By Michael Bushnell
The Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood was named for the Reverend Nathan Scarritt, a Methodist Missionary and educator who in 1845 left his native Lebanon, Ill., with $10 in his pocket, traveling to the western frontier and settling first in Fayette, Mo., where he established what is today Central Methodist University.
The Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association (SRNA) was chartered by neighborhood residents Olympia Bivens, Ken Coit and Rita Nell Patajdl on September 18, 1986. The neighborhood’s boundaries are Chestnut Avenue on the west, Jackson Avenue – with a slight jog down Sunrise Drive to Elmwood Avenue – on the east, Independence Avenue on the south and the Cliff Drive Scenic Byway on the north.
Through the years, the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association has hosted a variety of events designed to bring the community together for a common goal. During the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Historic Homes Tours were organized, often drawing over 1,500 people to the neighborhood, showcasing the neighborhood’s historic housing stock and allowing tour attendees to step back in time and get a glimpse inside some of the most historic residences in the city.
Another event is the long standing Scare-It Halloween event held every year on October 31. Residents along Gladstone Boulevard near the Kansas City Museum decorate their homes with spooky fare and distribute candy to throngs of little ghouls and goblins in attendance. In peak years the event has drawn upwards of 5,000 people to the neighborhood.
The Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood is home to two National Register Historic Districts that run along the Gladstone and Benton Boulevard corridors from Independence Boulevard north, then east along Gladstone Boulevard and Windsor Avenue to Askew Avenue, encompassing over 150 historic properties including Corinthian Hall, home of the Kansas City Museum that recently reopened after a $22 million dollar multi-year restoration and renovation project.
Cliff Drive, Missouri’s only designated urban Scenic Byway, meanders along the neighborhood’s northern border. In 1987 the drive underwent a multi-million dollar overhaul that saw the creation of the waterfall on the east end of the drive and improvements along the drive, heralding its significance to Kansas City’s history.
Scarritt President M. Scott Hale shared the neighborhood association’s primary areas of focus for 2022, the first being increasing awareness of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association followed by community building through social events and the return of the Scare-It Halloween event, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“Our goal is to ensure all residents of SRNA not only are aware of our organization and its purposes, but get involved and moreover to get to know one another,” Hale told the Northeast News. “We are a welcoming, kind and inclusive place, welcoming diversity, all opinions and points of view.”
The association recently changed its meeting schedule to include social events interspersed throughout the year, allowing residents to get to know each other outside of a formal meeting setting. The first such event kicks off at 6 p.m. Wednesday March 16 at the Kansas City Museum for a private tour.
Hale stressed the community’s commitment to maintaining pressure and focus on the various City agencies tasked with the safety and well being of Scarritt Renaissance residents including the police, the Park Department and the City’s health and safety agencies.
Approaching its 36th anniversary, Scarritt Renaissance’s history continues to be written by its residents through continued work with development partners such as Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Neighborhood Legal Support and the Lykins Neighborhood Trust, which expanded its work into the Scarritt Renaissance area in 2022.
The neighborhood association is continuing to work toward securing program and resource grants that will ultimately make a better neighborhood for future generations.
The Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association is a registered 501(c)(3) that meets on the first Thursday of February, April, June, August, October and December at the Kansas City Museum. Its web address is scarrittkc.org.