Leavenworth Road has always been a major east-west thoroughfare for our community. Without Leavenworth Road and its history, the neighborhoods and businesses along Leavenworth Road wouldn’t exist as we know them today.
Since the inception of Leavenworth Road, there has been an ongoing conversation about the need to make it safer and more efficient for wagons, carriages, and then vehicles. Now, we are reinvesting in the modernization of this roadway to not only make it safer and more efficient for vehicles, but also more walkable for the residents of these historic communities along Leavenworth Road.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowed Kansas to be settled by white men. The land, which is now known as Kansas City, KS, was previously settled and owned by the Wyandot and Delaware tribes. Once the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, the Wyandot and Delaware almost immediately sold all of their land to white settlers.
“The Road to Leavenworth” was established as a wagon path connecting small settler communities like Quindaro and Wyandott to the City of Leavenworth and Ft. Leavenworth. These small communities were considered as part of Leavenworth’s city government. The six-hour journey was traveled back and forth to carry supplies, bring foods to market, and conduct business in Leavenworth.
1850's - 1860's
During this time period, the Road to Leavenworth was also used as part of the Underground Railroad. The Quindaro community was known for being anti-slavery, helping enslaved people escape from tobacco farms in Missouri. After seeking safe harbor across the river, they used the Road to Leavenworth to travel to different areas of the country for resettlement.
1857: A map of Leavenworth County showing the new settlements of Quindaro and Wyandotte. The Road to Leavenworth connected these settlements to Leavenworth City and the fort.
Smaller communities, such as Welborn, Vance, Bethel, and Piper started developing along the Road to Leavenworth. Homes were built and churches and schools were established, providing the foundation to the communities we know today.
1880's: Community Church in Welborn
Since the Road to Leavenworth was only a dirt wagon path, there was a need to develop the road into a safer, more efficient roadway. Building a road in the early 1900s consisted of simple technology and heavy labor. Using horse-drawn scrapers, farmers and rural laborers created a surface amenable to wagon and stage travel.
1904: Building Leavenworth Road
With the introduction of the automobile to the broad society, people began traveling more quickly and frequently, especially to and from destinations on the Road to Leavenworth.
In 1926, the Road to Leavenworth was designated as a state highway, known as Highway 5. Under the state ownership, the road was developed further into a better, wider, flatter surface. This made the road more reliable as it was now passable in the snow. Highway 5 ran from 38th Street to 91st Street, where it turned north and on to Leavenworth.
Despite the Depression era, there was plenty of commercial growth along the Road to Leavenworth as communities expanded and new business districts were established.
In 1935, Wyandotte County Lake was created, featuring the lake and park space as we know it today. The Road to Leavenworth began to see drivers more frequently as people used this road to travel to the lake. Even the businesses along the Road to Leavenworth advertised, “Grab a shake on your way to the lake.”
Since the road was maintained as a highway, more people lived along the Road to Leavenworth because of its safe surface and its proximity to shops and services. As a result, the area saw rapid commercial development. Large destination shopping centers were developed that included super markets, bowling alleys, drive-ins, and big filling stations.
1950s: Leavenworth Road
Welborn Super Market
Velvet Ice Cream
Sunset Plaza Opening Day