City History

Riverside’s story seems simple, but actually runs deep, like the nearby Missouri River.

In 2001, the City of Riverside celebrated its 50th anniversary. Incorporated June 21, 1951, Riverside is formally one of the area's youngest communities. Thanks to a growing industrial park, riverboat casino and high school, Riverside's daytime population exceeds nearly 10,000, but the number of Riverside residents is around 3,000.
The earliest residents, Native Americans, left artifacts in and around Riverside that link direct connections to a civilization nearly 6,000 years old. The earliest Europeans visiting the area include the Lewis and Clark expedition. In the 1840s, settlers began filling Riverside's Line Creek valley and surrounding ridges. From the beginning, the City of Riverside included a uniquely diverse population. Several immigrant families from Germany were leaders in pioneering the area. Later on, many families from Belgium settled in part of Riverside's Missouri River valley, and to this day, it is still called the Belgium Bottoms.

Early Riverside played a key role in some of the metropolitan area's most unusual history. Until the 1930s, Riverside was a main stop on one of the nation's longest electric train routes, the 79-mile Interurban ran from North Kansas City to St. Joseph. Riverside gets its name from several "river side" businesses. One of which is Riverside Park, a genteel horse race venue that was built and operated by Kansas City's infamous Tom Pendergast. Ironically, betting and tax problems contributed to the end of "Boss Tom's" career.

Riverside's unique story continues today. Join us in these pages as we look back on Riverside's surprising history and contemplate its amazing future. This is a journey you will enjoy.
About the Riverside City History ProjectThe City of Riverside bestows a special tribute of thanks to Dale Garrison for his tireless commitment and excellent research on this history documentation. He spent many hours conducting interviews and compiling information. And also a special thanks to Betty Burch who had the foresight to initiate this project and capture Riverside's history for future generations to enjoy.

City History Project

Ancient Times
The tens of thousands (if not millions) of stone and bone artifacts found within and surrounding what we now call the City of Riverside, provide evidence that the area has been traversed and settled by Native Americans for thousands of years. Around the Middle and Late Archaic Periods of 4000-5000 BC, the Nebo Hill People lived on the bluffs that flank the Missouri River while fishing with bone hooks and hunting deer, birds and rabbits. The Black Sand Culture of Early Woodland Period in 1000 BC, were known for their distinctive incised pottery and settled in the Line Creek Valley. The so-called Hopewell culture built the largest Mound Builder community west of the Mississippi in the Line Creek area around 300 BC.

Archaeological Finds

In the summer of 1983, Gary Brenner spent hours kneeling on sun-baked ground near the middle of Riverside. But while he was only a few feet from cars whizzing by on one of the area's busiest streets, his mind raced back to 350 BC, when earlier residents didn't even have bows and arrows. Brenner, a local man and descendant of the Brenner family who were the earliest settlers in the area, was a key investigator in the historic Renner Village Site. For thirteen years the Renner Site was the subject of investigation by the Missouri Archaeological Society and programs operated by Park College and Maple Woods Community College, with help from Kansas University and the University of Missouri. Now part of Riverside's Renner Brenner Park, the Renner Site was determined by archaeologists to be a massive Indian village nearly 2500 years ago. The site holds one of the largest concentrations of artifacts in the entire state of Missouri. This village was populated by people known locally as the Hopewells— western contemporaries of the Mound Builders who constructed large earth structures on the hills surrounding downtown Riverside— in the current "Indian Hills" subdivision.

The Hopewells had their roots in the Ohio area, then migrated to southern Illinois before eventually coming to this area. When Riverside's site was active, the bow and arrow had not been invented, nor had horses been introduced to the continent.

All travel was by foot or water. Despite these limitations, there was an extensive trade network with locations in modern Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and west to the Rocky Mountains. Copper recovered at the site can be traced to Wisconsin. The evidence includes obsidian from the Rockies and seashells from Florida. Judging by bones and other remains, the Hopewell's main food was the white tailed deer. Other animals included fox, wolf, coyote, beaver and many animals that exist today. Additionally, they fished with fish hooks crafted out of deer bones, and captured and ate turtle as well. Even a few bear bones have been found at the site.

The Hopewell village covered about seven acres. The center of the village was about 100 feet northwest of the gazebo that now stands in the park. At that time, the Missouri River flowed just south of the site. Line Creek and a smaller creek also bordered the area, offering protection and easy access to water.

Although the village was occupied for nearly 1,500 years, it is believed that only about 35 people actually resided on the site at any one time. The site was a village where people from surrounding, smaller sites came during the day to work and trade. The average daytime population may have exceeded 100 or even 200 during the peak at 350 AD. Elaborate pottery vessels were the Hopewell trademark, with designs patterned from those villages in Ohio. Vessels ranged from coffee cup size to the size of five-gallon buckets. The Renner Brenner Site is best known for pottery rims with a crosshatched design.

Burials took place in earth mounds on the highest bluffs to the east and west of the site. The largest of these was on the bluff next to city hall. This mound was sixty feet in diameter and 20 feet tall containing an estimated 20 or more burials. The numerous mounds that were once in Riverside are long gone due to residential development. Seven main groups of more than 24 mounds once filled the ridges in Indian Hills and around High Drive and I-635. The largest of these was over 60 feet in diameter and about 10 feet tall. Before 1950, several amateur archaeologists reported finding as many as 25 remains in the largest mound. Some smaller mounds were actually stone "vaults" with the interiors approximately eight-feet square with roofs of wood piled over with dirt. Some evidence suggests these vaults were used as crematories over a period of time.

More than 35,000 artifacts were professionally excavated from the Renner Brenner Site. About 7,000 of them are museum quality and most are in universities and colleges. The artifacts from the 1980-1991 excavations remain in Riverside with a total of approximately 15,000 artifacts - 3,000 of them being museum quality.

Archaeological evidence suggests, however, that there were even earlier inhabitants of Riverside - between 4,000 and 5,000 BC. Known in the Kansas City area as the Nebo Hill people, the early Archaic culture lived primarily on the high bluffs and hills along the Missouri River. The most important artifacts of the Nebo Hill people were recovered in Riverside near the current post office.

Renner Brenner Site Park

Much of Riverside's early history is now part of the Renner Brenner Site Park. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969, it was developed by the city in 1986 and formally dedicated in 1991. Like many area archaeological sites, the Renner Brenner site was originally uncovered in the 1920s by the highly regarded J. Mett Shippee, an amateur archaeologist who worked with Waldo R. Wedel, an assistant curator of archaeology of the Smithsonian Institute. Together their findings indicated a significant abundance of prehistoric village debris corresponding to the eastern influence of the Woodland culture. Until their findings, it was thought the Woodland Culture had not extended farther west than the Mississippi River.

The Renner Brenner Site Park is one of the largest prehistoric Woodland sites west of St. Louis that is still partially intact. Other evidence of prehistoric settlement in Riverside dates to around 1,000 BC by a culture known as Early Woodland, locally known as the Black Sand Culture because of the type of material used in their pottery. The settlement was discovered in the early 1980s just north of the Renner Brenner Site Park.

Local Discoveries

For many Riverside residents, ancient Native American civilizations are not only found in books but in their back yards. Forty-five years ago, a young couple named Norman and Irene Jones discovered their dream acreage in the hills overlooking downtown Riverside. Back then, the land was a wooded ridge east of Gateway and north of 9 Highway. It was heaven compared to their apartment in Kansas City, Ks. In his free time, Norman began digging a foundation with a borrowed tractor. It wasn't long before they experienced history firsthand. "Mett Shippee was watching me dig the foundation," Norman Jones recalled of the famous area archaeologist. "Right then we uncovered the remains of an Indian. There was an arrow still in the back of his head. He had been buried sitting up." Shippee took the remains to Park University.

The Joneses quickly became aware of the odd mounds that dotted their 20 acres. Not surprisingly, the area became known as Indian Hills and a subdivision today bears that name. The couple also learned that Native American remains are literally a "multi-layered" phenomena in Riverside. "Shippee said the man I uncovered was approximately 200 years or older. He was not the same as the Hopewells, which were much older." (Many of the small mounds, which dot the Jones' property, are Hopewell).
 
Jones noted that research by Shippee and others has uncovered more artifacts and the findings are fascinating. "They found a lot of lead," he noted. "That indicates a steady communication with southeast Missouri."
 
Norman continues, "The history here really makes Riverside unusual. That's something you'd never expect."
Building for the Future
Because of its late start and lack of incorporation, Riverside began life with a number of challenges. Its business area was a hodgepodge of development, streets were inconsistent and crisscrossed the region, Riverside did not have a good reputation. Today, Riverside is aggressively rebuilding itself. Perhaps unseen outside of the immediate area, this community's rebirth rivals that of any city in the metro area.

