable serving about two hundred families who lived nearby. On April 18, 1853, in the city´s first mayoral election, Troost was defeated for the position by William Gregory, the vote being 36 to 27.

In 1854 he became an organizer–trustee of the city´s premiere newspaper, The Kansas City Enterprise. In addition he served the city as councilman in 1854. Troost was also instrumental in founding the Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City in 1857.

Troost Avenue at more than 100 blocks long is one of the longest and straightest of Kansas City´s north–south arteries. It virtually bisects the geographic center of the city and near its midsection between 31st and Linwood reaches the city´s highest elevation.

In a span of 50 years Troost Avenue made the transition from fenced farms to suburban residences to businesses.

One of the first if not the first residence in the area was the Rev. James Porter who came in 1834 and acquired the land between 23rd and 31st Streets, Holmes to Vine and built a mansion on Tracy. Other fine estates soon followed and Troost from 28th to Linwood was a cluster of mansions of an exclusive social group.

As an example three residences occupied the east side of Troost, 31st to Linwood. The northern estate consisted of 20 landscaped acres. The southern mansion was built by a partner of John D. Rockerfeller in Standard Oil and cost $115,000. The was one of many that cost over $100,000. This section of Troost reached the apex of its popularity as a suburban district by 1885 when the cable traction was extended south to 33rd.

In 1900 the city limits had been extended to 49th Street and small businesses and tall apartment hotels were being built along Troost. By 1920 the transition to businesses was completed and the South Central Business Association was formed. The Association boundaries were 27th to 36th Streets, Gillham Road to Michigan. This area constituted Kansas City´s first outlying shopping center.

In the day´s prior to transcontinental expressways and bypass construction, the corner of Linwood and Troost was widely know as the "crossroads of America"–as the heart of the "Heart of America."

There were many first at that time on Troost:

  • The Wirthman building at 31st Street was the first building to be floodlighted.

  • The 3100 block was the first in town to install parking meters–for a 90 day trial in 1936, resulting in the humiliating disclosure that there were not enough cars around to justify them.

  • The areas two Fox Midwest Theaters, the Isis and Apollo, counted on a combined attendance of between 13,000 and 15,000 patrons a week.

  • The Apollo was the granddaddy of film theaters dating about 1911 and was the first so–called family theater and had it´s own parking structure. The building was torn down in the 1990´s.

At various periods when widening projects were proposed, the proposals were snowed under by objections from the South Central Business Association. "Although width is important to streets that are traffic arteries, trade thrives best on narrower avenues."

In 1969 the South Central Business Association disbanded after 50 years of fighting hundreds of battles, some big, some little, but all aimed at promoting the best interests of that area radiating from 31st and Troost.

The next thirty years have not treated Troost kindly and we are now at the stage where this once thriving area is a shadow of its former self.

Note: For current Troost activity see Troost under Projects and Programs.