Electric Park in Kansas City inspired creation of Disneyland

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“Kansas City’s Coney Island.” That’s what Electric Park liked to call itself.

The amusement park first opened in 1899 in the East Bottoms as a way for the beer-brewing Heim Brothers to sell more suds.

It worked. So well that by 1906, they headed off to a new location at 47th & Lydia just north of Brush Creek. With 29 acres now at their disposal (but no beer sales, thanks to new city rules) the owners swung for the fences—populating the park with roller coasters, rides, a pool and a lake, shooting galleries, and apparently an alligator farm.

It was this second location that a young Kansas Citian named Walt Disney rode to by streetcar from his home on Bellefontaine Avenue.

Electric Park’s impact on him, particularly its well-groomed gardens, dramatic “living statuary” displays and the park’s nightly fireworks, may have popped up decades later in the design of Disneyland.

Ironically, a major fire in 1925 marked the beginning of the end for Electric Park. And no less of a local legend than a young Walter Cronkite witnessed the fast-moving blaze from a perch nearby.

The park continued to operate in a limited capacity until 1934 when another fire forced it to close for good.

Apartments were built on the site in 1950, and today the Village East apartment complex sits where Electric Park’s midway once welcomed thousands of visitors every day.

Watch the video to see the how things look there now.

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Follow more of our reporting on Past|Present: Travel back in time to see how Kansas City has changed through the years

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