Published September 28th, 2020 at 12:00 PM
Local history piques the interest of John Mascal, who has lived in the metro area his whole life. Mascal, who holds a degree in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, asked why Troost Lake is on the Paseo.
“I enjoy history and a good story,” he said in an email.
To answer his query, we called on Ann McFerrin, the archivist in the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. After reading through dozens of clippings from the 1800s, reviewing archived photographs and city documents, we have arrived at an answer.
But first, let’s start with the piece of land where Troost Lake began.
The ‘Pleasantest’ Park in Town
Then, French fur traders and other European settlers landed in the early 1800s. Throughout the 1800s, the settlers built villages and shops and the city began to take shape.
The early 1800s were important times in Kansas City’s history.
The following brief history piece is loosely linked to the story of Troost Park. In 1831, Mormon leader Joseph Smith and 12 others camped in Kaw township where they laid a log, which would become the site of the first school to be built in the Kansas City area.
As for the land known now as Troost Park, it was once the Porter Farm. The Porter family migrated to the area in 1832 and established their home.
Nashville native Rev. James Porter and his family built a one-and-a-half story log home, with five rooms and nearby servants quarters, according to a 1970 article in the Kansas City Times. The Porter family brought with them horses, cattle, hogs and almost 30 Black servants, who were likely enslaved because of Tennessee’s known slave markets. The reverend died and his family continued to manage the farm.
In 1886, his widow Lucy Porter sold a 15-acre strip that stretched from Holmes Street through Charlotte Street to the Kansas City Cable Railway Company.
Lucy sold it in the hopes that nearby development could increase the value of her residential land where she and her sons lived, according to a 1946 Kansas City Star article. It worked.
Advertisements from 1886 labeled Troost Avenue as a “booming” and “delightful” area, perfect for suburban living and leisure. Troost was an important street and was called the “trade artery,” according to the Kansas City Public Library.
For the next decade, the railway company transformed its plot of land by installing a streetcar, a park and, you guessed it, a lake.
“An artificial lake had been built by damming a ravine at Twenty-Seventh Street between Vine Street and the present Paseo,” according to the 1946 Star article.
The company was attempting to “stimulate trade” for its streetcar line, according to the Kansas City Public Library. Patrons of the streetcar were granted free admittance to the park.
A Kansas City Times event ad from June 12, 1888, claimed Troost Park was “one of the pleasantest resorts about the city.” Members of the Porter family had their own private gate to the park from their old farm at the northeast corner of 28th and Tracy.
“The Cable Company was trying to drum up business for their new cable line, sort of like when Electric Park was located in the East Bottoms and the Heim Brothers created a railroad line to take people there to visit Electric Park and their brewery,” McFerrin said.
In the 1890s, little boathouses dotted the edge of the lake. Then owners of the amusement park added concession stands, water activities such as rowboats and a wildly popular ride called the Chute the Chutes, wherein small boats on wheels would glide down a slide and shoot out of the water.
Chute the Chutes was the first thriller ride of its kind in local amusement parks, according to the Kansas City Times.
“Apparently, after the property was purchased for an extension of the Paseo an attempt was made to call the area ‘Paseo Park,’ but the public kept calling it Troost Park so that’s the name it has,” McFerrin said.
McFerrin said “Troost Park” just stuck even after plans for acquisition and development of Paseo Boulevard were well underway in the late 1890s. However, when the park was created there was no such thing as the Paseo. The Paseo – which means “walkway” or “promenade” in Spanish – was modeled after the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.
In 1902, the city purchased Troost Park and added a few historical markers – one of which commemorates Mormon missionaries’ journey through the area.
Remember that fun fact we alluded to earlier? This is it. Troost Park amusement park was among the first of its kind in the metro.