Remembering the amusement park that shaped south Kansas City

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Kansas City’s Electric Park was named for the 100,000 electric light bulbs that outlined the park’s buildings and rides after dark that literally turned night into day.

Writers of the day called it “the Great White Way of Brush Creek Valley.”

Old city maps of 1908 show this amusement park located at what was then the southern city limits of Kansas City. The park occupied the area from roughly 45th Street to Brush Creek, and from The Paseo, east to Woodland Avenue. Originally, the park was located at the foot of Chestnut Avenue, near the Guinotte ramp in the city’s East Bottoms.

After being moved from its original location by its owners, Ferdinand, Michael and Joseph Heim of the Heim Brewing Company, the new Electric Park opened May 19, 1907, to a crowd of over 50,000.

No beer was served in the park as the city fathers refused a license to the brothers for the park. Soon, however, there proved to be such good returns from popcorn, hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream, roller coasters, shooting galleries, swimming pool and dance pavilion that nobody worried about beer. There was a slight retaliatory action taken by the brothers when a one-cent charge was levied on each glass of water served. There was a charge for swimming, but none for the famous night spectacle of “living Statuary” at the fountain in the lake.

Here beautiful, shapely young women on pedestals emerged from the fountain every hour of the evening, as if by magic, and held the crowd spellbound with their graceful poses, while flooded with colored lights that merged, blended and changed shades over their lovely forms.

Much of the park burned on May 28, 1925, and was not rebuilt. What remained of the park continued to operate for years after the fire, but the magic spell that was Electric Park had been broken. Times were changing. The radio, the motor car and movies were all competing for the public’s leisure hours.
Attendance at the park continued to decline through the 1920s. Following another fire that left only the ghostly skeleton of the park’s Coaster standing, the park closed for good. In 1947, the city approved a plan for an apartment development to be built on the site.

Today, The Village Green apartments occupy the site, leaving nary a hint that Brush Creek’s “Great White Way” ever existed. This Real Photo postcard published by the North American Postcard Company of Kansas City was mailed to Mrs. Fred Baker of Sabetha, Kansas, on June 20, 1910.

The message reads: “Dear Lou, What do you think of this for hot weather. I am about melted. Hear Sabetha celebrates this fourth. Wish I could come up but don’t see any show for it now. Going to have an old fashioned 4th in K.C. this year. Love from all, from Helen.”

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