The city of Riverside has evolved dramatically since its founding in 1951. Few other communities have been afforded such a unique opportunity. The availability of additional funds from riverboat revenue has allowed Riverside to respond quickly and efficiently to community needs. Additionally, new growth and development has given city leaders the good fortune to chart a positive course for residents and businesses alike. Riverside's vision for tomorrow is the continued enhancement of all quality of life issues that make a community home.

Master Plan

The Master Plan of a city is an extensive and exhaustive process. It involves city leaders, planning experts and local citizens. It is a planning process that combines economic analysis, infrastructure assessments, financial planning and community input. It is a process with the goal of developing documents and plans to discover a communities assets, tap into its potential and systematically and consciously plan for its future.

Recognizing that the city of Riverside has tremendous potential, leaders and citizens initialized a planning process to establishing a strategy for development over the next 25 years. The most important goal of this Master Plan is to preserve Riverside's core characteristics while improving the portions that detract from the community's vision of a better future. Download the complete Master Plan, a 13MB Adobe Acrobat document. For users with slower internet connections, the Master Plan is also available from the Document Center as smaller, individual "chapters."

Every recommendation within the Master Plan came from the citizens of Riverside. There are no recommendations within this document that were not supported or promoted by the larger community.

Five main achievement areas were identified:

  1. Enhance Community Amenities,
  2. Protect Community Treasures
  3. Provide Proper Governance
  4. Improve Riverside's Image
  5. Improve Riverside's Appearance

Development Projects

The city has embarked on an ambitious program of capital improvements and revitalization, with the Master Plan as a guide to development. Development areas include:

Downtown Revitalization

The Downtown Revitalization seeks to establish Downtown Riverside as the vibrant heart of the community. This development area is located at the intersection of Vivion and Gateway roads and was identified as the development priority by Riverside citizens during the Master Planning process.

Upper Gateway Projects

To facilitate infill and nurture a positive civic image, the city seeks to redevelop this area once largely occupied by the Skyline Inn. The Upper Gateway development area is the "Gateway" to Riverside from the north, via Highway I-29 South onto Gateway Road.

South Downtown Projects

The South Downtown development area is the Vivion and West Platte corridor between the Gateway/Vivion intersection and the Red-X. The city seeks coordinated development to create a mixed-use urban neighborhood complementary to the Downtown Revitalization area.

Horizons Projects

The completion of the L-385 Levee has opened the Horizons area to development. This area, located near the new I-635 interchange is comprised of is approximately 800 acres of developable property, most of which is owned by the City. This new site is highly desirable for commercial development due to Horizons' close proximity to the Downtown Kansas City, the Kansas City International Airport and its superb access to major interstates and highways - all of which are significant factors in attracting cutting-edge development.

Residential Growth

Gatewoods, a 28-acre subdivision, will include 73 new single family homes and construction of 6.8 acres of commercial property. Gatewoods is located on N.W. Gateway, just north of the new Post Office. This area is is a welcomed addition to our community. Another significant residential development called Briarcliff Hills is being planned by the Garney Company. The area lies on 30 acres near Woodland, north of 9 Highway. The proposal calls for luxury homes to complement the nearby Briarcliff West development.

L-385 Levee Project

A "new" Quindaro Bend Drainage District was reorganized in 1970 and is still active in the current effort with the U.S. Corps of Engineers. This program lead to the construction of a new 87+ million dollar levee which was completed in 2005. Bob Gieske, chairman of the district's board of supervisors, said this new Riverside-Quindaro Bend Levee brings protection to key parts of the city. "The flood of 1993 really opened people's minds as to the potential damage we can incur without protection and the potential growth we're capable of with a levee. This is going to be a fantastic area now that we have state-of-the art flood protection."
The Riverside-Quindaro Bend Levee protects approximately 1,200 acres of property in the Missouri River valley, including farm land and a border area of light industrial development. Bounded by I-635, with railroad access and near downtown Kansas City, this portion of Riverside possesses some of the greatest growth potential of any region in the metropolitan area. During the summer of 2000, the city of Riverside began actively marketing the area in anticipation of commencement of construction.
Early 20th Century
Riverside swaggered into the 2oth century with "Boss" Tom Pendergast's Riverside Park horse track and the completion of the Interurban railroad, an electric train that ran from KC to St. Jo and was capable of speeds greater than 70 mph. Since 1918, the community —not incorporated as a city until 1951— made plans to address frequent flooding through the formation of the Quindaro Bend Drainage District. And it was a good thing because there were floods along the Missouri in 1925, 1927, 1944, and 1951.

The Quindaro Levee District was re-formed in 1970 to pursue construction of a comprehensive Riverside Quindaro Levee. The Great Flood of 1993 made the project even more urgent and the new 87+ million dollar levee was completed in 2005, providing Riverside with state-of-the art flood protection.

Belgium Bottoms

The Belgium Bottoms came into existence in the southwest corner of Riverside (toward Parkville), when this area of the Missouri River valley was settled by approximately 10 families emigrating from Belgium. Riverside resident Gus Vandepopuliere said his grandfather, Gustoph Vandepopuliere, was one of the first. "The Deconinks were the very first family to locate here," he recalled. "They came right after World War I." Most of the Belgian immigrants raised produce for sale at the City Market or in St. Joseph. These ran true family farms. "I worked with my grandfather," Gus Vandepopuliere recalled. "We raised asparagus, parsnips and cabbage using teams of horses and mules."

Vandepopuliere admits there are some mysteries he has never solved. "Those parsnips. I wonder what they did with them," he laughs today. "You never saw them in the stores." Today the "Belgium Bottoms" name lives on in one of Riverside's light industrial developments.

Interurban Railroad

In 1913, the Riverside area was key in the Interurban Railroad route - an electric, high-speed trolley that connected Kansas City, North Kansas City, Riverside, St. Joseph, Liberty and Excelsior Springs. Its speed and luxury would make today's light rail proponents jealous. For more than 20 years, the Interurban was a virtual miracle of transportation. In the early 1900s, the Northland suffered from bad roads. The result was slow deliveries and no way to reach good jobs in Kansas City on a daily basis. A few enterprising people realized the need for an Interurban railway that could tie the Northland to St. Joseph and Excelsior Springs.

In 1913 the Kansas City, Clay County and St. Joseph Railway Company (K.C.C.C. St.J.) was formed under a 200-year charter. The Interurban was no ordinary electric railway. It was billed as the "World's Fastest Interurban" and offered elegant steel cars with plush green seats. The wide, arched windows were decorated with cathedral panels and backlit with tungsten lamps. With a top speed of more than 70 mph, even cynics might be led to reconsider their position on "light rail." The completion of the Interurban also opened a faster and easier way to transport dairy and freight products. Two lines split out of North Kansas City with one going through Liberty to Excelsior Springs and the other through Riverside to St. Joseph. The St. Joseph mainline was almost a straight route that provided several stations along the way - including two in Riverside.

An Interurban rider could board at 7th and Walnut in downtown Kansas City and ride to St. Joseph for $1.55. One Riverside station was full time and the other was only used during races at Riverside Park horse racing track. The regular station was the two-story Brenner station located on the hillside across from the old Post Office and was owned by Albert Brenner. The other station consisted of a 20-foot canopy next to the railway at the present location of Northside Mobil Homes. This loading platform was close to the racetrack and was only used during the years that Riverside Park operated. Since it wasn't a regular station, passengers would light matches and hold them up so the Interurban would know to stop.

The track lay close to the bluff around Indian Hills, across the Interurban bridge, then ran beside AA Highway through Northmoor and on north. During its best year in 1923, the Interurban receipts totaled one million dollars. Six years later this dropped to $120,000. The sagging economy and financial problems saw the Interurban make its last trip in 1933 and closed. In debt, The K.C.C.C.& St.J. railway abandoned its tracks and bordering landowners reclaimed much of their land. Tracks and ties were later removed, some in the 1940s for war materials. The Interurban didn't disappear completely. An early Riverside motel was constructed using "recycled" Interurban cars. Today, the only visible evidence is the large double arched concrete bridge at the end of St. Joe Boulevard and a faint trail along the south side of Indian Hills.

Pendergast Connection

Tom Pendergast, infamous political boss of Kansas City during the 1930s, had close ties to Riverside. One of Pendergast's passions was gambling and especially horse racing. He helped return horse racing to Kansas City during the 1930s when a court ruling allowed a limited form of "donation" gambling. In 1928, he and a Kansas City group organized the Riverside Park, taking over the grounds previously used by a dog track. The park was generally known as Pendergast's track, although his name did not appear on the legal papers. However, the names of his business associates and close friends were prominent in the list and the Pendergast association stuck.

