Arts & Culture

Thanks to these Pokémon Go Stops, I learned about Harry Truman and KC artists

A statue of Mark Twain in downtown Parkville. The statue was donated by Kar Woo, founder of the nonprofit Artists Helping the Homeless. Woo said he “loves” that his donated work is a Poke stop.
A statue of Mark Twain in downtown Parkville. The statue was donated by Kar Woo, founder of the nonprofit Artists Helping the Homeless. Woo said he “loves” that his donated work is a Poke stop.

You probably know that our 33rd president, Harry Truman, was born in Missouri. You might know that his house in Jackson County is on the list of National Historic Landmarks.

But did you know that Truman worked his first job at Clinton’s Drugstore in Independence, mopping the floors for $3 a week? And did you know you can also stock up on Poké Balls and Poké Potions there?

As someone new to Kansas City — my 10-week summer internship started in May — I discovered a fun way to explore the area: Pokémon Go.

[ Catch ’em all: The Pokémon Go trainer’s guide to KC ]

The former drugstore is a Poké Stop on the popular augmented reality app, and it — along with the other interesting stops in the area — was specifically chosen. The portal stops are where players can pick up supplies.

The selection process started five years ago, according to The Associated Press, when Google made an agreement with volunteer-run Historical Marker Database to use the locations of historical markers tracked by the website. Now, many of those historical spots are Poké Stops and Pokémon gyms.

When Niantic Labs, a Google startup and the maker of Pokémon Go, first started collecting sites, it asked users to submit locations “with a cool story, a place in history or educational value,” “a cool piece of art or unique architecture,” or “a hidden gem or hyper-local spot.” The website also suggests libraries and places of worship.

Now that you know you can catch ’em all where a president used to work, here are some other unique spots where you can find frolicking Ponyta.

Independence

Independence Square is full of Pokémon and Poké Stops, from the courthouse to Ophelia’s restaurant. After walking around the square and catching a few Doduos, I came across Clinton’s Soda Fountain.

A plaque on the outside reads “It was in the Clinton’s Drugstore that Harry S. Truman obtained his first job at three dollars a week. He opened the store every morning at six thirty, mopped the floor, cleaned away the trash, polished the jugs and bottles, worked at the fountain, and clerked.”

I stopped in and had a chocolate malt in this historic soda shop, which, according to its Facebook page, offers promotions for Pokémon Go players.

Parkville

When I was in need of some caffeine, I popped into Parkville Coffee and had a cup of cold brew. Checking for Poké Stops, I noticed there was a Mark Twain statue and decided to investigate.

The life-size bronze statue sits on a bench next to Frank’s Italian Restaurant. The statue was given to Parkville by Artists Helping the Homeless, a local nonprofit. I was first drawn to the statue because of Twain’s literary greatness, but I was even more intrigued by the charity that put him in Parkville.

Organization founder Kar Woo said that he works 15 hours every day and hasn’t taken a day off in three years. Before he founded Artists Helping the Homeless, Woo was an artist and owned his own gallery, where he showed his own work and that of others. He said the statue was done by an artist overseas and represents tranquility.

“I treat clients as friends,” Woo said. “We do things together like go to movies, dinner and go exercise. We’re like a family, and I try to give them a normal life.” He said he assists more than 1,800 people each year.

Woo loves that the statue is a Poké Stop. He said he never played games growing up and didn’t understand what the app was all about.

“A guy that works with me started playing the game and showed it to me,” Woo said. “If he didn’t play it, I wouldn’t know what it even is. But I think it’s so funny it’s a stop.”

Overland Park

An editor told me about a park near her Overland Park home, so I had to check it out.

I found myself in Windham Park, by the intersection of Grant and 131st streets. About a five-minute walk down the trail is a Poké Stop. It is a memorial for Austin Riggs Fugate, who died after he was hit by a car when he was just 3. The memorial is a plaque surrounded by several stone benches. The park has monkey bars, a swing set and a small playground with a few slides.

Maybe instead of abandoning a child to play Pokémon Go (yes, it has happened), parents can bring their children here.

Kansas City

As I was driving down Broadway, I passed a massive church and pulled over. I thought it might be a Poké Stop because places of worship were suggested portals, but I was truly awed by the grandness of the church.

I opened the app and yes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help-Redemptorist Catholic Church is a Pokémon gym. There is also a stop right next to it called Lourdes Grotto. I double-checked my location to make sure it said Kansas City and not France.

The parish was founded in 1888, and the grotto was built in 1941. In 1946, the grotto was dedicated to the 10 parishioners who died in World War II. There were once 10 trees behind the grotto to represent each parishioner, but only some trees remain.

Westport

Westport may be known for its bars, but I was more interested in the street art.

The game notes that some of the work is by Kansas City artist Scribe, aka Donald Ross. He said having his works as Poké Stops is a “weird blessing.” He never thought he’d get attention this way, although he is happy the app noted that the work is done by him.

“I’m starting to get mentions on social media since people started playing the game,” Ross said. “I think it’s great people can play, enjoy themselves and see some of my work.”

I think street art in Westport adds more character to the historic buildings. My favorite street art stops include a several-story-tall daffodil on a building off of 42nd Street and Broadway, a mural of two rabbits on the side of Marrakech Café and a blue leopard by Ross on the entrance of Akka Karate USA.

 

Want to visit these stops? Hover your mouse over the red circles on the interactive map to see the Poké Stops.

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