The Englewood Arts District is reviving the historic Englewood area. It’s hard to believe now after more than a century that Englewood was a wide-open space before businesses began to open around 1910.
Trolleys once carried travelers between Independence and Kansas City. One attraction along the present-day Truman (originally Blue Avenue and, later, Van Horn) and Winner Road (formerly Mount Washington Road) streetcar line (called the Electric Line) was Fairmount Park in the Mount Washington area. Then came Fairmount, Maywood and Englewood.
By 1915 or 1916, Englewood began looking like a shopping district and for two short months between December 1922 and February 1923 Englewood, Missouri, was incorporated as a fourth class city – until it was discovered that there was already a Missouri municipality by that name. Until 1927, there were only homes on the south side of Winner, when Homer Vaughn built the first commercial building at 11031 Winner Road … a drug store on the corner of Winner and Harvard, and grocery store next door.
The Englewood Bank (site of the former McCullum home) failed in 1929, and forward movement slowed during the Great Depression. After World War II, business owners established the Englewood Civic and Booster Club on Aug. 30, 1945, incorporated as the Englewood Business Association. Homer Vaughn, “the Father of Englewood,” was the EBA’s first president, and V. A. Julian, secretary-treasurer (he still held that position in 1967 when The Englewood Shopper looked back on its history with an informative article, from which this column is derived).
The EBA’s history committee is collaborating with the Jackson County Historical Society to collect, preserve and make available original documents and photographs about Englewood and the EBA. JCHS is the official repository for donations. Then, the EBA will access and reproduce original materials for publication and exhibit in and around Englewood. If you or someone you know might have EBA-related documents they might donate, send them to JCHS.
The EBA’s first big project was to establish the Englewood Station U.S. post office in August 1964. Its location at the east end of Englewood on Winner was remodeled, enlarged and re-dedicated in November 1967. There, residents could pay their telephone and, later, utility bills. The post office was relocated in 1984 to the former site of Bristol School on Northern (this station is closing in this fall).
Other projects through the years included street lighting along the “main drag,” paving and extension of the center parking areas; hanging flower baskets and painting light poles to dress up the center area.
In 1967, it was estimated that Englewood Plaza’s trade area covered 1.5 to 2 miles, serving at least 15, 000 patrons. At that time, the types of businesses in Englewood varied widely and included three medical buildings, 50 doctors and 42 commercial buildings.
In the 1970s, Englewood Station’s retail strength began to decline, as people started favoring larger suburban shopping centers in outlying areas. Many businesses closed throughout the 80s and 90s.
In September 2011, the city of Independence designated the Englewood Station Arts District, now thriving again with new boutique businesses and art galleries. And the EBA remains a guiding force. We hope that the EBA’s history and individual and business owner’s histories may one day make their way into the Historical Society’s collections for continued preservation and future access by the EBA and growing number of patrons frequenting the historic Englewood area. Check out englewoodstation.org and englewoodstationhistory.org.
David W. Jackson is the former archives and education director of the Jackson County Historical Society.