A wistful look at Kansas City’s past

Three years ago, the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association published a book about that historic neighborhood in northeast Kansas City.

“Pendleton Heights: Then and Now” is a fascinating read. An introduction by Kent Dicus, former president of the association, outlines the birth of what’s billed as Kansas City’s “first suburb” in the 1880s and the changes that have taken place since then.

Commercial development, he wrote, cannibalized some of the neighborhood’s grandest homes built for Kansas City’s elite.

“How sad,” I said to myself, grasping the destruction on only an intellectual level.

But most of the book walks us through Pendleton Heights in photographs, address by address. The page on the left depicts original structures. On the right is the 21st century view.

It made me want to cry.

Then, a stately mansion.

Now? A gas station.

Then, the quaint Bacon Court — a collection of cottages with chimneys described as “a first of its kind in the Kansas City.”

Now? A 1960s-era apartment complex with vinyl siding.

Many historic homes remain. And today, as you will read in this week’s cover story, the people who love Pendleton Heights are determined not to lose any more of them.

Preserving the past is noble work, and so is building community. I commend the folks in Pendleton Heights for doing both.

But I also know that the same pattern of destruction happened in many other places, and the metropolitan area is remaking itself even today. As it should.

Our preservation ethic is stronger now, but I hope we’re making the right decisions on what to keep and what to tear down.

Too often, we discount what’s familiar. That’s probably what happened decades ago.

If a “Then and Now” book is published in 2114 for places where you live and work, what emotions will it evoke?