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The Indian Mound is a geological feature located at Belmont Avenue and Gladstone Boulevard. It is at the east end of Kessler Park and Cliff Drive. The ridge above the Missouri River has probably seen continuous Native American settlement for hundreds of years. Early amateur archeologists found remains of settlements at Hardesty Avenue and at White Avenue along Gladstone Boulevard. When the foundation was dug for Gladstone Elementary School in 1913, the remains of a village including a dance floor were found.
The Kansas City Museum has in its possession hundreds of artifacts found along the bluff at the aforementioned sites and at the Mound itself. But what is the Mound? Some have said it is a burial site, others a place for signal fires, and some have said it’s just a place where generations have lived and their waste and daily living built up the area.
The original Mound was about 5-feet above grade and over the years a number of “digs” were done at the site. In 1877, a story in the Kansas City Times related the opening of two ancient mounds on the bluff. A stone hearth was found in one mound and the other contained human bones. The location of the second mound wasn’t indicated nor which held the bones. The Journal Post reported in 1897 that a flint arrowhead was found at the top of Indian Mound and later in 1921 the same paper had a story about 25 to 30 arrowheads were dug up “near the top of the mound.”
In 1923 amateur archeologists dug two trenches in a cross shape 5-feet deep and 50-feet long. Found were pestles for grinding grain, spear and arrowheads, flint knives and human bones. Unfortunately the methods of that day were far less precise than those used in archeology today. Without knowing where these items were found, or at what strata within the five-foot depth, it’s impossible to define use or period of use. If the bones were at the lowest level than it is certainly possible that the Indian Mound began as a burial site and had different uses by later inhabitants.
In 1937, with the Mound deteriorating badly, it was decided, as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, to cover the mound with soil. What we see today is the end result of that work.
There were many tribes who frequented this area. One, called the Middle Mississippians, built many mounds in the St. Louis vicinity and could have been in our area around 800 A.D. This high point of land with views for miles in all directions with plenty of game and fresh springs on the bluffs would have been popular with numerous tribes.
Indian Mound will probably remain a mystery. A modern, scientific dig would need to remove the 1937 soil and then try to determine where previous digs took place. Only if “virgin” parts of the Mound could be found would it be possible to identify uses through the centuries. That’s not likely to happen and maybe it’s best if it remains just a subject of speculation.
A lawyer who wanted to grow fruits and vegetables was one of the first to donate his property to the City for the creation of a new park. Azriah Budd, who turned to farming when his failing health led him to leave his law practice, donated 20 acres in 1891. The donation had one condition; the city would in turn pay his widow $3,000 a year for the use of the land until her death. His widow sold an additional 4 acres to the city in 1901, and two homes at the corner of St. John and Hardesty were condemned in 1902 to make the park a complete rectangle with 26.39 acres.
The first shelter house was built in 1896. Designed by brother architects John and Adriance Van Brunt, the wooden-frame structure also had a bandstand. Three years later, they also designed a tool house and barn that stood where the pool is currently located. Park designer George Kessler designed the classic limestone stairway at Hardesty Avenue and St. John Avenue. Three more sets of steps were added in 1907. The steps at Anderson Avenue have since been removed. The first tennis courts appeared in 1914 and the first pool in 1917. While he is best known today for designing Starlight Theatre, Edward Buehler Delk designed a new shelter house for Budd Park in 1927. The original design called for the use of brick, but was built of stone instead. The stone used was from two sources. The Country Club building that was part of the golf links that stood on what is now Loose Park was the major source for the stone. The other was Oak Hall, the William Rockhill Nelson residence near 44th & Warwick that was being razed to make way for the new art gallery. Completed in 1928, the landmark shelter with 2 fireplaces is still a popular picnic spot.
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Local Websites and Blogs
Indian Mound Neighborhood Association - http://www.indianmoundneighborhood.org
Local Photographer Extraordinaire, David Remley - http://hyperblogal.blogspot.com/