Riverside Park, also sometimes known as the Jockey Club or Riverside Downs, was very successful, growing into a large establishment with many windows for "contributions" and "refunds." The track began as a three-quarter mile but was soon enlarged to a full mile. With exciting thoroughbred racing almost all week, at its peak the track drew crowds of nearly 20,000 in a single day. These crowds were a major factor in Pendergast's push for the widening of the highway from a two-lane to a four-lane and the building of the Fairfax Bridge to bring over the Kansas money.

There were two seasons per year for racing; 30 days in the spring and 30 days in the fall at the rate of eight races per day. The track achieved national notoriety in movies and had public appearances by Harry Truman among various others during its years of operation. The park was comprised of about 30 buildings. West of the track was the clubhouse where Pendergast's friends and other elite visitors would sit on the second floor. From there they could see the entire racetrack. North of the clubhouse stood the huge grandstands which surrounded three-fourths of the track. Built mostly of wood, these bleachers held several thousand people and resembled those at the state fair grounds. Just before one race season, a fire destroyed the bleachers. But within hours, Pendergast had bulldozers scooping up the debris. He brought in floodlights and a 24-hour work crew. Before opening day, new grandstands were complete.

On a normal race day, jockeys were up at 6 a.m. exercising the horses and checking the charts to see what horses they would be riding that afternoon. Jockeys would draw their riding numbers and do their required routines until the 1 p.m. weigh-in. A jockey might have ridden five to eight mounts a day, a grueling schedule requiring physical training and constant dieting, plus a thorough knowledge of horses and how to ride them.

The track's livelihood lasted only until 1937, when a new wave of anti-gambling sentiment swept the area and brought laws which outlawed even the "donation" gambling. At the time of Pendergast's downfall in 1939 (due to taxes and other issues), the District Attorney noted that in 1935 Pendergast's horserace bets and losses had forced him to seek income outside his normal resources.

Evidence of the graceful Riverside Park still remains today; several Riverside businesses utilized various structures originally built for the track. To this day, a building south of the new Riverside city maintenance center sports some unusual poles atop the building - flag poles that once graced the club house for the old Riverside jockey club.

Confessions of a Jockey

Vern Davis of Riverside doesn't have to read about Tom Pendergast or thoroughbred racing in Kansas City. He lived it. Davis was raised in Brookfield, Mo. and spent most of his time riding horses. By the age of 13, he was competing in the "bushes" - local events at county fairs and other venues. With his light weight of only 105 pounds, he was a perfect Jockey. "I was horse crazy. I was small and that's how I got started." Not surprisingly, Davis quickly gravitated to what became Missouri's finest track, Riverside Park. "I came to Riverside the year it opened," he recalled. "I was just a kid and it was the big time, even though it was not a recognized track. They didn't have betting. They had donations. If you won, you went to the window and got a 'refund.'" The track held up to eight races each day so a rider could stay very busy.

The Interurban provided easy access for anyone from Kansas City. The station was literally across the street from the entrance to the track. "It was really 'the place' to be," Davis recalled. "There was a restaurant right there in the club house. Sandwiches and everything was available in the grandstand. People would come out and make a day of it." The quality of the track was evident by the thoroughbreds shipped in to compete. Davis had been riding under contract to another stable when Riverside opened. The owner brought him to the new facility and sold his contract to a large stable at Riverside. He rode at Riverside for all of its brief life. "My last year or so I worked with Tom Pendergast," Davis recalled. "He was the best man in the world. He liked all of the stable hands and all of the riders. He was a really good man to us. He treated me awfully good."

Davis managed to keep his 103-104 pounds until he was 40 years old. He also managed to sustain a close-knit family life for what was often a vagabond lifestyle. "I had my wife and two kids in a trailer traveling all over the U.S.," he recalled. "We'd go from Chicago to New Orleans to Florida. My first winter of racing was even in Cuba." Davis and his wife, Berneice, eventually had four sons and today have 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. He admits that his growing family was a reason to retire, along with his growing waistline. "Berneice liked the tracks but it was rough," he agreed. "That was one thing that helped me get off the track. I was a family man. I wanted to stay together."

Davis still had time for a couple more careers. He broke horses for several years for Herbert Wolfe, of Wolfe Brothers clothing fame, and eventually held a 30-year career with Kansas City Power and Light. He also served as a Riverside Marshal and remained active in the Riverside community affairs for years. Now 93 he says, "I've lived a long time," he recalls. "But I can still remember that track. You should have seen it with all those people. It was something alright." 

Flooding and Fixes

The Missouri River, which gives Riverside so much of its identity, has also been an enemy. As early as 1844, major flooding has caused problems for residents of the area. Several major floods and minor ones have been recorded. In the 20th century, damage was recorded in 1925, 1927, 1944, 1951, 1973, 1982 and 1993.  While the Missouri River is a factor in most of these floods, Line Creek has also been the cause of local flooding and occasionally some serious damage. In 1973 and 1982, Line Creek was behind the flooding which, though not as widespread, was serious enough to impact both home and business owners.

It's believed that the worst flood was the famous 1993 disaster when waters rose to nearly the heart of the city, inundating scores of businesses along Highway 9 and causing millions in damage. The great flood of 1951 was also among the worst. This flood, which caused massive damage throughout the metropolitan area's valleys, was especially bad for Riverside because the community had only incorporated one month earlier. The disaster hit Riverside July 13, 1951 and lasted for days, leaving behind a thick coating of smelly mud and debris.

Early on residents looked for solutions. One of the first major efforts began in 1918 with a meeting in Parkville to form a levee district for the protection of "Quindaro Bend," the nearly 1,600 acres of river valley south of Riverside. The resulting levee was partially successful in protecting the area. Damage occurred frequently, however, and the levee was seriously breached in 1951. A "new" Quindaro Bend Drainage District was reorganized in 1970 and is still active in the current effort with the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

This program lead to the construction of a new 87+ million dollar levee which was completed in 2005. Bob Gieske, chairman of the district's board of supervisors, said this new Riverside-Quindaro Bend Levee brings protection to key parts of the city. (The levee district itself was originally formed to build the earliest levee, a structure finished in the early 1920s. The organization was rechartered in 1972 when it became apparent that the early levee was not capable of withstanding serious flooding).

This latest endeavor involved the US Corps of Engineers. "It's unbelievable the time and planning that have been involved," Gieske reported. A major change in today's effort compared to earlier attempts is involvement of the city. "If it wasn't for the city, we never could have done it. The upfront costs and fees are amazing. Original efforts were really just a bunch of farmers trying very hard to protect their land. The flood of 1993 really opened people's minds as to the potential damage we can incur without protection and the potential growth we're capable of with a levee. This is going to be a fantastic area now that we have state-of-the art flood protection." 

The Riverside-Quindaro Bend Levee will protect approximately 1,200 acres of property in the Missouri River valley, including farm land and a border area of light industrial development. Bounded by I-635 with railroad access and near downtown Kansas City, this portion of Riverside possesses some of the greatest growth potential of any region in the metropolitan area. During the summer of 2000, the city of Riverside began actively marketing the area in anticipation of commencement of construction.
Olden Days
In 1803 Lewis and Clark passed through the area that would later be called Riverside. As Europeans moved west, many hunters and trappers were drawn to the area because of the abundant wildlife. By the middle of the 19th century, German immigrants began to immigrate to Missouri and Kansas. One such family of homesteaders, the Brenners, settled in the Line Creek Valley and on nearby "Brenner Ridge." The Brenners cleared land and became successful farmers of the rich bottomlands.

In 1849 the California gold rush began and Saint Louis, Independence, Westport and Saint Joseph became bustling preparation points for settlers and gold-seekers heading to California, earning Missouri the nickname "Gateway to the West." More and more pioneers discovered the verdant valleys and wooded bluffs of Riverside and decided to put down roots. Many of these family names can still be found on Riverside mailboxes and businesses even today: Burrichter, Filger, Groh, Hartman, Hasenjager, Huckett, Keller, Klamm, Leimkuehler, Linder, Miller, Pixley, Renner, Rogers, Russ and Spalding.

Because of the Missouri's strategic location linking the Northern and Southern states, many important Civil War battles occurred in Missouri. The Civil War hit the area hard with three recorded “bushwhacker” raids. However, only one family moved permanently from the area.

