Located in the heart of Kansas City, Penn Valley Park was built in an historic area once called “Penn Street Ravine.” The ravine was originally a heavily-forested route for pioneers heading west on the Santa Fe Trail. By the 1890s, many of the trees had been cut down to construct houses and buildings.
Because the area was so historic and “charming” (1893 Report of the Park and Boulevard Commissioners), it was seen as a good area to build a 134-acre boulevard route and park. In 1900, 300 houses were purchased and removed. By 1904, roads were established, a dam was built and a lake was created.
Soon after, playground equipment, tennis courts, a field house and a swimming pool were added. The facilities were actively used until 1949 when they were razed for the construction of the Southwest Trafficway and I-35.
A park district Operations Building designed by noted Kansas City architects Root and Siemens was built in the southeast part of the park in 1910. The stone walls and building were quite attractive and did not look like a maintenance compound, but most of the structure was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1991. Today the “Just Off Broadway” Theatre is located near what is left of the maintenance building’s walls.
The property that is a dog park today has had a variety of uses over the years. In 1918, it was a “tourist camp” for people traveling across the country by automobile. Use of the camp stopped after 1929. During World War II, the Army used the same area as a “recreational camp” with tents where soldiers could stay when they were in the city on leave. After the war, the two Army camp areas were used by returning veterans for housing with sturdier buildings constructed there. The last families moved out at the end of 1954, and the buildings were torn down.
Memorial Hill, 46.96-acres, is located within Penn Valley Park.
Ornamental StructuresThere are several notable art pieces within Penn Valley Park.
Cyrus E. Dallin, of Boston and Paris, sculpted The Scout for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco where it won a Gold Medal. On its way back to Dallin’s Boston studio by train, The Scout was placed on temporary exhibit in Penn Valley Park. The statue was so popular that Kansas City residents raised $15,000 to buy it.
The Pioneer Mother Memorial (1927) recognizes all pioneer mothers who crossed the plains. Kansas City resident Howard Vanderslice sponsored its creation by sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor. The statue was placed in Penn Valley Park near the location of the Santa Fe Trail upon which many “pioneer mothers” traveled. Local architectural firm Wight and Wight designed the base.
The Hiker (1947) stands south of the Liberty Memorial Mall and represents veterans of the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection and the China Relief Expedition whose soldiers had the nickname “Hiker.” Sculpted by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson, it was one of several Hiker statues she did, which are placed throughout the United States.
The Firefighters’ Fountain (1991) is located at the south end of the park at 31st between Broadway and the Southwest Trafficway. It commemorates the City’s firefighters and memorializes those who have given their lives in the line of duty. The fountain’s sculpture was created by local sculptor Tom Corbin. The conceptual design was done by local artist Byron Gash.
In 1906, several plaques commemorating the “Santa Fe Trail” were placed in the City. Maud Miles, an art teacher at Manual Training High School, designed the plaque. The marker in Penn Valley Park was first located at 30th and Broadway, but then moved near 27th Street just west of Main Street. It was removed during the construction of the new Federal Reserve Bank in 2006.
Memorial Hill is home to the Liberty Memorial, Liberty Memorial North and South Fountains, 89th Division Memorial, Army Morther's Founders Post Memorial, Navy Mothers' Club (Heart of America) Memorial, Walk of Honor, and "Pro Patrai Mori" gates with glass mosaic.
Map of the Park
Download foldable brochure with a map of the park.
Caution: Feeding Waterfowl may be Harmful!
Regular feeding can cause dependency on people for food, conflicts with people and spread of disease.