Everything’s up to date in Kansas City!

Our plan was to visit Independence, Missouri, and the Harry Truman Presidential Library in the fall of 2020, but the covid pandemic got in the way. We rescheduled to October of 2021. The library reopened, we got reservations, the library closed again. We stuck with our plans, trusting that there would be things to do in the Kansas City area, and there were.


The place where we stayed, our Vacation Rental By Owner, was an mansion on Gladstone Boulevard. It had been built in 1897 either for Jacob Rieger, an immigrant from Austria-Hungary, or for his son Alexander. They had established a distillery in Missouri near the border with Kansas, which had enacted statewide Prohibition in 1881. They did very god business there and the area became known as the “Wettest Block in the World”.

“Our” mansion was set up with a music room, a parlor, a dining room, a large kitchen, a small sitting room with a bathroom, a TV room, and more on the first floor. The second floor had five bedrooms and two bathrooms. There was also a third floor and a basement, but those were off-limits to us.

The owner of the house is a musician from California, who uses the pseudonym Elvis Schoenberg when leading his Orchestre Surreal. He was in Kansas City when we visited to supervise the re-paving of the parking lot behind the house.

Front of 1897’s Rieger House

Bill, Anne, Bob, and Julie in the parlor

Bill, Julie, Bob, Gail, and Maija in the dining room

The Music Room with its antique piano and ornate ceiling

Stairs from the the second floor to the first floor

Large mirror with a reflection of the chandelier over the stairs

Street view from the front bedroom.
The windows haven’t been cleaned in a long time.

Gail photographing the music room ceiling

Check out the VBRO site, https://www.vrbo.com/1183794, if you want to see more interior photos.

For our first dinner, we walked a block and a half to San Antonio Carniceria Y Tortilleria. There we bought tortillas and the fixings for tacos, brought them home, and enjoyed them in the big dining room with beer that the Zinks brought from St. Louis.

The Zinks also brought food for breakfast. We decided to boil some of the eggs in the evening to make them available for Wednesday’s breakfast. The mansion is also rented out for events so the gas range in the kitchen is a large commercial quality appliance. Half the range top is a griddle. The other half has oversized burners. Bill put a pot with water and eggs on one of the burners to cook the eggs. Soon a terrible odor filled the house. It even brought the owner down from the third floor. The hot gasses from the large burner were rising around the pot and burning rubber in the pot’s handle. No permanent damage was done, but the smell lingered for over a day and we did not use that pot again.


Our first full day together started off rainy and overcast. Since the Truman facilities were closed, we visited the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th and Vine Historical District. That is a historic hub of African-American businesses as well as the center of the Kansas City jazz scene. Both museums are housed in the same building. Gail and I went into the jazz museum and never came out again. There were many interactive exhibits with enough recordings to occupy us for hours. The others went to the Negro Leagues museum and found it very interesting.

We had lunch at the Smaxx Restuarant, a block and a holf from the museums. Flavorful and abundant food, but awfully noisy recorded music coming from the room next to the small dining area.

Count Basie’s plaque on the the Jazz Walk of Fame on 18th Street

Bob, Julie, and Bill at the Smaxx Restaurant

For dinner, we all piled into the Zink’s van and Bob drove us to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue Restaurant. It is housed in the Freight House, a 1887 railroad building, with two other restaurants. We dined outside and were entertained by freight trains passing on the other side of the parking lot. The food was very good.


We went to Independence in the morning to ride a wagon. Pulled by two mules, the Pioneer Trails wagon resembles the Conestoga wagons that carried the pioneers out to Oregon. Our wagon took us around to the historic locations of Independence, at one point passing along a narrow lane dug into the ground by the passage of thousands of wagons. Our guide told tales about the Trumans, about the town when it was the stepping off place for families heading west, and about the conflicts in Missouri before, during, and after the Civil War. We heard how pro-slavery settlers imported people from the slave states to vote on making Missouri a slave state, how Jayhawkers took slaves from Missouri to Kansas where they could be freed (at least until the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law allowed ex-slaves to be seized in the free states), Quantrill and his raiders, Frank and Jesse James, carpet baggers grabbing family’s farms for back taxes, and more. Our guide recommended the movies The Outlaw Josey Wales and Ride with the Devil, two Civil-war era movies with a Confederate slant, for us to learn more about Missouri and its role in the Civil War.

For lunch, we ate outside at Ophelia’s Restaurant and then had ice cream cones across the street at Clinton’s Ice Cream & Soda. Harry Truman had worked at Clinton’s when he was a boy and it was a drugstore.

Our final adventure of the afternoon was a visit to the National Frontier Trails Museum. The museum presents the story of those who traveled the Santa Fe and pioneer trails. Two large dioramas showed merchant wagons arriving at Santa Fe and pioneer wagons detouring around a large butte.

The Pioneer Trails wagon

Bill chatting with our guide

The log Courthouse built in 1827

Seen from the wagon, Harry Turman’s home behind Julie and Bill

For dinner Thursday, we went to Grunauer, an Austrian-German restaurant located in the same building as the BBQ restaurant we ate at on Wednesday. Again we sat outside and were entertained by passing trains. Thursday’s special was Venison Rehgulasch. Those of us who had it found the meat very dry.


Before we traveled home again, we sat for a group photo in the music room. If you look closely, you can see that this is a composite image formed by combining one without Al with one without Maija. Click on the image to see the originals.

Where shall we gather next year? Springfield, Illinois, with its Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library was mentioned as well as Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin.

Left: A jayhawker?
No, just a bird greeting us on arrival at the Kansas City airport, probably a juvenile Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk.

Right: Casing from a Blazer brass 40 S&W bullet.
This 40 caliber casing became stuck in the tread of our rented Jeep Cherokee on The Paseo parkway while we were driving home Wednesday from the Jazz and Negro Leagues Museums. The gun that uses this was developed for the FBI. I doubt that the FBI left this spent cartridge on the street.

Responsible: Albert Holm
Created: 21 October 2021; updated: 22 October 2021