During recent work to expand the Kansas City Streetcar southward—a project that will restore streetcar traffic up Main Street past the Bank’s headquarters at 1 Memorial Drive—rails, cable pulleys and other structural implements from the city’s old streetcar line were uncovered. The discovery ties the past to the future, underscoring the historical importance of the Bank’s location.
The history of the land on which the Bank’s head office sits—in the area of 29th and Main streets—is well-documented to 1821, when it was part of the Santa Fe Trail, then the country’s main commercial highway. An early advance in local transportation began in 1869 with the founding of the Kansas City and Westport Horse Railroad Co., which created a horse car system to connect Kansas City with Westport, south of the Bank’s current location. One of the founders was Milton Payne, a former Kansas City mayor who once owned the land where the Bank now stands.
Although the horse railroad company provided a public transportation option, it was unprofitable and didn’t last long. By about 1911, the Metropolitan Street Railway Co. was working on an electric streetcar system. Tracks up the steep grade on Main Street between 24th and 27th streets were completed in 1919. Streetcars then ran along Main Street past the current bank location before being phased out in the late 1950s. The old rail lines were paved over and forgotten…until recently.