Exploring the East Side of Kansas City

On Friday my brother and I moved my father into the apartment where he’ll be staying for two weeks. If he likes the place, he may move there permanently. I had a long day of doing family stuff, but my sister worked Friday from 7:30 am to 6 or so and then helped Dad with various things. I left his apartment at 9 pm, and she didn’t get home until about midnight.

On Saturday, I took a bit of a break and drove around eastern Kansas City looking for the swimming hole my father and his friends swam in when they were kids. He said it was in the Blue River near 53rd and Hardesty and had a large tree growing out of it.


View Hardesty Ave & E 53rd St in a larger map
In the 1930s, when my father was riding his bike from his house on 39th and Benton to the swimming hole, the area south of 27th was called the South Side. (You can still see “South Side” signs in Kansas City; there’s one on Wornall near 75th.) Benton lies between Prospect and Cleveland; after it runs through Brush Creek Park, it ends at Swope Parkway.

I got lost a few times on the east side of Kansas City. I went too far north on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard and found a remnant of Hardesty, but not the one I wanted. Google Maps directed me back south to Elmwood and the Blue Parkway and another remnant of Hardesty, where I drove to the end of 53rd Street and could see the Blue River sparkling below. There seemed to be no easy way to get down to it, though, and I wasn’t dressed for trekking through the brush. Also, I felt awkward poking around at the end of this narrow street.

I tried driving to the end of 51st Street but was stopped by two gates and what looked like a gravel pit below.

By then I was pretty frustrated, but Google gave me an idea: I could cross the Blue River and try to find Brighton Avenue (also called Denver Avenue), which ran north-south on its west side. When I crossed the river on Blue Parkway, I saw a fenced-off gravel road to the left just past the river, right where Brighton should be, but the first street I could actually drive up was Lawn. That road was so steep I had to force myself to keep going, and then I found myself in another maze of streets. I could have driven south and tried to access Brighton from 59th, but it was 5 pm, and I wanted to get back south.

I didn’t tell Dad about my trek. Instead, I decided I’d write a letter to the Kansas City Star and ask if any readers remembered the swimming hole.