“You’re moving where?” said a well-meaning friend one morning when I told her the good news that we found a super cute house.
“A few blocks east of Troost. A little bungalow south of Rockhurst.”
“Oh,” she replied and didn’t say anything else.
When we were getting ready to move into our current house, I got this response a lot. The phrase “east of Troost” could easily bring about furrowed brows, expressions of concern, or even outright gasps depending on who I was talking to. To be honest it’s not undeserved. Troost has a long and layered reputation. It’s widely considered Kansas City’s racial dividing line. Several of the city’s zip codes with the highest crime rates are also east of Troost. The avenue has more than its fair share of vacant store fronts. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Troost is a vibrant, diverse, active community, and I absolutely love living here.
We didn’t set out to move to our neighborhood out of some deep community spirit. Admittedly, it was based on price. My family had been living in Waldo for two years, but our house was too small. Staying in Waldo seemed like a decent option, but the more we looked we realized the prices in Waldo were skyrocketing.
As I dove deep into the search, I kept seeing bungalows pop up in my Trulia and Zillow feeds. They were all in Troostwood or Troost Plateau. They all had at least three bedrooms, decent looking yards, and lots of charm: fireplaces, huge porches, french doors leading into a bedroom/den. And the kicker? The rent. It was basically the same as what we paid in Waldo for twice the house.
Yes the prices are great, but it’s about more than money. This is the best neighborhood I’ve lived in during my 13 years in KC.
It’s Historic: I’m a history buff, and I’ve fallen in love with this city’s history. The history of Troost is the history of Kansas City itself. Before it became Troost Avenue, this was the main path/trail the Osage Indians took to get to the Missouri River. Later, after white settlers moved in, Troost became home to “Millionaire’s Row” between 26th and 32nd street. This reflected the booming 1880s in Kansas City. While many of the grandest mansions are long gone, there are still several that still stand and have either been restored or repurposed as apartment homes.
Ever heard of the Laugh-o-Gram studios? It’s a two story modest building east of 31st and Troost where Walt Disney worked as an illustrator and created Mickey Mouse. I still cannot believe that I drive past the origins of Mickey FREAKING Mouse every morning on something as routine as my daycare drive. I could about 37 more blogs on the history alone!
The Diversity: Diversity can easily become a buzzword, but living east of Troost it is a very real thing that means diversity on all levels. A few longtime Kansas City journalists told me that my neighborhood of Troost Plateau is the most diverse neighborhood in the city not only when it comes to race, but also income and age. Neighbors on our block alone include Rockhurst and UMKC students sharing a house, a young couple who works at a non-profit downtown, two families with young children, a multi-generational family who spends every evening sitting on their porch, single men and single women who enjoy their gardens after long days at work, and older couples who have lived in their same homes for 40 years.
It’s the older neighbors I really love. They have seen the neighborhood change and tell me wonderful stories of the families who have lived here throughout the decades. My son especially loves Miss Mary. She’s retired, lives next door, and always comes out to say hello if she hears us outside. He drew her a sidewalk chalk picture one day because he “wanted to make Miss Mary smile.” He gets to see that older people aren’t just grandparents; they are our friends and neighbors as well.
The Neighborhood Spirit: It’s hard to encompass the neighborhood spirit in just a few words but I have to because I’m almost at my word count limit. Block parties. A community garden. Neighborhood watches. Monthly neighborhood meetings. Sidewalk chalk playdates. Quiet nights on the porch. The PORCH!
Our little bungalows are all lined up in neat rows and are close together. They have these great big covered porches that are simply made for making friends. Our family is out there every night playing and sometimes eating supper. A co-worker who lives a couple blocks down put it best when she said “It’s a real neighborhood- our houses’ designs mean that we see each other often and get to know each other.”
Maybe it’s simply a product of good neighbors, or the fact that I’m happier because we have a normal sized house, but coming home to our little house on the east side of Troost is a great feeling. It’s like exhaling at the end of a long day. It’s a privilege to be part of such a rich community.