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Crossroads of the World

The period between the 1940s and the 1970s was a heady time when Kansas City was sometimes considered the crossroads of the world. This was fueled by the Presidency of hometown boy Harry Truman from 1945 through 1953, followed immediately by Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. From the 1930s and part of this period TWA, under the leadership of Jack Frye, Paul E. Richter and Howard Hughes as a stockholder, was headquartered in Kansas City. The city planned to turn the cosmopolitan hub into the gateway to the world. But the era's great expectations died down with the diminished presence of TWA. [edit]1940s After the fall of the Pendergast machine, reformer John B. Gage was elected mayor in 1940 and L. P. Cookingham was named city manager. John B. Gage was elected mayor three times and served until 1946, while City Manager Cookingham served until 1959. The Gage and Cookingham government sought to “clean up” Kansas City from its corrupt past and enact “fair” government practices and merit-based hiring of city employees. The war effort brought defense jobs to Kansas City, which was still suffering from the Great Depression, including the Pratt & Whitney engine plant. Other armaments plants in Kansas City, Kansas and eastern Jackson County provided additional jobs to the region. This was a relatively prosperous time for the city. In 1945, Harry Truman, a resident of Jackson County became President of the United States, following the death of Franklin Roosevelt. [edit]Sprawl/Annexation In the mid-1940s, the Gage and Cookingham government began to annex land to expand the city’s size. Annexation programs continued though the 1970s, when the city increased its geographical size to five times its size in 1940. Following World War II, Kansas City, like many older cities, experienced sprawl and population shifts from the city’s core to the suburbs and periphery. While other cities shrank, the newly annexed land helped Kansas City retain its population. Growth since 1970, however, has been limited and often negative, despite a modest population growth in the 1990s. [edit]1950s Since the 1950s, Kansas City has gone through a transition and tried to shed its Cow Town image. This began when Kansas City was at its height of national attention with the back-to-back Presidencies of Harry Truman and Kansas favorite-son Dwight D. Eisenhower. Events of the day saw the heyday of Roy A. Roberts influence as editor of the Kansas City Star. The change began in the early 1950s with the precipitous decline of the railroad to competition from the automobile and jet travel. Union Station (Kansas City) which had lorded over the second (to Chicago) busiest rail intersection began a rapid decline. The Great Flood of 1951 decimated the Kansas City Stockyards in the West Bottoms. The tockyards (which were also second to Chicago in size) never came back to their full glory as stockyards moved away from urban and unionized centers. In 1955, Kansas City formally began its relationship with major league sports when the Philadelphia Athletics moved to become the Kansas City Athletics playing at Municipal Stadium (Kansas City). [edit]1960s The 1960s were marked by a period of many projects coupled with the rapid urban decay of many inner city neighborhoods. During this period, many historic buildings were demolished to make way for parking lots, and office buildings. The area became primarily for business rather than for everyday city life. During this inner city decay, Kansas City began to annex land and expand its area. In the process, Kansas City eventually became one of the largest cities in the United States area-wise at 318 square miles (824 km2), while its population decreased by 15,000 from 1950-2000. It is still not uncommon to find cattle and corn fields on the extreme edges of Kansas City. Kansas City in 2000 ranked 21st in the United States in terms of area while #40 in terms of the list of United States cities by population. Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Kauffman Stadium, around 1981. The stadium has been redecorated in blue and white (the Royals' team colors) since the time that this photo was taken. In 1967 the Kansas City Chiefs participated in the first ever Super Bowl, losing to the Green Bay Packers. In the same year Charlie Finley got permission to move the Kansas City Athletics out of the 1923-era Municipal Stadium (Kansas City). Kansas City responded to these developments by approving a bond issue to build the Truman Sports Complex on the extreme suburban eastern edge of the city by the I-70 and I-435 intersection. The construction of the complex was so successful that many major league ballparks and football stadiums have been designed in accordance with the Truman Complex master plan, and most have been designed by Kansas City architects. Also in 1967 work began on the Crown Center complex around the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. Another development in the 1960s was the approval of a bond issue to move the city's main airport from Kansas City Downtown Airport to the TWA Kansas City Overhaul Base at what was formerly called Mid-Continent International Airport—now called Kansas City International Airport (but which is referred to in baggage tags by its original abbreviation of MCI). Although Kansas City continued to expand outward in the 1960s, the inner city endured numerous heartbreaks, fires and the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King. White flight continued on a large scale, ironically, resegregating the city even further than it was before the Civil Rights movement.