31st & Troost Avenue Mural
Designed by local artist Alexander Austin, this 100-foot mural at 31st & Troost celebrates the neighborhood's rich history. It was commissioned by The Troost Folks, sponsors of Troost Avenue Festivals and unveiled on Labor Day in 2006. It includes a tribute to the Osage Tribe, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Disney, and the iconic Isis Theatre which once operated at this corner. As the area around Troost continues to change over time, the mural offers recognition of the diverse people who called the area home and serves as a symbol of community efforts to create new opportunities.
31st & Troost Ave. Mural
1940 image of the Isis Theater And Wirthman Building. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
An illustration of Le Soldat Du Chene, the Osage Chief in this area in the early 1800s. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
A photo of Walt Disney as a young man.
A street lamp at the corner of 31st Street and Troost Ave. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
Backstory and Context
The history of Troost Avenue pre-dates the arrival of European settlers, when Native Americans occupied the region before their forceful removal. This road was once part of the Osage Trail which supported hunting and trade, and became the first phase of the Santa Fe Trail in 1825. At this time, settlers of European descent used their growing power to push the vast majority of Osage to depart. These Native Americans and others eventually traveled to southeast Kansas while others moved to "Indian Territory," the current state of Oklahoma. By 1865, the Osage population had decreased by 95% as they settled in modern-day Osage County, Oklahoma.
In the 1880’s, white settlers, including slave owners, developed the area. The wealthiest residents of the city built extravagant homes as retreat from the filth of downtown and this stretch of Troost became known as "Millionaire’s Row." Following a stock market scare years later, these homes were sold off. As the wealthy moved to newly developed neighborhoods to the west, the less-affluent and minority population re-built this area which became “a city inside a city” and a center of commerce.
By the 1960s, Troost Avenue had become a racial dividing line. Despite the 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, civic leaders sought to maintain segregation by drawing district boundaries in ways that placed African American families in majority-Black schools. Troost was one of these boundaries. As a result, white residents who lived in the neighborhood sold their homes and moved to white-majority neighborhoods. Due to restrictive covenants and poor lending practices, African Americans families paid higher mortgages and rents. The economic divide created strain on businesses and the once lively Troost district became blighted.
In addition to honorable artwork like this mural, new and ongoing efforts to revitalize the Troost corridor include the restoration of historic buildings and the construction of new buildings, apartments, and recreational venues.
Albright, Hunter. "Isis Theatre." African American Heritage Trail. aahtkc.org. Accessed October 24, 2021. https://aahtkc.org/isis-theater.
"Do you remember the Wirthman Building and the Isis Theater?" Midtown KC Post (blog). midtownkcpost.com. October 26, 2015. http://midtownkcpost.com/do-you-remember-the-wirthman-building-and-the-isis-theater/.
Green, Ron. "The Roots of Animation in Kansas City." Jackson County Historical Society Journal (Summer 2014): 15-19. Accessed June 9, 2018. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51181e81e4b04512ec820440/t/53d5510de4b02f566ee1b0e6/1406488845322/disneykc.pdf
"History." Thank You, Walt Disney Inc. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://thankyouwaltdisney.org/history/
Salley, Paul. "Isis Theater: 3102 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109." Cinema Treasures. Accessed October 24, 2021. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1430.
Susanin, Timothy S. Walt before Mickey: Disney's Early Years, 1919-1928. University Press of Mississippi, 2014.
Troost Festival Folks Committee. "31st & Troost Mural Unveiling." Troost Ave. Festival Press Release. Sept 1, 2006. https://www.creativeprocess.net/cgc/troost/archive/pdf/muralpr2006.pdf.
"What is Walt Disney's connection to Kansas City?" Missouri Valley Special Collections. kchistory.org. Accessed October 24, 2021. http://www.kchistory.org/faq/what-walt-disneys-connection-kansas-city.
Collison, Kevin. Troost Village Plan Would Transform Heart of Historic Commercial District, Flatland KC. February 12th 2021. Accessed April 6th 2022. https://www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/troost-village-plan-would-transform-heart-of-historic-commercial-district/.
By Smuckola - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91985921
Kansas City Public Library images via "Thank You Walt Disney." https://thankyouwaltdisney.org/