“Secret Kansas City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure” by Anne Kniggendorf is a locals-only guide to a few of Kansas City’s best kept secrets.
“Most visitors know all about Kansas City’s barbecue, jazz and football success, but there are hidden gems and wild pieces of trivia around every turn in Missouri’s largest city,” according to the book’s description. “Is the giant Hereford bull anatomically correct? Can a seed that’s been to outer space still grow into a normal tree? And who really killed President William Henry Harrison?”
A longtime Kansas Citian, Kniggendorf has lived here most of her life. However, nearly all the history in these pages came as a surprise to her. For the freelance journalist, searching for stories has become a serious preoccupation. She has written locally for the Kansas City Star, KCUR 89.3 and Flatland Magazine. Nationally, she has bylines in the Smithsonian Magazine, National Public Radio, the Saturday Evening Post and Publishers Weekly.
Kniggendorf turned her hobby into a passion for bolstering others’ love and respect for the middle-of-the-map city. Inside the pages of this book, Kniggendorf said readers will find the answers to questions they didn’t even know they had, like why three completely unrelated groups have chosen Kansas City as the center of the world and the place you want to be when the world ends.
In the book, readers will also discover castles, a horse buried in a cul-de-sac, a ghost who likes a good laugh, and the world’s longest snake. Her thorough research also digs deeper into some frequent sights that well-traveled Kansas Citians may recognize but not know the story behind.
Kniggendorf’s locations of interest stretch nearly 50 miles away from Kansas City, but would make an interesting road trip for those already familiar with Kansas City proper’s secretive spots.
Of the dozens of secrets Kniggendorf describes, quite a few can be found in some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods in Northeast Kansas City.
A location preceding the city that doesn’t get much attention is the Indian Mound, the namesake of the Indian Mound Neighborhood. The park at Gladstone Boulevard and Wheeling Avenue has no historic marker and a mysterious history full of speculation. This week, the Northeast News is highlighting Kansas City’s only Indian mound, which is said to be a Native American burial ground.
Always entertaining to Northeast residents, the truck-eating bridge on Independence Avenue earned a spot in Kniggendorf’s book. Additional information in “Secret Kansas City” paints a picture of the 12-foot bridge’s history.
Northeast residents and bed and breakfast owners Stephan Zweifler and Carl Markus can be found in the pages of Kniggendorf’s book. The Inn at 425 Gladstone is home to the ghost of a former owner, Emeline Twiss.
What may be well-known to those who frequent the 18th and Vine District, the castle-like workhouse at 2001 Vine St., was built in 1897. Kniggendorf highlights the “prison castle” which housed female prisoners for nearly 30 years.
Just down the street, Kniggendorf paid respect to jazz great and Kansas City native Charlie Parker by noting the memorial in his likeness outside the American Jazz Museum at 1616 E. 18th. This year marks what would have been Parker’s 100th birthday.
Also in the Jazz District, paying homage to Kansas City’s rich history of the genre, the piano-shaped park at 12th and Vine is included. Although there is no intersection at 12th and Vine St., there is still a sign to honor the line in the 1952 song “Going to Kansas City.”
For those who haven’t heard about the Rector Mansion at 2000 E. 12th Street, they may be surprised that it was once home to the wealthiest Black girl in America. Sarah Rector was born in 1902 in Oklahoma and has a very unique life story, which Kniggendorf shares.
Kniggendorf is hosting a book signing and talk on September 22 at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Luncheon from 11:45 to 1 p.m. via Zoom or in person with COVID-19 precautions in place. Those who plan on attending should RSVP at nekcchamber.com.
“Secret Kansas City” was released on September 1. It is available at Kniggendorf’s website, annekniggendorf.com, where she’ll send those who purchase the book a signed copy.