First Visitors, First Residents

It's not clear when the first Europeans came to what is now Riverside. The area was almost certainly used by early hunters and trappers. These included well-known French "runners of the wood" who traded with contemporary Native American tribes, such as the Osage and Kansas tribes. The first recorded visit by European Americans was the Lewis and Clark Expedition which passed along the nearby Missouri River. These two explorers sent by President Thomas Jefferson even mentioned Line Creek in their journals, referring to it as "teaming with wildlife". Today, Vivion Road is designated as part of the national Lewis and Clark Trail.
The first permanent settlers came in 1843. Henry and Susanna Brenner, along with their seven children, became the first family to make the area their home. They took up residence above the river's high mark, selecting a location well up Line Creek near modern Homestead Road, (the road is named to commemorate these early pioneers). One story disputes Henry Brenner as the original pioneer and relates that it was his younger brother Peter Brenner who actually came to the area first.

War was on the horizon in Germany and the Brenner family had long considered moving to America. Peter was sent on a "scouting" expedition from the family homeland in Germany's Rhine Valley. After passing through the Riverside area, he wrote of its excellent prospects and basically said, "It looks like home. Come on over!" W.M. Paxton, the famous chronicler of early Platte County, depicted the area as originally being covered with dense forest; a contrast to the more open savannah and prairie to the north. Describing Peter Brenner's life upon his death in 1894, Paxton noted the tremendous work that was needed to clear the land was well rewarded. "Year by year he faithfully labored and cleared the land until he had one of the prettiest and cleanest farms in Platte County."

Following the arrival and success of the early Brenner clan, other families began settling in the area. Many of these family names are still important in the region: Burrichter, Filger, Groh, Hartman, Hasenjager, Huckett, Keller, Klamm, Leimkuehler, Linder, Miller, Pixley, Renner, Rogers, Russ and Spalding. Most of these early families relied on farming (some opened shops) as their first and most important livelihood. The rich soil, nearby water and other advantages soon made the area successful. Roads soon began connecting the area's increasing stores and farms. These early residents traded goods with Parkville and the City of Kansas - today's Kansas City.

Peter Brenner became known as "The Wheat King of Platte County." Well into the 20th Century, many residents of what became Riverside based their living on raising produce to be sold at Kansas City's City Market or at other area locations. At that time, people referred to modern day Riverside as "East of Parkville." When the Brenner Ridge School was built, the area became known as "Brenner Ridge." It adopted the name "Riverside" much later - after many area businesses and locations used the name "Riverside" in their store name - including the popular Riverside Park.

Civil War

The American Civil War was difficult for this part of Missouri, and Riverside experienced violence. In fact, the region may have suffered from added attention from pro-Confederate "bushwhackers" because of the presence of so many German-American families. ("Bushwhacker" was the name generally given to forces hiding in the woods or "bush" and conducting guerrilla warfare). Across Missouri, many German-Americans had sided strongly with the Union, making life difficult for German descendants in locations where guerrilla warfare was active.

On at least three occasions during the war, Riverside experienced raids by bushwhackers. The Kansas Redlegs and Jayhawkers were pro-Union forces who sometimes utilized bushwhacker tactics while William Quantrell was an effective and well-known Pro-Southern commander. Residents were often caught in the middle, no matter which side they actually supported.

Neighbors attempted to warn each other of pending attacks. Once confronted by a force, who often wore no identifying uniform, potential victims might talk their way out of attacks by offering food or other temporary help. However, the German-American residents often found that their only defense was to barricade their fences and doors and hide their valuables in a safe place.

In Riverside, the Renner family all experienced raids. These men were members of the pro-Union Enrolled Missouri Militia, which may explain why they were targeted for visits by the pro-Confederate bushwhackers. At the time, the Brenners were living in a log cabin where Plantation and Line Creek Apartments are located today. They spoke very little English. Peter and his son John were in the front room of their log cabin when suddenly they heard gunshots outside. Peter quickly hid his good Kentucky musket in the closet and put John Peter's old rifle under the bed. He knew that the bushwhackers would expect at least one weapon in the house and hoped they would find the older rifle and be satisfied. A good rifle like the Kentucky was expensive and hard to come by. Meanwhile, the men at the door were yelling, demanding to be admitted and given guns. Peter let them in and pointed under the bed where they found the old rifle. They seemed satisfied and left, taking food on their way.

Peter's brother John lived not far away in another log cabin. His warning of an attack came with the barking of the family dogs. John looked out and saw men tearing down his fence. He drew his revolver to fire but was stopped by his wife, Elizabeth. The men threatened to kill John if he didn't open the door. When he opened it, the men shoved gun barrels in his face and crowded him back into the corner, demanding money. All he had was a silver quarter. The men ransacked the house then left with his revolver and a rifle. The bushwhackers then rode south to the Renner home, now the site of the Windemere rest home at Vivion and West Platte Roads.

One of the Renner brothers was upstairs when he saw a bushwhacker come into the house. The man headed for the stairs, but before the man reached the top step, Renner fatally shot him. The other bushwhackers panicked and fled, leaving the weapons they had taken from John Brenner's home. The next morning Elizabeth went to the Renner home and saw her husband's rifle lying outside. She went in and found several women weeping over a man's body. Around the man was her husband's holster and revolver. Shaken with fright, Elizabeth explained to the women that the guns had been taken from her and her husband. She retrieved them and ran for home. On the way, she hid both the revolver and rifle in a fence corner where they remained for months. 

Early Days

The early days of Riverside heralded a hard way of life. Basic services, such as electricity, did not exist. Line Creek, a dominant feature of the area in many ways, was useful for summer food storage. "Ice houses" were a major method for preserving food well into the 20th century. In winter in the Riverside area, Line Creek supplied most of the ice. To harvest ice, wagons had to have an easy access to the creek. Settlers chose easy access cutting sites along the creek and prepared them by widening or deepening the creek bed. The ice was measured and tested, then cut into blocks. They were removed and loaded with large ice grips and driven to the waiting icehouse. Many icehouses were built underground with walls and floors of rock for maximum protection. Nails were rarely used on icehouses. Instead, tight fitting boards were held together with wooden pegs. Sometimes a building was built on top for other uses or storage of sawdust. Sawdust was packed between the ice blocks then the whole thing covered for summer. One ice-cutting location for many years was approximately 90 yards north of the Vivion Road Bridge where the creek makes a sharp bend.

Cemeteries

Riverside has 3 cemeteries with gravestones that date back to 1857. The first was connected with St. Matthew's Church and was called, appropriately, St. Matthews Cemetery. There is also a family cemetery, the John and Elizabeth Brenner Cemetery, and the newest, East Slope. Until 1965 the St. Matthews Cemetery was under the direction of an elected board of directors; it is now maintained by St. Matthew's Church Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund, Inc. 

Schools

During the history of Riverside, there were three early schools that helped educate the area's young people. Boydston School was located on the north side of what is now I-29 and Northwood Road. Brenner Ridge School was across from Eagle Animal Hospital (Florence and Gateway). It later became a grocery store and a home, before being removed. But for many, "the" school was in a little frame building called Lakeside School where Miss Leila Keller, the first teacher, taught from 1921-1924. Some of the first classes held in Riverside actually took place in St. Matthew's Church. In the early years of the church, there was not a school in the community and the Sunday school class was used for secular education. Other schooling took place in a log home near the Brenner cemetery.

Lakeside School was the oldest school in the area. It was built before 1880 near the industrial area south of 9 Highway and Vandepopuliere. Originally serving as Riverside's first grocery, it later became the schoolhouse and was eventually razed in the 1950s. Because of its time and place, Lakeside left many memories. For years, students with last names such as Haeutter, Brenner, Renner and Linder were taught by teachers like Lelia and Amelia Keller.

Later, a small summer cottage, located north of the John and Elizabeth Brenner Memorial Cemetery, was purchased by the school board and rented out. In 1920, this school seceded from the Lakeside district. The cottage was rented for three years and called East Lakeside. It was a one-room school with a stove in the center. Grades first through fourth were taught here. In 1924, bonds were voted for the construction of another school. East Lakeside eventually became a grocery. All traces of the building are now gone.

Many Riverside residents also remember Brenner Ridge School, once located where El Chaparral Apartments are today. Initially constructed as a two-room school, it was attended by students living from Northmoor to Northwood Road. The memory of those early one- and two-room schools still lingers. In an earlier interview, Mrs. Keller recalled scenes at Lakeside that are straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. "The school had double desks with ink wells," she said. "Some boys liked to dip the girls' ponytails in them. There was a heating stove in the middle of the room and a 12-inch platform in front so the teacher could keep an eye on things. Reading, writing, arithmetic, penmanship and geography were among some of the subjects taught to all grades.

