Zip Trip: With nearly 100,000 residents, Lee’s Summit still has small town vibe and a lot to do

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — The sixth largest city by land area in the state sits just about 30 minutes southeast of Kansas City.

The population has more than doubled in the last 30 years, but ask any one of the 98,000 residents – it still has a small town vibe.

“Everywhere you go it has the family feel. It’s great,” Lee’s Summit Police Sgt. Chris Depue said. “From world-class schools our amazing parks and rec system and just that overall big city amenities with a small town feel.”

Lee’s Summit was founded in the late 1800s by William B. Howard.

“He came here in 1844 to establish the city, but before he did that, he was smart enough to know that the railroad was eventually going to come through here,” volunteer Kathy Smith said.

The railroad played a big role in how Lee’s Summit got its name. The “summit” half came from being the highest elevation along the railroad between Kansas City and St. Louis. The “lee” part of it is still a debate.

“Most of us historians believe it’s actually named after Dr. Pleasant L-E-A and not after Robert E. Lee like a lot of people want to believe,” Smith said. “When the surveyors with the railroad came through they called this “Dr. Lea’s Prairie,” but they didn’t know that his name was L-E-A. So when they established their office they wrote Lee’s Summit on the box car but they spelled it L-E-E-S.”

In 1885, a devastating fire destroyed the commercial district of downtown. But it didn’t take long for the community to come together and rebuild. In fact, many of those buildings are still standing today.

“The downtown is the heart of Lee’s Summit,” Lee’s Summit Museum Board Member John Wisniewski said. “Things change, buildings change, and they’ve really put their heart into making downtown Lee’s Summit part of the overall community.”

Whether you’re looking for a new place to eat, somewhere to take the kids  or a day of fun outdoors — give Lee’s Summit a try.

“You can spend all day and all week and never leave. There’s just so much to love about Lee’s Summit,” volunteer Fred Liggett said.

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