Lagoon & boathouse beautified Swope Park

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By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
February 15, 2017
One of the most prolific picture postcard publishers in Kansas City at the turn of the 20th century was Max Bernstein. His company spanned more than 50 years in the postcard business, originating with hand colored cards such as this view of the Swope Park Lagoon, up to the modern Chrome style postcards available today on thousands of postcard racks all over the country.
Bernstein flourished during the Linen postcard era of the late 1930s through the mid-1940’s when postcards were printed on a linen weave card stock and featured vividly colored views of Kansas City landmarks. During this period, Bernstein published a series of postcards showing roughly 120 different views of scenic Kansas City areas and downtown buildings and landmarks.
This hand-colored postcard shows the Swope Park Lagoon and Boat House, circa 1912. The lagoon was formed by rainfall and watershed after a dam was built at one end of an old dry ox-bow in the Blue River in 1908 as part of George Kessler’s grand design for Kansas City Parks. The waters of the river at one time flowed through the U-shaped bend. Later it became a deep, dry ravine when the river changed its course during a flood.
The old boathouse served for 37 years before costly upkeep and repairs made it necessary to build a new boathouse in 1949. Swope Park as a whole was part of more than 1,300 acres purchased by Col. Thomas Swope in the late 1890s and donated to the city to be used as a public park. At the time, it actually lay roughly 4 miles south of the existing city limits. However, on the day the new park was christened, Mayor James Jones declared the day a civic holiday. More than 18,000 people attended the gala grand opening of the park, including the reclusive Dr. Swope, who was spotted in his buckboard prior to the ceremonies riding down a secluded road through the woods in the park.
The boathouse had four corner turrets, shown here with American flags flying and featured a palatial, pillared front porch, complete with deck chairs and a view of the rental boat fleet on the water. It was completed shortly before the publication of this card in July 1912.

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