History of the Kansas City River Market
The River Market is a riverfront neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri that comprises the first and oldest incorporated district in Kansas City. Over the years, the River Market has also been known as Westport Landing, the City Market, and River Quay. The River Market stretches north of the downtown Interstate 70 loop to the Missouri River, and is bordered by the Broadway Bridge on the west and the Heart of America Bridge on the east.
On July 7, 1978, the River Market was officially designated a “Historical District” by the United States Department of the Interior.
The area encompasses the location in which Kansas City was first founded. The market name comes from its large open air farmers’ market, the southern section of which was the public square in the mid 1800s. It derives its “Westport Landing” name because it was the dock on the Missouri River for the exchange of goods going to the community of Westport three miles to the south on higher ground that was operated by John Calvin McCoy. McCoy was to lead a group of settlers to created the “Town of Kansas” in the neighborhood in 1850 which in turn became the “City of Kansas” in 1853.
The Quay name was applied to the neighborhood in the 1970’s by developer Marion A. Trozzolo to capitalize on the neighborhood’s early French connections as a fur trading post operated by François Chouteau of the powerful Chouteau clan starting in 1821. Trozzolo’s vision was to make this neighborhood a destination for restaurants and bohemian shops. A mob war developed and three establishments burned or were blown up and several mobsters were killed. The war was part of an overall mob war that ultimately resulted in the mob being pushed out of influence of the Las Vegas casinos that was highlighted in the movie Casino.
River Market Today
The River Market today is a vigorous and exciting neighborhood. The large riverfront warehouses have become increasingly developed into residential lofts, restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, and ethnic markets. Several firms have recently relocated into the district, including Populous, one of the world’s leading sports architecture firms.
Major attractions to the River Market include the City Market and the Arabia Steamboat Museum. The City Market’s Farmers’ Market is the largest farmers’ market in the region bringing “Farm to Table” right to the heart of the city with fresh produce and goods on Saturday and Sunday. The Arabia Steamboat Museum displays thousands of artifacts from a steamboat and its cargo that sunk nearby in 1856 and was recovered in 1987-88. The market and museum are among Kansas City’s most popular tourist attractions.