August Meyer, 1851-1905, Parks
Here Lies Kansas City by Wilda Sandy, Published by Bennett Schneider Inc., 1984
| Among Kansas City’s “greats”, August Meyer, father of our parks and boulevard system is at the top of the heap. It was largely he who made our “city beautiful.” |
August Meyer was born in St. Louis of German decent August 20, 1851, and came to Kansas City 30 ears later. He was educated in Europe (in mining and metallurgy), and became the super-rich mining magnate and co-founder of Leadville, Colorado. By age 30, Meyer had achieved more than most in a lifetime.
In 1875, he opened an ore-crushing mill in Alma, Colorado, and went on, as government assayer, to found nearby Fairplay and Leadville. He and his co-investors (including H. A. W. Tabor of Baby Doe fame) made a fortune. Then in 1881 he opened a smelting plant in the Argentine district here which in eight years’ time provided employment for 1,000 men.
The wealthy and successful Meyer was an avid outdoorsman and nature enthusiast. To him, city beautification was imperative, “a community must attract with more than just tax concessions and columns of figures.”
Small wonder then as early as 1887 he began working on a major Kansas City parks program. A comprehensive plan for civic improvement was what he and a few others began hammering at. He and his crusading newspaper-owning neighbor, William Rockhill Nelson, beat the drum hard, and in 1892 Mayor Ben Holmes appointed the city’s first Park Board. It was composed of blue-ribbon talent: Meyer (who became president), architect Adriance Van Brunt, Louis Hammerslough who was a leading merchant, industrialist S. B. Armour, and real estate giant William C. Glass.
August R. Meyer Memorial
The Paseo, 1909
|Meyer and his Park Board hired George Kessler, a talented young landscape architect as secretary. It was Kessler who drew the brilliant masterplan that has become the park system we know today. When the Park Board proposed a special property tax to fund the system, there were howls of protest. But thanks to Nelson’s Kansas City STAR and the persuasive park Board members themselves, funding legislation passed in 1895. The rest is history, with our park system becoming a prototype in the United States. |
August Meyer, the leading light in making Kansas City beautiful died at age 54 on December 1, 1905. Meyer Boulevard memorializes his name, as does a lovely wrought iron Tiffany rood screen at Grace and Hole Cathedral given by his wife. His “Marburg”, a three-story, 35-room Germanic castle and eight and one-half rolling acres, became the Kansas City Art Institute campus at 44h and Warwick boulevard. August Meyer’s presence is still very much with us.