In 2019, my wife and I moved to Kansas City for her new job. We wanted to live in a real neighborhood with real people. We needed to dwell near enough downtown for her to walk and bike to work. The house we rented was in Beacon Hill. From our earliest days on Tracy Avenue, I immediately saw two neighborhoods existing in one urban space.
As the middle class fled Kansas City’s urban core after 1970, Beacon Hill’s fortunes changed. Many families and retailers decamped for greener suburban pastures. Numerous families stayed put in Beacon Hill. In recent years these long-timers had increasingly been joined by the likes of my wife and I: younger and mostly white professionals. Renters like us tended to drive up prices in the local rental housing market. Growing numbers of newcomers to Beacon Hill had bought available lots, then built and occupied new homes. These homes commanded prices previously unheard of in the 64108 zip code.
At my first neighborhood meeting, I met the leadership of the Beacon Hill/McFeders Community Council. These women had spent decades in Beacon Hill and raised families there. They were eager to share their neighborhood memoirs. In 2020 and 2021, seven long-time neighborhood residents discussed how their part of Kansas City had changed during their years there.
Drawing on oral histories conducted at the Black Archives of Mid-America in 2020 and 2021 this episode of Mo’ Curious podcast draws on the cultural memory of Kansas City’s Beacon Hill, one of Missouri’s urban neighborhood in transition.