Why did the area of 18th and Vine become famous?

18th and Vine
Charlie Parker memorial
near 18th and Vine

Located just east of downtown, this historic area includes a number of city blocks surrounding the intersection of 18th and Vine Streets. African-American Kansas Citians began settling in this area in the late 1800s, and by the 1920s the 18th and Vine District was a thriving commercial, residential, and entertainment center. From shopping for clothes and food to visiting a doctor or lawyer, it has been said that one could find anything and everything near 18th and Vine.

During the Prohibition era, when Kansas City was under the control of political boss Tom Pendergast, the 18th and Vine area also became known for its rollicking nightlife, personified by the music that accompanied it: Kansas City jazz. From the nightclubs in the district could be heard the sounds of players who would become legends, such as Bennie Moten, Big Joe Turner, George and Julia Lee, Count Basie, and Charlie “Bird” Parker.

In recent years the area has been redeveloped as a historic district and is now home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, and the restored Gem Theater.

For more information search the Local History Index.

Librarian Dan Coleman
April 2006

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