Big Eleven Lake – an Urban Oasis

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

In continuing with our 7-11 themed issue for July 11th, we offer this Max Bernstein-published Linen-type postcard of Big Eleven Lake in Kansas City, Kansas. The lake is all that is left of a larger water themed park designed by noted Kansas City landscape architectural firm of Hare & Hare.

George Kessler, the designer of Kansas City’s Parks and Boulevard system, was tapped by Kansas City, Kansas city officials to replicate Kansas City, Missouri’s boulevard system across the state line. Waterway Park, constructed in a deep ravine, stretched from Washington Boulevard on the north to Grandview Boulevard on the south, incorporated many of the design and landscape features found in Kansas City’s burgeoning Parks system. According to a 1913 article in The Modern Cemetery, the land where the park sits was not suited for development purposes and presented a challenge for the surrounding ground. Called “an unsightly hole,” the landscape design firm of Hare & Hare was called on to design a park with two lakes anchoring each end of the park separated by a large, sunken water garden pool complete with goldfish and water lilies. Built roughly 40 feet below street grade and accessed by two staircases against a limestone wall, the reflecting pool featured natural plantings and a large fountain, much like the palisades built along the west bluff that made up Kersey Coates Drive in Kansas City. The lakes and pool were fed by a series of natural springs that offered a constant supply of water. Big Eleven Lake was the northern lake in that park system.

Sadly, Big Eleven Lake is all that remains of the original Waterway Park system. In 1921 the lake and reflecting pool was filled in and a $6,000 shelter house was constructed on the site of the larger lake at the south end of the park. Baseball diamonds and tennis courts were planned for the sites as well, but newspaper articles of the day note the ball diamonds may not have been built. Today, that end of the park is lined by a fitness walk, and well-worn soccer fields lie at the center of where the shallow lake once was. Newer homes have been built around the park and signs of a neighborhood renaissance are strong. The only clue to the lake’s existence is the earth berm surrounding a depression in the center of the park. No signs of the shelter house’s construction are visible today.

The reflecting pool was filled in, as well, and to this day is used as a parking lot. The only clue to the pool’s existence is an overgrown stone wall near the corner of 11th & Minnesota Ave., with three steps descending to the earth where the pool once existed. Somewhere under tons of dirt and gravel lies what’s left of a once-beautiful urban oasis. In 1983 Congressman Larry Winn secured a $79,000 grant to renovate and improve Big Eleven Lake. During the urban neighborhood boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, residents reclaimed the park. Like many urban parks, it is used by families living nearby. While the park is still named Waterway Park, Big Eleven Lake, roughly two blocks to the north, is the only remnant of the opulent Kessler/Hare & Hare collaboration in Kansas City, Kansas.

Once again, special thanks to Matt Reeves and the staff at the Central Library’s Missouri Valley Room for his invaluable help and research for this week’s column.

The Modern Cemetery – Volume 23 – Page 71 – Google Books Result
Kansas City Then and Now. Dodd, c2003

10th Street & Grandview Boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas. 1911-1912.
Planting plan.

The Sunken Water Garden, Waterway Park
10th Street & Grandview Boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas. 1911-1912.
Presentation rendering of view.

Comments are closed.

  • All aboard for railroad’s Golden Age

    July 18th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News The old Union Depot went out with a wild party in the fall of 1914, when […]


    Stars and Stripes lore

    July 4th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News During the American Revolution, a number of patriots made flags for our new nation. Among them […]


    Roadside America nostalgia: A look at Route 66

    June 27th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News A small signpost that bears the number “1933” in downtown Chicago near the intersection of Lake […]


    The Standard of Luxury

    June 20th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News What was once the shining gem in the newly developed Executive Park area of Kansas City’s […]


    Swirling flood waters inundate city in 1951

    June 13th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Making the floods of 1903 and 1908 seem insignificant in comparison, the flood of 1951 was […]


  • Bartle, Paige, Pendergast all call Forest Hill home

    June 6th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News In 1888, when the Forest Hill Cemetery was incorporated, it lay outside the Kansas City city […]


    Legend lives on at Lover’s Leap

    May 30th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Near the confluence of the Niangua and Osage Rivers along the south shore of the Lake […]


    Liberty Memorial: A national tribute

    May 23rd, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News The third annual convention of the American Legion was held in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. […]


  • What’s Happening

    Nguyen murder trial: prosecution shifts focus to insurance payments

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Note: to better understand the following dispatch regarding the 2nd Degree Murder and Arson trial […]

    Edgemoor reaches Labor Harmony Agreement with labor unions

    Bryan Stalder Northeast News On Thursday, July 19, Geoff Stricker, Managing Director of Edgemoor, delivered a positive message to the […]

    Nguyen murder trial continues: Day 3 of testimony

    Before reading this story, the Northeast News strongly recommends that you first read our story from Day 2 of the […]

  • Local Weather