Schoolbooks were handed down from family to family until they fell apart. Older boys usually could only attend two to three months during the winter when the weather was too bad to farm." Students walked three to five miles to school with books and sack lunches for the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. school days. Other days the school was used as a community center by Park College for Sunday school. The school had two later additions, including modern plumbing in the 1950s. Throughout this period, most high school students from the area attended North Kansas City High School. This continued until the formation of the Park Hill District in the 1950s. Also during this time, the Brenner Ridge School became a school for exceptional children. In 1923 the Lakeside District had split again. A new school was built and called Brenner Ridge.

After the Park Hill District was organized, all three schools were eventually demolished as part of consolidation. The biggest school news in the late 1990s was when Park Hill South High School was completed in west Riverside. This modern facility near I-635 is the second high school in the Park Hill District and provides a significant new focus for the Riverside community. The city and individual residents have responded with support for programs such as the school's Renaissance project and funding of symphony performances.

Brenner Home

The historic Brenner home at 2020 NW Platte Road commands a prominent knoll overlooking Highway 9 and the Missouri River. The house, originally painted white with bright red trim, includes a cellar with the hand print of its builder, Albert J. Brenner. The original three-room house, built in November 1899, is currently the oldest residential home in the Riverside area. The home was enlarged to nine rooms in 1909 to accommodate the Brenner's growing family of eight children. At that time, this home was considered the most modern of homes with its gaslights, furnace, water and indoor plumbing. Brenner dug two wells that pumped water up a very steep hill into a large reservoir system that supplied water for the home and a water hydrant for the barn. 

Brenner made his livelihood farming the 60 acres surrounding the home. The soil was considered by many as unfavorable for crops to grow, but Brenner produced great quantities of grapes, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. He also had a large orchard of pear, apple and cherry trees. He was known as the "Pole Bean King Farmer" because he planted at least 10 acres of pole beans. During the harvest of fruits and vegetables, up to 200 pickers helped prepare the goods for sale at the city market.
People Who Have Made A Difference
So many people have contributed to the success of Riverside over the years— inevitably, someone will be left off the "official" list. Nevertheless, there are a few names that stand out and shine bright, even among those known for their leadership and commitment. Folks who saw a better future, not just for themselves, but for the people in their community. Folks who worked tirelessly to "do the right thing." People with passion and big hearts and and even bigger vision for the little city we all call home.

To all of these folks and those whose tales are yet unsung, the citizens of Riverside, Missouri offer a profound "Thank You!"

Mayor Mike Holmes

Former Riverside Mayor Mike Holmes helped shepherd the community through challenges and accomplishments. Originally from San Pedro, Calif., Holmes moved to the area in 1989. Among other vocations, he has successfully operated an engineering and training consulting firm. His wife, Cathy, is well known for her office and administrative assistance. Together, the couple has customers that include Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy. Holmes first sought a post on the Riverside Board of Aldermen at the encouragement of Ed Young. As a "junior" Council Member, he was indoctrinated to the "old" ways of doing city business. "Ed would call me up regarding his position on an issue and suggest that I make a motion supporting his point of view, which was incidentally most often somewhat controversial. Well you know I was often the bad guy to the applicant, attorney or citizen, as the case may be, and that occasionally caused me some grief."
Holmes recalled the much discussed "interaction" between Riverside leader Loo Rodeberg and Kansas City Star writer and now editor Rich Hood. "During the time I served, Rich Hood, now the vice president and chief editorial page editor for the Star, was a beat reporter. We were in an image struggle and when a strip bar in Northmoor ran an ad for dancers stating a Riverside address, Lou Rodeberg charged over and went into the office waving the newspaper and announcing she wanted to speak with the manager about this ad. Of course we had our own problems with liquor establishments in town at the time, but I really think we made a lot of progress towards a cleaner image."

Holmes also recalled only one instance in which some of the negative rumors about public life came true. "Before joining the council I had heard all of the rumors regarding graft, corruption and patronage. Well, I can honestly say in the more than eight years I served, I was actually approached only once. I refused the only bribe opportunity I ever had." Holmes has since moved from Riverside, but even from Independence he still keeps track of his "home town."

Mayor Ed Rule

While several of Riverside's mayors can take credit for helping build a city from scratch, Ed Rule may have seen some of the most dramatic change in the city's history. Serving as mayor from 1996-2000, Rule presided over the city just as it embarked on several dramatic capital improvement programs, thanks to funding from the Argosy casino.

"Yes, it was dramatic," Rule recalls today. "We certainly had an opportunity to make a bigger impact on this city than has ever been or maybe ever will be. You don't get too many opportunities to build city halls or city parks. For a city our size - about 3,300 people - that's a lot of capital improvements."

Rule said previous Boards of Aldermen should be credited, as well as Mayors before and after his two terms. "We've set the stage," he said. "The board and mayor now are preparing for the next big leap—that's the levee." "The levee" is the Riverside-Quindaro project that was completed in 2005. Rule noted that the levee was an extremely long-term project. "The mayor's before me have worked on that for 50 years trying to get that done," he said. "The city has a lot invested in that project, but they'll more than get their money back."

Rule also saw the city's use of funding from the Argosy casino have a major impact. "The riverboat and its income has been a tremendous factor," he said. "I look for really great things to happen in our city. I've always been a big supporter of this city and always will be."

Although he's a "newcomer" to the community, having only moved here 30 years ago, Rule also has a long-time connection with Riverside; his grandfather-in-law is the late Ferd Filger, first mayor of the community. "He was a wonderful man," Rule said. "I never heard him say one bad thing about any person."

Gary Hohimer

In a city of pioneers," Gary Hohimer was right at home. While many Riverside leaders were literally inventing basics such as a city budget or parks, Hohimer was on the front line in public safety. A native of the small central Missouri community of Triplett, Hohimer recalled that as a youngster he admired the shiny car and starched uniform of a Highway Patrolman. "I always wanted to be in law enforcement," he said. "That always stayed with me." Hohimer came to Riverside and in 1959 graduated from Park Hill High School. In 1963, he was working at the old Riverside automobile racetrack when he met Vern Davis. Davis was both a security guard at the racetrack and served as Riverside City Marshall. "I told him that I'd always wanted to be in law enforcement," Hohimer recalled. "He said, 'I may have a job for you.'"

Hohimer soon found himself one of Riverside's three full-time officers, a job that soon taught him important police skills. Working alone without backup on the midnight shift, he was often the only law enforcement officer when 30,000 people attended races or when crowds became rowdy in one of the many taverns, which then lined Riverside's main streets. "I learned to use my head instead of my back or my mouth," he laughs now. "Most of the people you met weren't bad if you handled them right. But it could be exciting." He now laughs about some of the events that at the time taxed his abilities.

He was on duty on a busy weekend at the racetrack when weather forced a rainout. The track manager informed the crowd that they would be given rain checks, but some in the audience didn't accept that option. They voiced their disagreement by surrounding the ticket office and setting it on fire, with the manager, Hohimer and others inside. While that event ended well enough, another fire ended tragically and brought about a major advance for the city.

The El Chaparral apartment complex was the scene of a disastrous fire. At that time, a nearby volunteer fire organization was paid to provide protection in Riverside, but the El Chaparral sustained substantial damage. "The fire response time was consistently up to 45 minutes," Hohimer recalled. "The apartment fire started in the laundry area and probably could have been contained. But it ended up taking out 12 units on three floors. We realized we had to have something better."

The city first tried to create its own volunteer fire department, but the difficulty in getting people to train was a problem. In 1973 Riverside formed its Department of Public Safety, a group that addressed police and fire protection with cross-trained officers. Hohimer became the first director. The new organization was a definite improvement, but was nothing like today's operations. At that time, manpower was still limited but resources were probably the biggest limitation. Reports were written by hand (in triplicate!). Once when "statistical analysis" was needed, a resident with ties to a large wholesale grocer borrowed some computer time. "Everyone worked very hard in those days," Hohimer now recalls. "It's nothing like the department we have now, but it was a good start. Everyone who was involved can be proud of their hard work."

Loo Rodeberg

Alderman and community leader Loo Rodeberg became one of Riverside's most influential residents. Rodeberg grew up in a family of eight children during the depression. Even though times were tough, the family took pride in their home and community-values that Loo brought with her to Riverside in 1957. After moving here, Rodeberg saw that there were things she would like to change. She sought out others in the community who had the same dream and together these residents set out to make Riverside a better place to live. The result was the Pride and Progress Committee.

At the time Rodeberg served on the Board of Alderman, there were few women involved in politics. Her unique perspective was a major contribution to the city and she was a hard-working advocate for her constituents. Loo's commitment to the city and occasional "challenges" sometimes brought humorous results.
During the early Pride and Progress efforts, proponents were aware that Riverside did not have a stellar reputation in the community. Much of their work was in fact geared to improve the appearance and reputation of a city that was intent on improving itself. But at one point, Kansas City Star writer Rich Hood was blamed for material that was less than complementary. Rodeberg, always one to go to the source, strode into the Star offices and was quoted by some as labeling Hood a "fink." That meeting did eventually end on a positive note.

