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One KC Neighborhood's Continuing Story

November 05, 2014

The history and evolution of the West Bottoms is the subject of a new book, Cowtown: Cattle Trails and West Bottom Tales, by Kansas City native and author Ed Matheny Jr. The official launch party for the book is Thursday, November 6th in the West Bottoms.

This book is the very first to be published by Woodneath Press, part of Mid-Continent Public Library’s Story Center Program, and it will be sold at the Jackson County Historical Society, Rainy Day Books, and available for checkout from Mid-Continent Public Library. Matheny, who has previously written five other books including one on Southwest High School and another on KCPT, continues his love of local history with his newest work Cowtown.

This story chronicles the progress of the Kansas City West Bottoms area from a stop-over for cattle herds in the mid-1800s, to the meat-packing industry leader in the early 1900s, to a reemerging neighborhood today and the enduring home of not only the American Royal since 1899, but also the World Series of Barbeque for the past 35 years. Despite the ravages of numerous floods and more than 115 years, the area has held on, adapting and reinventing along the way.

Considering that floodwaters drove the meat-packing industry out by the close of the 1950s, many are surprised that the Bottoms withstands and still holds relevance today, but I’m here to tell you they are just overdue for a visit. The Golden Ox is still in business 65 years later, and it’s no surprise that a restaurant known for beef owes its inception to the stockyards. Then President and Chairman of the Board, Jay Dillingham, founded the restaurant in 1949, and yes, they still have the original Kansas City Strip on the menu. Now, newer spots are making their names known, like Genessee Royale Bistro, Voltaire, Amigoni Urban Winery, and there’s shopping galore at places like Hickory Dickory. Even the American Royal no longer holds the sole claim to event fame in the Bottoms. This summer Boulevardia brought in an estimated 20,000 people to the Bottoms according to The Kansas City Star.

It’s not this renaissance, which is the focus for the book, but the long path to it. With a history stretching back more than a century ago and many perilous steps to the present, Cowtown tells the lesser-known tale of the Bottoms – you know the one that isn’t all pulled pork recipes.

For more information on The Story Center visit mystorycenter.org.

Andie P.
Story Center Program Manager
Woodneath Library Center

Tags: West Bottoms, Kansas City, history

Comments

I find the book, Cowtown:

I find the book, Cowtown: Cattle Tails and West Bottom Tales, to be of interest to me, as a resident of Independence, Missouri.

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