OUR RICH HISTORY
The West Bottoms was originally referred to as the “French Bottoms”. It was the site of trade between French trappers and Kansas Indians. The area was established by the trappers as an area of commerce. The West Bottoms became the receiving point for goods offloaded from steamships traveling upstream on the Missouri river due in part to the western immigration and trade with Mexico over the Santa Fe Trail. The importance of the area increased with the advent of the railroad. The stockyards (established in 1871) then chose to develop there because of the livestock that came in from the Southwest over the rails. A whole city grew around the stockyards. The Union Depot was built on Union Street where hotels, bars and restaurants flourished. Over 90 percent of the value in Kansas City lay in the West Bottoms. A devastating flood in 1903 ended the investment in housing, schools and churches. However, the agricultural, meat packing, freight and industrial investments continued to grow. By then the rule of thumb was clearly established that the economic vitality of the city was determined by the economic progress of the West Bottoms.
In 1974, the City and the American Royal acquired a large portion of the stockyards and constructed Kemper Arena to accommodate sporting events and the American Royal agricultural show, which brought thousands of visitors to the area for decades. Kemper Arena was the site of the 1976 Republican National Convention where Gerald Ford was nominated for President. In 1988, the Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA basketball championship there. In the 1990s, the American Royal Barbecue Contest – the largest of its kind in the world – began in the area around Kemper Arena.