My dear old grandfather Walter Stillwell was the night engineer down at the Independence Power Plant for some 30 years during my childhood. Back in those days, the power plant was located on Dodgion Street where the Roger T. Sermon Community Center is today.
Walter worked from 11 p.m. until 7 every morning. He would then hurry home from work and have a bowl of Cheerios with my grandmother before quickly driving her to the streetcar line at Englewood Station, so she could head into the city for her day's work at Helzberg Diamonds.
Today, it’s the metro bus that pulls up in front of a bus stop in Englewood Station as workers climb aboard for their hard day's toil downtown, but we don’t have to stretch our imagination very far to visualize our grandparents riding streetcars down the center medium of Winner Road through Englewood. And a generation before them, it was the “Dummy Line,” a railroad with a steam powered locomotive and two passenger cars that ran through the middle of Englewood – Eastern Jackson County’s oldest suburban shopping center and the crown jewel of Winner Road. The Independence and Park Railway Company, which was the official name for the Dummy Line, ran from 15th and Askew in Kansas City, along Winner Road, through Mount Washington and Englewood to the Independence Square.
Mount Washington Cemetery used to be a gorgeous park known as Washington Park, and Winner Road has not always been known by that handle. In fact, according to local historians it has had a couple of other names down through the years. The 100-foot wide boulevard has a long history, which dates back to earlier times when automobiles were only a “pipe dream” – the roadway was known early on as Washington Park Avenue. During the early 1920s it was called Mount Washington Boulevard, and was still an unpaved road. It was renamed Winner Road in 1929 upon the death of the man who developed the neighborhood and built the boulevard, Willard Winner.
The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City holds the distinction of being the nation’s first suburban shopping center dating back into the 1920s, but Englewood became the center of business activity long before the concept of suburban shopping centers ever developed. The name of Englewood appears on a 1904 map as an addition platted on land owned by the Winner Investment Company. Commercial activity in the area began as early as 1910, and by 1917, approximately 40 families lived in the general vicinity.
In December 1922, Englewood, Missouri, was incorporated as a fourth class city. However, 42 days later the city unincorporated due to the confusion caused by another city named Englewood in nearby Gladstone. Thereafter, it was called Englewood Station. The officers of the short-lived city were Arthur F. Gordon, John K. Hoover, J.H. Smith and McDonald Harris.
At that time, an effort to annex the area into Independence failed, because many Englewood residents and business owners opposed joining Independence or Kansas City and they continued forward for a number of years as an unincorporated community. However, growing pains grew as Englewood grew; problems surfaced and persisted with schools, sewage, fire and police protection in the growing suburb. The post-war booms of both WWI and WWII saw tremendous growth in the Englewood area and the need for change was looming heavy on the horizon.
Time saw their Rock Creek school district join Kansas City, and Englewood, along with nearby Maywood, Fairmount and Mount Washington, were annexed into Independence on May 12, 1948, effectively doubling the size and population of Independence.
Today, the Englewood Arts District promotes a number of art galleries and hosts the “3rd Friday Art-Walk” at Englewood Station, Winner Road and Sterling Avenue.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.