Hood, who went on to become a key editor for the publication, took a second look at the community and began to note the improvements which were taking place. And when time came for Rodeberg to retire from the Board of Aldermen, Hood attended her retirement party wearing a T-shirt printed with "Star Fink." Rodeberg passed away in 1997, but she would be very proud of the improvements that have continued in Riverside, a community that she fought long and hard to better.

Gary Brenner

Gary Brenner might deserve the name of Riverside Renaissance man. Brenner is a former Alderman who was instrumental as an amateur archaeologist on the Renner Brenner site. He has written on both prehistoric and historic aspects of Riverside. His work was invaluable in capturing the ancient history of Riverside. His interest in the past began when he was only 10. His father was building an apartment complex on Homestead Road. Gary became fascinated with artifacts turned up by the bulldozer, asking the driver to stop whenever something was uncovered. "I was spotting artifacts left and right. After two or three days, the driver went up to my father and said, 'I love your son, but if you ever want to get this job done, I will have to do it without his help!'"

Gary's collection of Brenner family and Native American artifacts includes approximately 25,000 pieces, although many might be unrecognizable as historical to laymen. "People are surprised at what's under their feet, when you point it out. Right on top of the ground where City Hall is being built, there are hundreds of sandstone abraders that were used to sharpen bone and other tools. Most people walk over them without knowing what they are."

Some of his best work appeared in early editions of the city newsletter. Brenner drew on a wealth of family and community history, and conducted valuable interviews. "I was lucky that many of our early residents and community leaders were still alive. Ferd Filger (Riverside's first mayor) told me about nearly dying as a child while his family was crossing Line Creek in a horse drawn wagon. The wagon tipped over and he was swept away. It was something he always remembered."
Brenner is also an amateur weatherman. During the 1993 flood, his floodstage forecasts proved more accurate than those of many professionals. "I was giving reports to the National Guard and everyone involved in fighting the flood and trying to protect their property. I wasn't a professional, but I helped provide information for the business owners who had $70 million worth of property threatened by that flood."

Irene Jones

Riverside made an important step in growth when the Mid-Continent Public Library opened a branch in 1970. The branch at Woodland and Gateway was opened by Mildred Barr. After 11 months, assistant Irene Jones took over and operated the library for 19 years. Ironically, Jones' retirement in 1990 coincided with plans for a new facility at Gateway and Vivion Road.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Jones gets much of the credit for "building" the library as it stands today. It's just that her work involved people, especially children, not brick and mortar. "We pulled out all the stops, tried everything we could think of to pull people in," she recalled. "I even dressed my husband Norman as Santa Claus for the kids. It was slow going at first. But after a while that library was full."

The tactics worked. Before long, "story hour" for young people, early adoption of multi-media and other programs kept the 5,000 s.f. building full most days and evenings. The new facility, built in 1990, continues that legacy with a wide range of programs.
Pride and Progress
Riverside has grown and matured into a charming and well-run city over the years. That is all due to the actions and vision of a succession of committed individuals who worked together tirelessly to nurture and promote the city, its residents and businesses. From simple beautification gestures such as potted flowers outside business establishments, to a clean-up campaign to rid the city of an overabundance of taverns, to the successful partnership with Argosy Casino, Riverside has grown and improved— slowly but always steadily and for the better.

Incorporation

Although Riverside existed as an unincorporated community for more than 100 years and accumulated an extensive history, it still lacked what other area communities had achieved - legal recognition as an incorporated city. In 1951 a number of factors contributed to Riverside residents finally taking the legal step to incorporate and become a city. First, the growing community increasingly recognized its interconnectedness - from fire protection to socializing. A key catalyst, however, involved efforts by the neighboring city of Parkville to annex what is now part of Riverside and the overall concern that Kansas City would annex both towns.

One anecdote recalled how Red-X owner E.H. Young was reading his morning paper when an article caught his eye. To his surprise, Parkville was about to annex all properties to the south and east of their city limits— Riverside! Young quickly called a meeting at a local Riverside restaurant with Vic Panus, an attorney and developer of Riverside's Indian Hill’s subdivision, and Ferd Filger, another Riverside business owner. The group discussed the annexation and decided to visit Parkville. After a meeting with the Parkville mayor, Parkville agreed not to annex the additional lands. They did, however, encourage the Riverside group to seek additional protection to keep the area from being annexed by Kansas City. At the time, Kansas City was in a period of aggressively seeking expansion north of the River. Riverside residents held a meeting at the Brenner Ridge School to discuss possible city boundaries. By the end of the evening, several neighborhoods elected to remain independent from Riverside — creating the communities of Northmoor, Houston Lake and Northern Heights.

Young, Panus and Filger scheduled a meeting with Platte County Presiding Judge, A.J. Hillix to determine what procedures were to be followed in appointing a mayor and board before an election could be called the following April. On June 21, 1951, the Platte County Court was presented a Petition for Incorporation. (Presiding Judge/Commissioner was A. J. Hillix, George Offutt was Eastern Judge and O. W. Thompson was Western Judge. Holman Ham was the County Clerk). On June 26, the court issued an order declaring the City of Riverside a Body Corporate, Fourth Class City and appointed First Officers of the newly formed city. Ferd F. Filger was appointed mayor of Riverside by the Platte County Court. He and other city officials served until the first regular city election in April 1952. Aldermen included E.H. Young, Roy Renner, Dr. Thomas Eagle and Will Scrivner. John Scott served as marshal, Lowell Brenner as collector and Mrs. Curtis (Helen) Brenner, city clerk. Boundaries for this new city were generally north from the Missouri River, east to Highway 169 and north to Northmoor. A census by Dr. Eagle showed 750 persons living in the area. The petition for incorporation was signed by 400. Businesses in the area included the Riverside Stadium and a motor car racetrack in the vicinity of the former Riverside Jockey Club. Riverside's first city election was held in 1952. Mr. Filger was then elected Mayor. The elected aldermen were E.H. Young, Mrs. Francis Clark, William Scrivner, O.V. Beach, Roy Renner and Lowell Brenner.

Founding Fathers

The founders of Riverside were a unique group. Filger and Young, especially, represented a combination of inventive entrepreneur spirit and community commitment.

Ferd F. Filger Sr.

Filger, who eventually served as Riverside's mayor for 20 years, began Filger Oil Company in 1936 at 4533 Gateway. This office was an unofficial Riverside historic site to many residents. The building was originally a small cafe. A garage was added and it became a Texaco station. Shortly after, he added a warehouse. The building has been closed and unfortunately no remnants of it are visible today.

Filger lived in the Riverside area since his birth in 1896. He was born on the Filger farm, off Englewood Road, to Peter and Emma Filger. Like most boys, he helped out on the farm when he was not at school. He attended Englewood School at Englewood Road and North Oak when it was just a frame schoolhouse. Filger recalled that Englewood Road used to continue down and across Line Creek from the point where Englewood and AA Highway meet today. Another crossing was in Riverside down the hill behind St. Matthews Church. Filger was married in 1918, and his wife passed away in 1936.

He came to Riverside, started his oil business, and married again in 1938. Filger had three sons and two daughters, eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He died Feb. 19, 1985. When asked about his years as mayor and if there was anything that remained vivid in his mind or any special occasion, he said, "Just keeping the city going those first years was enough of a challenge."

E.H. "Ed" Young

Young is widely known for his unique Red-X store. E. H. Young played one of the most significant roles in Riverside's history. Both visibly and behind the scenes, he was a community leader in the true sense of the word. Young operated one of Riverside's first "filling stations," he founded Red-X (which in many ways predicted the rise of discount stores such as K-mart and Wal-Mart) and most importantly, Young was a true community leader. Ed served as Riverside mayor and he donated thousands of dollars in funds and property. When Young died, he left a legacy of accomplishment that was shared throughout the community.

Young was born on June 6, 1912 in Kansas City. He moved to Riverside in the late 1940s. After operating several businesses, including a gasoline station, he opened the Red-X general store in the early 1950s. He experienced many trials, such as two devastating floods and a major fire. After the 1993 flood, he set a new course with a lot of hard work and his patented humor. His Red-X advertising slogan became "The Home of High Water, Hot Fires and Low Prices." Riverside's incorporation was an early vision of Young's. He also served as an Alderman from 1951 to 1970 and held the office of Mayor from 1976 to 1980. Mr. Young often was the silent partner in area charities. Additionally he established the first Riverside park fund with a $5,000 donation; donated the 40 acre tract of land where the E.H. Young Riverfront park is located; he renovated a building providing a place for the Bell Road Players; he gave gifts to the Riverside Public Safety Department and supported the new Park Hill South High School Renaissance program. Young died on July 2, 1999 at his home. Loved for his subtle sense of humor and commitment to Riverside, he left a legacy of accomplishment that was shared throughout the community. He was one of the rare individuals who was both loved and respected.

