North by Northeast

Northeast Kansas City has a reputation. Actually, it has had a lot of reputations, not all of them savory. Once the home of Kansas City’s elite, the area fell into disrepute and disrepair. Currently, though, it seems on the path of gentrification, becoming the home of a considerable contigent of KC’s “creative class,” in what is branded the “Historic Northeast.”

Just like in the Crossroads district (and a common theme throughout the history of urbanization – think SoHo in New York), the artists moved where the rent was cheap, the galleries followed the artists, the restaurants followed the galleries, the developers followed the restaurants, the rents go up, the lawyers move in, the cheese stands alone.

It is beautiful up on that bluff, though, and the setting sun on the skyline casts a rosy glow:

The trains on the tracks of the East Bottoms emit a low rumble as the hint of train whistles drift lazily up the cliff, the shrill squeal of brakes softened to the jingle of a windchime, the lights of the trainyards emanating like a transposed galactic swirl.

The area is home to dozens of turn-of-the-century mansions, many of which were broken up into apartments in the last century, and they are slowly being regained to their single-family, duchess-like glory.

One of the mansions is Corinthian Hall, built by timber-baron, KC legend Robert A. Long. It is the home of the Kansas City Museum  and is going through an extensive, long-overdue renovation to return it to its former opulance (including, if rumor serves, a lush pink and white dining room!!).  For years, it wilted under the pressure of out-dated, out-of-touch exhibits, mangey taxidermy, and lackadaisical remodels. A few years ago, the place was gutted, making way for a careful and thorough renaissance.

The Kansas City Museum is still providing services, though. Anyone interested in architecture, history of the hall, and renovation processes should take one of the hard hat tours,usually led by museum director Christopher Leitch. The museum’s exhibits have moved to the centrally located Union Station (another gorgeous building reaffirming its own relevancy) and events happen city-wide, such as various Trolley Tours. On-site, documentaries are shown in the StoryTarium and the grounds of the Hall hosts a second Friday’s summer concert series.

Last year, a few weeks after our son was born, we headed up north to see our friends perform in Alaturka, a band that is either Turkish-inspired-jazz or Jazz-infused-Turkish-music, depending on your bent.

Last Friday night, we took our tike to see Run Little Rabbit, a relatively new bluegrassy trio. The three women brought out all the requisite string instruments (banjo, bass, fiddles) and sang about love, etc. with delightfully close, twangy harmonies. They had a small repertoire (they repeated their set list when they realized they’d been booked to play ’til 9), but based on the response from the dozens of dancing children and lounging adults I don’t think anyone minded, or would have even noticed.

The next concert on the series is August 10 with the Grisley Hand. There’s also a music series on the third Saturday of the month called “Summer Sunset Concert Series,” featuring some of the area’s lauded musical talents and a round-up of food trucks. Considering that this area also hosts some of the city’s best taco trucks, I’d say it’s set up for another fun evening.

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