Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Urban Blight Tour 08.......The Ghosts of KCK.

Finding blight in Kansas City isn't difficult, to be honest the finding is the easy part. Writing something to go with the photos, a message that fits the picture, that's the hard part. Sure, it's easy enough when I'm wisecracking on a place like the Mayfair. There is no feeling of history in the Mayfair. Kansas City Kansas, specifically the older neighborhoods that run along State Avenue, or Quindaro, are a different story. These dilapidated houses were once homes. People lived and died, raised families and flower gardens, sent their children off to college or war. Now they sit silent, falling down around themselves.Pound for pound, block for block, there isn't a more hardscrabble area in the entire metro. There are streets, some several blocks long, where there is nothing. The houses are gone, torn down after years of neglect and abandonment. I think in another post I may have compared this part of the metro with pictures I had seen of Chernobyl. When you drive through here, even where houses still exist, there is a pervasive feeling of decay, emptiness, loss of hope. Most of the people who originally lived in these homes have either died or moved on. They moved in when the houses were bright. They were full of hope, they had youth on their side. If they lived their allotted average number of years, they were witness to the slow decline of their neighborhoods. They saw their children and grandchildren succumb to drugs, gangs, prison, and a million other ills that always find the poorest of us. They probably had a defining moment, an epiphany, when they realized that their young had turned a corner and taken different paths, had become predator, prey or both.

When you come up in a time where a man leaves for work with his steel lunchbox and worn coveralls, it must be hard to relate to some young guy who leaves for work in over sized clothes and gold chains, a bag of dope in place of a lunchbox, a pistol rather than a hammer or wrench. Most of them won't ever see 70, 60, or even 30. We can all point a finger, we can blame it on society, race, poverty or politics, but at the end of the day, we all are responsible for our choices, and shifting the blame in one direction or another doesn't change that simple fact. While much of Kansas City Kansas grows and flourishes, the sections that run between State ave. and Quindaro stagnate and die at the hands of its young.

When a neighborhood begins to die, the businesses are the first to go. They might have once been a destination. A place families stayed at. When the crime chased the visitors away, the businesses had to change with the times or get left behind. Families in the 60's and 70's played in this pool, kids laughed and splashed around. With the crime and vice came the steady deterioration. Eventually, as if from a cancer, the place succumbed, now there are just ghosts, no wet footprints temporarily staining the concrete around the pool, no more blood staining the walls and floors of the rooms. There is just this.
I apologize if you were expecting me to do my usual wise ass commentary, but I just can't find much to be flippant about here. I'm not sure why, trust me I can go to a million neighborhoods , every bit as bad as this area, and a barrage of smart ass comments will spew forth. And believe me when I say, there are more than a few of those posts coming. But there is something that tugs at me when it comes to this part of KCK, for the life of me I don't know what it is, but I cant ignore or deny it. Still among all of the blight and decay of this place, there are moments. A brightly colored house, some crazy guy arguing with someone only he can see. And pictures like this, that for some reason make me smile.

Next Monday....North East.


  1. next thing you know you'll have a show at one of the galleries in crossroads.

  2. *nodding*

    My heart aches even when I wander down the Paseo and see the once-gorgeous homes now sitting crookedly among the weeds. Sure, people still live in those homes, but they're shadows of what they once were. A friend of mine (with whom I've long-ago lost contact) lives there, and I'd been to his house numerous times. He was a typical bachelor, and it took all I had not to bust down his door with a dust mop and a can of pledge. The homes are beautifully and classically's a pity that so many of them aren't being cared for in such a way as to preserve that beauty.

    Great post.

  3. I feel the exact same way when I drive around that area. I live and work in KCK, and frequent Quindaro, State, Parallel, etc... often. It is a very sad site to see. Great post!

  4. Sadly, there are many registered voters in empty houses in Wyandotte County.


    Can Google Street Views Be Used to Find Registered Voters at Empty Lots in Wyandotte County? (Answer: "no". "Ground truth" is still needed.)

    "this research indicates that at least some of the voters at empty lots in KCK may be due to people moving and demolition of houses, which is part of the urban decay in Kansas City, KS"

  5. I do some weekly work along State Avenue. There's not a whole lot of joy in the air out there.

  6. Great post. There were lives there once. It is quite a shame.

  7. This post strikes a chord with me, but not in a bad way. I grew up in the area MM is talking about in this post. My family and I moved out the area when I was getting ready to enter middle school. We ended up moving out of Wyandotte county. The main reason, like MM has said, was the crime and the state of the neighborhoods. My father owned the house in KCK that I grew up in for around 25 years. He bought it before he had even met my mom. When he bought it, our neighborhood was alive with good natured people and families. Everyone knew and trusted their neighbors. As time went on, families started to move out as the crime moved in. There was no way around it. My parents saw what was happening, and in the best interest of my sister and I, decided to move to an area of KC that had better schools and a lower crime rate. As I read this post and look at these pictures, it brings back memories. That Brotherhood Bank, that is no longer in service, is where my parents did their banking for many years. I know exactly where the West-Haven Motel is. It is sad to see that this is what has become of the area I spent a fair amount of my childhood in.
    Great post MM. Keep up the good work.

  8. i grew up in the quindaro area off 18th st, when i was in grade school and into high school, i remeber walking from 18 th st with my friends down to Minnesota ave to go shopping, i remember swimming at west haven with my cousin, my uncle owned that big white house behind price chpper off of state ave, it was like living in the country but still was in the city, i noticed things got worse year after year in my high school days back in 71-73, the busing thing haveing to be bused from 18th st. way out to washington high school which was crazy! everyone starting moving out my friends etc, i was afriad to sleep at night, saw black men breaking into homes around me with tvs in their hands running down our back alley, black guys following me when i did walk home from school my mother got worried and picked me up from the school bus, a handful of neighborhood kids would try to get on the bus when we white children would try to enter the black kids would make it hard for us to get seated, so we decided to walk clear to washington high way out on leavenworth rd, we were late, the school called my mother asking where i was, by the time i got there i told them the black bus driver would not help us find a seat and let us walk... tghe black boys would grab my breasts and butt to yeah i know about predijudice in quindaro, it was nice in the earlier days then a man named Don Sewin i believe he was a black realtor then made sure he scattered the blacks around even to the rich areas i guess to be turned into blight... im not against the black people there are some nice ones but i sure had to be the one out of many whites to see how the blacks can be...