Building From Scratch

Most 20th century communities could count on well-placed organizations to help support their city. Incorporated in 1951, Riverside had to build its own from scratch. Judge Dan Czamanske, now an associate circuit judge for Platte County, was the second mayor of Riverside. Like mayors before and after, he presided over a great deal of "building" that had nothing to do with brick and mortar.

During his two terms from 1972-76, he oversaw creation of Riverside's Public Safety Department and other major steps toward city improvement. The joint police/fire operation was typical of the kind of decision making early mayors and aldermen made. "It didn't make sense to have a fire chief and a police chief," he recalled. "We just didn't have the budget for that." But even then, Riverside had a lot to offer, he recalled. "This is a wonderful community."

Czamanske also served on the city's Planning Commission and was a city judge for more than five years. Other accomplishments included naming Northwest Gateway, the city's main thoroughfare. One of his administration's biggest accomplishments may have been hiring Betty Burch as city clerk. Burch served for years as clerk then went on to serve on the Board of Aldermen and as mayor. "Betty was so good at what she did. We found that the more we used her, the more we liked her. Betty Burch was the best thing that happened to the city," Czamanske recalls.

Another key staff member was Irene Paulhe, secretary to the board. Don Witt was city attorney and Gary Hohimer was first director of the Department of Public Safety. About the same period, John West served on the planning commission, including service as its first chairman in 1972. He also served as an Alderman, but his term on the planning commission may have been the most dramatic. "We wrote the first zoning ordinance," he recalled. "We basically modified Kansas City's. That gave us a start." Early city work was "exciting" in many ways. "We prepared the first city budget," West recalled. "The city had never had a budget. According to state law you can't operate a city without a budget!" West went on to serve five successive terms on the Board of Aldermen without opposition. He said the early city leaders were a unique group. "Most were small businessmen and we tried to run the city like a business," he recalled. "We didn't have an unlimited source of funds. I was finance chairman and they had created a $200,000 reserve as a passbook savings account!"

Business

Riverside's business growth has been interesting, with family businesses and large companies both playing significant roles. Since World War II, two of the most significant were the Filger Oil Company and the Red-X Store. Filger started his business in 1936 while Ed Young started Red-X in 1948. Many other businesses have come and gone since the 1930s. In the '40s and '50s, some familiar businesses were Sloans Restaurant, Mrs. Eldridge's Tavern, Busch's Barber Shop and the Riverside racetrack. There were many gas stations and quite a few billboard signs —this was the America of "Route 66."

Gas and Burgers

One of Riverside's most unique periods might be termed its "American Graffiti" era, named after the movie depicting the "automobile culture" of the 1950s. One North Kansas City resident recalled growing up in this era. "We'd always go to Riverside, especially on Saturday nights," he said. "There were so many hamburger stands. It was just a lot of fun and everybody was there." Names like Dog-N-Suds, Griffs or Dairy Queen made the area popular with all ages. About this same time, the Riverside Race Track was in operation for automotive races. Later, the Riverside Drive-In was popular, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Riverside was "the" place to be.

A related factor had an unusual impact. In the 1950s, Missouri allowed cities to levy a tax on gasoline. Some cities had a fairly steep tax— up to seven or eight cents a gallon. Considering that gasoline might be as little as 17 cents a gallon, it was obvious that motorists would notice a tax that might be 30 to 50 percent of their cost. But Riverside had no such tax. As a result, people would drive from throughout the Kansas City area to "fill 'er up." Many made this a Sunday outing, taking the family for a drive to Riverside where they bought gasoline (hopefully for most of the week). Some of these motorists, traveling from as far as south Kansas City, liked the area so much that they eventually moved to Riverside.

Line Creek Bridges and Car Washing

Line Creek has forever divided Riverside, winding its way down to the Missouri River. It is impossible to drive from one end of the city to the other without going over it. A total of seven bridges cross Line Creek in Riverside, including the railroad bridge by Highway 9. With the advent of automobiles and the "car culture" of the 50s and 60s, what had been ice-cutting locations used by 19th century residents to supply ice for icehouses, became popular spots for car washing and people-watching. Several cars parked in the creek bed as people enjoyed listening to the radio and washing their cars by hand.

Auto Racing

Without a doubt, the "fastest" period in Riverside's history took place on the southeastern edge of the community where for 37 years the Riverside Race Stadium drew attention throughout the region and helped start nationally famous careers. Riverside Race Stadium began with a one-half mile dirt track in June of 1951 - just a short time before the city of Riverside was incorporated. The first race was held Sunday, June 3, 1951. Drivers from 10 states participated for future, contending spots in the IMCA circuit standing.

Many strong contenders began their driving careers here in Riverside: Greg, Jerry and Kenny Weld; Jud Larson, John Fleming, Jerry Beach and Jim Penney, just to name a few. Many of these drivers went on to participate in the Indianapolis 500. In an interview several years ago, Jim Penney recalled coming to Riverside with his father as a young man. Before long, auto racing became a big part of his life. Penney recalled drawing for his position in the first race of the evening. "Then, if you were lucky enough to place in the top four contenders, you could be certain that you would qualify for the main event," he said. Top speeds in the early years were about 55-66 mph. If you were fortunate to win, your pay would be either a trophy or a small cash prize. Fans and friendships were also a large part of racing, Penney noted. Many working men competed in the events and which was a great source of family entertainment. Crowds varied with each event, but the Saturday night stock car races were the most popular. And while accidents did happen, the real focus was more on skill. E. H. Young owned and operated the race track from 1951-1975, then leased the facility until it closed in 1988. He enjoyed auto racing and made a personal connection with drivers and fans.

The race track had an effect on many homeowners. Norman and Irene Jones' home feels like a rural hillside but Irene admits that there were some doubts when they first moved in. "The (auto) race track was at the bottom of the hill and sometimes it sounded like the finish line was in my kitchen," she now laughs. "But later there was the drive-in and that was great. All the neighborhood kids could sit out back and watch the shows." The couple eventually had four children. Norman worked 43 years for Mobile Oil while Irene worked as librarian in Riverside's Mid-Continent Public Library for 19 years. "This is an incredible place," Irene concludes. "The view here is fantastic in the winter and in the summer; it's like we're out in the country somewhere."

Family Businesses and Hometown Corporations

Fata Grocery

During the 1930s and 1940s, Fata Grocery was the epitome of old fashioned family business. Jim Fata, Sr. founded his grocery and "general store" in 1934. Operated by Jim and his family, Fata Grocery was located east of the present Red-X store. Like other small businesses, Fata Grocery was known for its good-natured humor and warmth. Many customers still recall the sign near the old-fashioned cash register: "In God We Trust— but you pay cash." Jim Fata, Jr., recalled recently that the business also involved delivery of ice and coal throughout the area. The coal was used to heat many area homes and the ice (chopped from area creeks during the winter) was used in early refrigerators and iceboxes. It was definitely a family business. "We lived behind there and all of us worked— mom, dad and four children," Jim Fata, Jr. now recalls. In the 1950s, E.H. "Ed" Young of Red-X fame purchased the business, but not before it had left its mark on Riverside. "It was great because we knew all of our customers and they knew us," Fata recalled. "It was a real family store."

Beverly Lumber

One of the earliest businesses in Riverside was actually here before the foundation of the city. It was founded by Frank McKnight with his brother-in-law Bill Dowd as manager of the first yard. In 1947 the company purchased the A.J. Higgins Lumber Company of Tracy, later moving it to Platte City. In April 1949, the firm purchased the White Lumber Company in Riverside.

The Riverside location became the headquarters. Locations were later started in Leavenworth and Atchison, Ks. The company remained a family business with McKnight's two daughters as owners and three of Dowd's sons as president and managers of the two largest yards - Riverside and Leavenworth. Walt Dowd is president of the company. Over the years the company was hit by floods and fires, but has since survived and prospered. The company had a store in St. Joseph in the late 1940s, and was planning to close it when it was destroyed by fire. The Riverside store was flooded several times in1947, 1951 and 1952. The worst flood was in 1993 when the water was eight feet high at the Riverside headquarters, and it took three months to clean up the damage. Today the company prospers and has 38 employees.

