With Paseo name change going up for vote, KC historian looks back at street’s roots

Data pix.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Less than five months after renaming the Paseo to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Kansas City Council approved a petition to allow the community to vote on possible changing the name back again.

Many fighting to keep the street as the Paseo argue its history is a prime reason for doing so.

Historians say the area may not look exactly the same, but the essence of the original blueprint is still essentially the same.

“It was originally conceived in 1893 by German landscape architecture, George Kessler, who designed Kansas City Parks and boulevard system," said Jeremy Drouin, manager of Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Today, the newly named Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is one of the longest streets in Kansas City, recorded at close to 10 miles.

The name "Paseo" was inspired by a famous thoroughfare in Mexico City.

"Part of the City Beautiful movement was to create parks, green spaces, gardens, fountains. The Paseo was an extension of that. It was really the crown jewel of the park system and of the City Beautiful movement in Kansas City," Drouin said.

He said his office provides a glimpse into the past. The office is home to a number of maps and photographs, some dating back to early 1900's.

Drouin said some of the attractions along the route are still intact today.

"You can still find shade at the pergola. You can probably even find a parked bench," Drouin said.

The piece of Kansas City history is what advocates with "Save the Paseo" are fighting to keep.

"Our biggest focus is that the Paseo signs are returned back to the Paseo,” said Diane Euston, an advocate with Save the Paseo.

But not everyone agrees with the change.

“I know I feel like with all the senseless crimes and everything going on in the city, if you take a look at the sign and it says Dr. Martin Luther King on there, maybe the kids or whoever will take a second look and say, 'Hey, maybe I shouldn’t do that,'" said Monika Samuels, owner of Suite 39 Salon.

Samuels has owned a salon on the street for three years. She hopes the civil rights leader's name will help spur what she said is much needed change.

“Paseo, it goes from north to south. It’s such a long stretch of street. I feel like it’s the best street to represent Kansas City to change it," she said.

Voters will get to decide on Nov. 5.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.