Monday, November 29, 2010

November in Kansas City

As is always the case, our time in Kansas City has flown by. Staying a month, we thought for sure we'd get to do everything we wanted. But, once again, we're heading out of town with friends unseen and to-dos not done. We'll just have to stay longer next time!

A highlight of our November stay was spending a few days showing our traveling friends Leslie and Mike around. We met this fun pair in Idaho last Summer, and were thrilled when they decided to make Kansas City a stop on their route west to spend the holidays in Utah. It was a real treat to play tourist in our old hometown on a couple of picture perfect days.

That top photo of the Kansas City skyline was taken from this spot, The Liberty Memorial. Dedicated in 1926 to honor the memory of 418 Kansas Citians who lost their lives in World War I, today the memorial houses the official World War I Museum of the United States. The museum opened in 2006.

On the south end of the Liberty Memorial mall sits the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The building, which opened in 2008, sits on the former site of the hospital where Mary was born and later worked. We just had to go inside and take a look at what's happening on Memorial Drive these days.

The first floor of the Fed houses The Money Museum, which features educational and interactive displays about the nation's financial system and the duties of the Federal Reserve. A highlight of our tour was a peek into the operations in the cash vault, where cameras were off limits. We watched robots tote carts of currency around. This display sums up the contents of a cart full of $100 notes: $40 million. Any way you look at it, that's a big pile of cash!

Where else can you pick up some free money? The Federal Reserve offers each visitor a free bag of shredded money. Estimated value when these bucks were in circulation: $140. Today's street value: $0. But, it's a great souvenir. And, admission to the museum is free.

Down the hill from Memorial Drive is the crown jewel of Kansas City landmarks: Union Station. Built in 1914, the massive beaux arts style station served as a major transportation hub for decades. On the morning of June 17, 1933, Union Station was the backdrop of the Kansas City Massacre, where four law enforcement officers and fugitive Frank Nash were shot and killed.

At its peak during World War II, tens of thousands of passengers passed through the station's Grand Hall each year. Things are considerably quieter today. (If you click on the photo for a closer view you can look for Paul, sitting on a bench.)

The North Waiting Room could hold 10,000 people coming to and from the trains down below. Many arriving passengers would meet their party under the six-foot wide clock that still hangs from the arched entryway to the station's Grand Hall.

Some 95 feet above the floor of the grand hall hangs one of three 3,500-pound chandeliers set in colorful ceiling panels. As train travel diminished, so did the hustle and bustle of Union Station. The station closed in the 1980s and fell into a sad state of disrepair. In 1996, voters on both sides of the state line passed a tax initiative to fund the station's renovation, which was completed in 1999.

Looking north from the station, we could see several construction cranes downtown. In most of the cities we've traveled in this year, that's been a rare sight. As the song goes, it looks like everything is up-to-date in Kansas City!

Another stop on our tour was the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO. Leslie and Mike had never been here before. And, we hadn't paid a visit since we were kids.

When you step inside the museum you are greeted by this massive mural by Thomas Hart Benton. It's been years, but we both remembered this!

The replica of the Truman Oval Office reflects the style of the late '40s and early '50s. Telephones and televisions have sure changed dramatically since then!

The library displays many "treasures" of the Truman years, including this famous copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Harry Truman was famous for this saying, which he displayed on his desk. But, do you know what the President placed on the side of the plaque that faced him?

"I'm from Missouri" was an ever-present and grounding reminder for the President.

Of all the items on display, we all got a chuckle out of this. In the corner of an invitation to his own Inauguration, Truman scribbled: "Weather permitting I hope to be present."

Speaking of weather, we've seen a dramatic change in the weather in Kansas City this month. Temperatures have dropped, and there is talk of flurries in the forecast. It's been a wonderful month, but it's definitely time to head South while the weather still permits.