KANSAS CITY CIVIL ENGINEERING HISTORY

KANSAS CITY ASCE SECTION

The Beginning of Kansas City ASCE

As early as 1915 a small group of engineers met regularly to discuss recent developments in engineering. The meetings continued for the next six years until on April 25, 1921, the group received its charter as the Kansas City Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The early group, who are considered as the founders of the Kansas City Section, consisted of the following: L.R. Ash, Harrington, Howard, & Ash (now Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff); E.B. Black, Black & Veatch; J.V. Hanna, KC Terminal RR; J. L. Harrington, Harrington, Howard & Ash; G.C. Hayden, Corps of Engineers; I.G. Hedrick, Waddell & Hedrick; E.E. Howard, Harrington, Howard & Ash; C.E. Johnson, KC Southern R.R.; A. Maitland, Jr., KC Bridge Co.; R.E. McDonnell, Burns & McDonnell; E.M. Stayton, Surveyor; H.P. Treadway, KC Bridge Co.; N.T. Veatch, Black & Veatch; H. vonUnwerth, Structural Consultant; R.W. Waddell, City Engineer; and E.C.L. Wagner, Contractor.

The first meetings were held in the evenings at the University Club. The meetings had a format similar to today’s meetings; each had a speaker but at that time dinners were not served. N.T. Veatch recalled one early meeting when he was speaker. He had recently returned from the 1915 ASCE National Meeting held in San Francisco, and reported to others on the construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir located near San Francisco. His report included both a talk and a slide presentation. At another early meeting, G.C. Hayden spoke on the Missouri River. One of Mr. Hayden’s comments was recalled as being: "A river is like a snake. It has a certain hydraulic gradient. You can change it temporarily, but it will change back to the same snake." Not much information is available about these meetings. Those who attended recalled that they were very formal and reserved. Ed Farmer noted that he was thrown out of one meeting for laughing out loud.

April 25, 1999 - Kansas City ASCE Celebrated 78 years.

KANSAS CITY HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

The Kansas City Section has had two Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks designated in the Kansas City area.

Click anywhere on any photograph to see a full screen version.

The Kansas City Parks and Boulevard System

At the turn of the 20th century, Kansas City distinguished itself by developing a plan for a system of parks and boulevards. Swope Park is the largest of the parks within the system and is home to the recently expanded Kansas City Zoo, the Starlight outdoor theater, a golf course, and many other amenities. It is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

The plaque commemorating this Historic Civil Engineering Landmark was never installed, and can not currently be found. The History and Heritage committee of the Kansas City Section will be working to find or re-document this system and find an appropriate place to permanently install a new plaque.

The Armour-Swift-Burlington Bridge

The A-S-B Bridge The Armour-Swift-Burlington (ASB) Bridge was built in 1912 to serve as a rail, car, wagon, and pedestrian crossing of the Missouri River at Kansas City. The famous bridge engineer John Alexander Low Waddell was the primary designer of the bridge. Waddell's firm of Waddell & Harrington can be traced to at least two of today's Kansas City engineering firms, HNTB Corporation and Harrington & Cortelyou.

 

The bridge is one of only two of its type ever built. To satisfy the railroad's need for the railroad tracks across the bridge to be as low as possible, and the riverboats' need to have enough clearance under the bridge, Waddell developed a unique design that had automobile traffic on a top deck and rail traffic on a lower deck that could be raised to allow riverboats to pass. The lifting of the lower deck was accomplished by telescoping the hangers of the lower deck into the truss members of the upper deck, thus allowing automobile traffic to continue even when the lower deck was raised.

The limited widths and out-of-date geometrics of the upper deck caused the then owners of the bridge, the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department, to build a new automobile bridge just east of the ASB bridge. After traffic was switched to the new bridge, the upper deck was removed from the bridge, the bridge underwent needed repairs and renovations, and it was turned over to the Burlington Northern railroad. The bridge is still in use as a vital link across the Missouri River for the BNSF railroad.

The History and Heritage committee is currently working to build a kiosk in the new Kansas City Riverfront park to display the landmark plaque and present information on the bridge and civil engineering. If you would be interested in helping on the History and Heritage committee, call or email any section officer.

For further information on the history and heritage of the civil engineering profession, please see the ASCE website

 

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Last Updated: 5 March 2003
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