A Guide to Exploring the French Influences and History of Kansas City |  KCUR 89.3

A Guide to Exploring the French Influences and History of Kansas City | KCUR 89.3

This story was first published in KCUR’s Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive such stories in your inbox every Tuesday.

A few hundred years ago, instead of “hello” or “hello,” many people living in and around the Kansas City area would greet each other with “good morning.”

Like many cities along river gorges in the Midwest, Kansas City shares a French heritage dating back to the 18th century. French fur-trading families established the first permanent white settlements in the area in the early 19th century, traded (and sometimes intermarried) with Native Americans, and laid the foundation for what would become Missouri’s largest city.

But unlike St. Louis, St. Joseph or New Orleans, this French heritage is hard to spot nowadays. However, there is plenty of French culture to experience and French heritage to explore in the city.

Have a good trip!

Kansas City History

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François Chautia and the Native American Heritage Fountain Commission


François Chouteau was recently honored with the unveiling of the François Chouteau and Native American Heritage fountain, shown here.

Three hundred years ago, European explorers, missionaries, soldiers, and traders roaming the forests and plains of central North America were either French or Spanish. They reached the region from Mexico, up the Mississippi River, and down from the Great Lakes region.

With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, what were almost exclusively opportunities for the French for trade and exploration opened up to the nascent United States.

Lewis and Clark’s voyage has been accurately recorded. But decades ago, Étienne de Vignard, Sieur de Bourgmont—who lived his life in and out of favor with the French authorities—documented this part of the country, describing the confluence of rivers, majestic cheeks, and the people who live here.

He founded Fort Orleans along the Missouri River in 1723. Located about 100 miles east of present-day Kansas City, it was the first European settlement in Missouri. French forces also established Fort de Cavagnial, a military fort and trading post north of Leavenworth, Kansas, from 1744 to 1764.

Francis and Berenice Choto were widely recognized as the “father” and “mother” of when he grew up in Kansas City. After exploring a few different places along the Missouri River, the Choto family established the first permanent European settlement in the area in 1821 on the bend of the river. It became known as Chez les Canses to the people of Kanza who actually lived in the area and, later, Chouteau’s Town.

A French-speaking group was formed from a few dozen families who settled along the banks of the river and in the French lowlands. In 1838, 14 merchants (including “Westport” founder John McCoy) purchased an acreage of French farmer and blacksmith Gabriel Prudhomme in what is now the River Market.

Throughout the area, the Chouteau family and others have set up malls, although only 504 Westport Road remains. Originally built by Cyprian Chouteau and Associates around 1850, later sold (and now named) to Jim Bridger, it is still one of the oldest buildings in Kansas City.

Before her death in 1888, Mrs. Berenice outlived her husband and children, survived the Civil War, was given to patients during a cholera epidemic and saw railroads replace the riverboat that brought her to the area. During that time, it experienced an enormous amount of growth as the small settlement’s population reached approximately 130,000, although it was no longer predominantly French.


Volker's Fountain

Kansas City Parks and Recreational Parks


For the William Volcker Memorial Fountain in Thies Park, artist Carl Mills chose to depict Saint Martin of Tours, France’s patron saint and generosity, in honor of Volcker’s philanthropic work.

You can find gestures of acknowledgment of French influence throughout the city.

The Chouteau Society, which operated from 1984 to 2008, erected 11 historic landmarks around the metro for a self-guided tour of important sites. From a river market to a loose park, these signs (engraved in English and French) outline the early life of French settlers in broad strokes, with few of their settlements remaining.

The parking garage covers what was once an old French cemetery in XI and Pennsylvania. A flood in 1844 destroyed cabins on French Bottoms (now known as West Bottoms, full of luxurious lofts and haunted houses).

Pearl Hill (“original Quality Hill” where Bèrènice Chouteau lived on the 1st and Grand) was leveled to allow easier access to the riverbank, and what was once Chouteau’s Landing is now part of Riverfront Park.

The first church in the area, St. Francis Regis (also known as Choto Church) was erected in 1834-1835. Although the original log structure was long gone, the site at 11th Street continued to serve as a space for spiritual and communal activities, eventually growing into the splendor of the golden dome of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The original bell is kept in the Academy of Saint Teresa.

François Choteau was recently honored with the unveiling of François Choteau and the Native American Heritage Fountain along Choto Traffic in northern Kansas City. There are a few other NKC attractions bearing the Chouteau name, including an elementary school, park, and grain elevator, all located near Traffic Road.

For the William Volcker Memorial Fountain in Thies Park, artist Carl Mills chose to depict Saint Martin of Tours, France’s patron saint and generosity, in honor of Volcker’s philanthropic work.

Does reading about French culture make you crave conversational French? Alliance Française Kansas City offers language lessons and events to help you learn, practice and enjoy French, with events like Walk & Talk “en français” on Saturday, January 15 at Mill Creek Park. The Council on International Relations (IRC) also hosts “Introductions to Lexical Language,” with this video that explores the basics of the French language.

Celebrate KCMOlière: 400 in 2022

KCMOlière MoMo

Celebrating the 400th birthday of the French Baroque playwright Molière, KCMOlière honors the French culture and heritage of Kansas City with theatrical performances, Baroque music and the mascot “MoMo”.

Over the past few years, the organization KCMOLiere He launched a slew of partnerships and events across the metro to celebrate the 400th birthday of the French Baroque playwright, Molière.

The organization has harnessed the talents of hundreds of artists in honoring Kansas City’s French culture and heritage, through theater performances, Baroque music, specialty wines and desserts, KCMOlière’s unique mascot “MoMo”, educational resources, and even a coloring book.

The members also participated in the Kansas City Bicentennial Celebration of Missouri with the world premiere of Tartaphthrop! Directed by Philip Bleu’s Owl Hoosser, it is a comic reimagining of Moliere’s mashed-up plays and the founding of Kansas City.

The Kansas City Actors Theater has begun production of Molière’s 1661 “Pests” (in a new translation by Felicia Laundry) at the City Stage in Union Station, which will run January 12-30.

Unfortunately, the official 400th birthday party on January 15 (originally scheduled at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art) has been postponed due to health and safety concerns.

good Appetite


Melanie Kreutz



Kansas Citians have plenty of options for authentic, French-inspired cuisine, including macarons—the modern symbol of the achievable depravity.

Perhaps your interest in French culture is more gourmet? Kansas Citians have plenty of options for authentic, French-inspired cuisine, from charming to funky to elegant — sometimes all at once.

For more than two decades, local bistros have served up an array of authentic French cuisine: Le Fou Frog in the River Market, Café Provence in Prairie Village, Aixois in Brookside and Café des Amis in Parkville, Missouri.

In Westport, there is a champagne cava bar and Parisian café options from Westport Café. Westside boasts two Carberry restaurants with Chez Elle and Seven Swans. Macarons – the modern symbol of achievable decadence – are found in many places where you can find delicious candy, such as Annedore’s Fine Chocolates.

Maybe you imagine yourself a lover? Did you know that Missouri grapes had a role in saving the French vineyards? Learn more about KCUR’s Hungry for MO podcast.

Once you get a taste of it, you might try making some beloved dishes yourself. Besides the bakery, French food, and home-cooking options, the French Market in Prairie Village has ready-to-use home-made kits. On Saturdays, listen to live music at the market, including the French-speaking Made In France on January 29th.

The Culinary Center of Kansas City offers lessons for various French subjects and styles. Of note is the pasta classes with pastry chef Natasha Guilner.

Whether you’re a fan of Francophiles or not, you’re roaming the streets and streets of Kansas City, it never hurts to embrace something particular. the joy of living.

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