BY JULIA BLOSS
While it is commonly known that Kansas City has some French Heritage, we may not realize that many famous places in the city are the very ground on which French history took place about 200 years ago. The next time you’re driving around the city, try stopping to take a closer look at some of these locations and what they really mean for the history and culture of Kansas City.
There are 11 markers around the city indicating where some of these historical sites are, featuring French and English descriptions of the historical background of each location. The first stop is at the square located right next to the Convention Center. This marker indicates the general location in which Old French Kansas City was founded by the Chouteau family in 1821 in order to trade furs with the indigenous Kansa. The village was originally called “Chez les Canses,” meaning “at the home of the Kansas.” This later became the Town of Kansas, and eventually Kansas City.
Several more stops on the tour are located nearby, on Quality Hill and at Case Park. The first permanent church and cemetery were built here by the French settlers. Much of the early Kansas City’s religious and social life centered around this church. Case Park is one of the highest points in Kansas City, and features a beautiful view overlooking several parts of the city, including the French Bottoms (now called West Bottoms). This is the area where many of the French settlers lived and established farms. The Missouri River, which was once the main source of transportation for the French, is visible from this perspective as well. While enjoying the view from Case Park, you are also looking directly at the actual route of the famous explorers Lewis and Clark, who traveled along the river.
After taking in the beautiful view at Case Park, your next stop is at the River Market. This is the location of Kansas City’s riverfront Old Square or Vieux Carre. Originally, many cabins were located along the riverfront, and the Old Square was designated as a common area for the livestock in the area to graze. Still today, this area has remained a place that is open for community use, although now in a different form. The marker for the Old Chouteau Trading post can also be found here. While the original Trading Post was somewhat downriver of today’s City Market, you can still enjoy the tradition of shopping at an open-air market on weekends. Other shops and restaurants where you can buy fresh produce, spices, tea, and foods from around the world are available all week long.
Most of Kansas City’s French history took place hundreds of years ago, but you can nevertheless enjoy its rich French culture today. There are still many opportunities to experience French culture, history, art, and cuisine throughout the city, and all you have to do is look a bit deeper into some of these familiar places.
“Chouteau Society Markers.” JCHS, Jackson County Historical Society,
“French Settlers in Kansas.” Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society,
“Kansas City's French Heritage: A Guided Tour of Prominent Locations.” Jackson County
Ramona S Wetzel
9/27/2022 12:00:04 pm
I have a question regarding the whereabouts of the first cemeteries W of Broadway, S of 11th Street. Did any first people lived in what is called Quality Hill prior to the French settlement? Thanks for your time and consideration.
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