The year was 1841. Dr. David Waldo of Gasconade County, Missouri, was convinced by friends in Independence, Missouri, to purchase some Jackson County land. He took their advice and subsequently bought a 1000-acre tract of land that to this day bears his name.
From Gregory Blvd., on the north, to 91st Street on the south – from Holmes on the east to State Line on the west – that’s Waldo.
Today, Waldo is a thriving part of Kansas City’s urban scene. Along its seven commercial strips, it’s a beehive of activity. But, by and large, Waldo is a neighborhood of attractive homes, whose residents for generations have said with pride, “We live in Waldo.”
In 1828, the area consisted of great plains and rolling hills, barren of the trees we now take for granted, except along the rivers and streams. It was a small part of the land acquired by the federal government in the Louisiana Purchase twenty-five years before.
The 1,000 acres of land that Dr. Waldo purchased in 1841 ran from what is now 75th Street to 59th Street, Wornall Road to Troost. He maintained a farm on part of the land, and improved it by planting a large walnut grove at 63rd and Walnut. The grove stood as a historic landmark until the 1920′s. By the time of his death in 1878, Dr. Waldo had increased his holdings in the Waldo area to 2,400 acres.
During this same period of time, the land west of Wornall Road and from 75th to 85th was owned by Alexander Majors. In 1848, Majors and his wife lived on a small farm at what is now 75th and Wornall. By 1856, his firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell was a highly successful freighting
company carrying all kinds of goods to Santa Fe and the Southwest. At the hieight of this operation Majors owned 3,600 wagons, 40,000 oxen and employed over 4,000 men. His oxen pens covered the area that is now known as “Here’s Waldo,” 75th to 85th, Wornall to State Line.
It was in 1860 that a rail line between Westport and Dodson was established with a main stop at Waldo. When the Dodson Dummy Line (so-called because it used a Dummy engine – a condenser that muffled its noise) gave way to street cars in 1907, a brick station house was built. This came to be known as the “Grand Central Station of Waldo.” The first custodian there sold groceries in addition to sweeping floors. After a number of years, Elmer Family Grocery stood in Waldo for 40 years. On the northwest corner of 74th Terrace and Wornall was another long-lived Waldo business – Milen Department (or Drygoods) store where almost anything in this line could be purchased including all kinds of fabrics with gracious sales ladies to measure and cut any amount needed, Girl Scout and Boy Scout uniforms, shoes, men’s clothing, women’s clothing, and all kinds of infants’ and children’s wear. Milens was greatly missed when it finally closed.
Croner’s store and a blacksmith shop that doubled as the Broadway Methodist Church comprised the Waldo business district in 1905. Part of a stone livery stable built then and known as the “Rock Barn” stood on the site until 1997 when it was torn down to build the Walgreens Store.
The waldo station stood at 74th Terrace and Wornall until 1950, when it was torn down for parking lot construction. When the lot was dedicated in 1958, the Waldo station sign was given to Bill Michael, a local writer who called his newspaper column, “On the 6:33 Out of Waldo.”
As business grew, Waldo became known as a main traffic artery south of Kansas City. Houses on Wornall Road south to 75th Street made way for business expansion in the 1930′s. One of the Milgram’s grocery stores in the Kansas City area opened in Waldo then.
As transportation requirements changed, the rail line began to carry street cars, and the County Club car line was the major source of transportation for people in the Waldo area.
More and more people began visiting and moving into the growing Waldo community. It was a retreat from the urban area and soon had more than its share of dance halls, bars, and honky-tonks. Many Kansas Citians can remember Tootie Clarkings’, the Mayfair, and Mary’s Place. It has only been in fairly recent years that the growing city spelled doom for those well-known “county” night spots.
The Waldo Progress Committee grew into the Southwest Business Association with Miss Ruth Bedfield as Executive Secretary, and then into the merchants’ association that exists today as the Waldo Area Business Association.Waldo was annexed by Kansas City in 1909 and the city limits leaped from 49th Street to 77th Street, then stretched out again in 1947 to 85th Street. By 1963, the city limits were to the Cass County line.