March 21, 2013
I spent the last half of Spring Break 2013 in Kansas City, but since it was bitterly cold throughout my stay and it snowed, I am calling it a Snow Break!
I again stayed at the Best Western Seville Plaza hotel at Country Club Plaza, and on my first full day in the city I drove a few miles downtown to revisit the Treasures of the Steamboat Arabia museum. I first visited this splendid attraction years ago and recalled that the Hawley family and some of their friends had excavated the 1850s steamboat from under farmland off the Missouri River.
The boat was full of cargo and passengers a few miles from Kansas City when it hit a snag and sank. All of the passengers and crew escaped, but the boat and its cargo sank into the river bottom. The Arabia was buried for over 130 years in conditions which helped preserve its tons of cargo as the river changed course over time. The Hawleys researched its location, found it using an advanced metal detector, and excavated the wreck, recovering tons of nearly pristine cargo.
I pulled up before the impressive facade, posed beside the exterior bronze, and then joined a tour, seeing a satellite image and photos of the excavation site. An artist’s conception of the steamboat helped me visualize it since the wreck was nearly unrecognizable after the river swept away the upper decks. I recalled from my previous visit the large stern on display, with its tiller fashioned from a tree trunk by the crew after the original one had broken, and the large rudder. Back when I had visited the museum, they were still spraying down the wood daily with preservative, but that process is now complete.
I saw the beautiful buttons and trade beads and powder flasks recovered from the wreck, as well as some of the passengers’ personal belongings. There were oodles of pristine kitchenware, dry goods, clothing, and hardware. Even bottled foods were found intact. But some broken glassware was displayed to acknowledge that the violent sinking had damaged a considerable portion of the cargo. The snag which sank the boat was also on display.
I was glad to have renewed my acquaintance with the Arabia and its story, following it up with lunch at Rozelle Court at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I’ve already blogged about that beautiful attraction on multiple occasions, so I will skip onward to my evening visit to Liberty Memorial.
I first visited this World War I memorial in 2010, but I had not photographed it at night when the “flame” atop the high tower is lit. The flame is actually steam lit by orange lights, and was de-activated by budget cuts in recent years. Happily fundraising has led to efficiency upgrades and it is back in operation.
The memorial’s huge lit tower and large adjacent sphinxes were impressive at night, as was the high view of Union Station from the memorial platform. I would return to this location the next day to revisit the impressive World War I museum located under the base of the tower. That day would bring the eponymous snow of this “spring” break.