Chevy Duty Pickup Parts

One of Riverside's most unique businesses also has one of the most unique histories of any firm operating in the city. Chevy Duty Pickup Parts may at first sound like an unlikely success story. To say the least, owner Mark Jansen's operation is specialized. Chevy Duty Pickup Parts only sells parts for Chevy pickup trucks built between 1947 and 1972. "People just can't believe I do that for a living," the young owner admitted. "Every time I tell that to somebody, they say, 'How do you make a living at that?' But we've been doing fairly well and we've been growing steadily for years." The firm is located in a 37,000-square-foot structure in a Riverside office complex near 9 Highway. Jansen was located at 4319 NW Gateway in a building that seven years ago replaced the second of two home operations. Jansen founded his company when he became interested in restoring pickups. "I had an old truck I needed parts for," he recalled. "I was buying them from a company in California and I decided I could probably do what he's doing. It started out part-time in the evening, but it grew into a full time business."

Business Boom

The most dramatic business boom in Riverside began in the 1980s, despite soaring interest rates and high unemployment. Although it started at a snail's pace, buildings such as an industrial office facility for Getty Refining (now owned by Conoco, Inc.) laid the foundation for what is today one of the area's brightest industrial areas: the 9 Highway corridor.

In 1983, a giant step was made when a new zoning district was established titled "Light Industrial." This made way for Riverside's first Industrial Park developed by John Brown & Company, located adjacent to Red-X where the old Riverside Drive-In once stood. Today, the Riverside Business Park consists of 18 acres and is complete with a total of seven buildings representing almost five million dollars in development. These multi-use office/warehouse buildings can be utilized or divided to accommodate 50 to 70 tenant spaces. Over the next three years, the momentum continued. This also was a time when many existing homes and businesses underwent considerable remodeling. In 1984 Windemere Retirement Center constructed the second phase of its facility where they now house 59 residents.

The year 1987 marked the beginning of major development for the corridor of property south of 9 Highway, which first included the Woodbridge Foam/Riverside Seat manufacturing plant. Mild weather conditions in 1988 were a factor in marking an all time high in construction dollars - $4,779,408. The city also saw the construction of the Conoco Products Terminal facility and the initial phase of office/warehouse buildings constructed in the new Platte Valley Industrial Park, both located along 9 Highway.

Early in 1989, the city approved a land use guide plan and zoning changes in an effort to better serve the community. Another building was added in the Platte Valley Industrial Park. New construction of the Earth Dental Lab was completed on Gateway (next to Eagle Animal Hospital). Peeler Oil began construction of their new location on Tullison Road. Although none of these were huge the total area comprised a significant trend. Most importantly, groundwork was laid for further growth that continues today.

A significant aspect of Riverside's past and future involves a unique series of light industrial buildings along 9 Highway, operated by ProLogis Trust. Since 1994, ProLogis has owned and expanded the former John Brown and Associates properties in Riverside, the Riverside Industrial Center and the Platte Valley Industrial Park. Originally Security Capital Industrial Trust, ProLogis is far more than a local real estate company. The firm changed their name in 1998 in order to expand into Europe with its unique concept of consistent service. "The idea is that any of our tenants can walk into one of our offices anywhere and know what to expect," explained Kathryn Hershewe, marketing representative for ProLogis Riverside. ProLogis became a Riverside business with purchase of the John Brown operation in 1994. Based in Denver, ProLogis is an industrial real estate investment trust located in 98 markets throughout the world. The company owns and manages an amazing total of 200 million square feet of property. In Riverside, the firm controls more than 1 million square feet in 21 buildings, including two constructed since the purchase.

Chamber of Commerce

The "Riverside Area Chamber of Commerce" was a significant development of the 1980s. In 1988, Mayor Betty Burch contacted consulting assistance with sportscaster and Northland personality, Bill Grigsby. She knew the city needed a boost and Grigsby operated a consulting group, CityMark, which helps communities identify strengths and marshal resources for improvement.

Approximately 50 people attended a meeting, including business and property owners, concerned citizens and several members of the Board of Aldermen. During the meeting, Grigsby said, "You have two choices. You can either get an army of bulldozers and plow the place under or you can clean up your act! Paint your buildings, plant some trees and make your community a viable place to be." Community leader Dan Peak was sitting next to David and Marilyn Brenner during the meeting. Marilyn suggested to Dan the need for a Chamber of Commerce. Agreeing that this was a good idea, Peak stood and made a motion to form a new Chamber. Riverside hosted a Chamber in the past, but at that time there was no current, organized effort. A steering committee was formed and the new Riverside Area Chamber of Commerce followed. Dan Peak was named first president.

At a meeting held on May 15, 1988 at the David Theatre, Articles of Incorporation and organizational bylaws were accepted unanimously, along with newly elected Board of Directors and Officers: Dan Peak, President; Ron Hopkins, Vice President; Bill Smith, Secretary/Treasurer; Sheree Shepard, Toni Case, Bill Bailey, Ron Hopkins, Bill Tott, Phillip Wollard and Jim Davis. Directors meetings were held at the John Brown and Company office with the focus on the cleanup of Riverside. A couple of workdays were held and volunteers pitched in to start improving the community. The Chamber included 50 - 70 members.

Fundraising activities included member dinners and auctions. The organization Reach Out America and other local charities were recipients of the proceeds. Toni Case, who was the 1989 president of the Riverside Area Chamber of Commerce, began a festival called River City Days, held around the 4th of July. Entertainment and activities included a small carnival, fireworks display, and the ever-popular dunk tank. The Chamber also held a dance in conjunction with the fall festival.

Case said the key goal of the Chamber at the time was to help beautify Riverside. "The idea was to clean up the city by promoting businesses to clean up their buildings and help others to do the same." Today, many things have changed. Although there is no longer a River City Days, the 50 members have grown to 150. The Chamber still participates in the fall festival, now MusicFest, and they still donate to local charities. Most importantly, the goal of making our community a better place to be remains as important today as it was in 1988.

City Beautification

Riverside's Pride and Progress Committee began from a growing desire to clean up and spruce up a community that did not always present its best face to the metropolitan area. The effort was founded in 1978 by Finney Young, wife of Red-X owner Ed Young.

The group worked for two years, but continued complaints about the appearance of some businesses and properties in Riverside led a group of 15-20 women to meet at city hall to consider renewed action. Among the leaders was Marilyn Brenner, wife of then mayor David Brenner, who became the group's first formal chair. They began to take action immediately.

The work also followed earlier efforts by an Associated Residents-Merchants of Riverside (ARMOR) and the city of Riverside. But the Pride and Progress work represented the longest running effort and remains active today. Marilyn Brenner admits there was something of the "vigilante" spirit in the group. "But we also used a carrot along with our sticks," she recalls with a laugh. "We didn't go up and tell someone they had to fix up their property. We said, 'Can we help?' And we did. There were many Saturdays where a large group came out. Of course, when 35 or 40 people showed up with paint and everything, it was hard to refuse!" Actually, the first outing of the Pride and Progress Committee drew a staggering 200 people. One motel received a coating of between 40 and 50 gallons of paint – in one day.

The group also tread where city officials could not. "Riverside was a fourth class community and the state did not grant things such as code enforcement," Brenner recalls. "But we could quietly encourage businesses to remove things such as old, peeling billboards." Much of their work had a snowball effect. One of their first efforts involved placement of "flower barrels," decorated drums filled with plantings. At first the group placed them one at a time, working with business owners who agreed to the decorations after a presentation. Before long, however, business owners were seeking out the group to request barrels. "Barrels started to spring up all over the city," Brenner said. "It was really very dramatic."

Other Battles

About the same time as Pride and Progress was under way, the city faced one of its most difficult challenges. Riverside contained more than its share of liquor establishments – taverns and liquor stores – on a per capita basis. Then Mayor David Brenner recalled that the city in the late 1970s had between 14 and 15 businesses dispensing alcohol, most in a small section of Gateway Drive. "There were just too many for a city this size," David Brenner recalls. "I appreciate a drink, but we were just overwhelmed with them." The solution didn't occur overnight, but eventually the number of establishments was reduced. A key to the effort was recognition of the city's authority to regulate licenses. "A lot of tavern owners thought the license went with the business, automatically," he said. "It took a while, but we gradually were able to exercise some authority by the city." In 1981, all of this and other work paid off with Riverside's reception of a National Beautiful Cities Award.

Unique Home Ownership

One of the most unusual stories in Riverside involves the Riverside Townhouses development at 3021 NW 47th Terrace. At first glance, the townhouses look much like an apartment complex, but Manager Carol Turney explains there is an important difference that also helps explain the "cared for" look the complex exhibits. First, the "units" are three story town homes, with basements and two living floors. More importantly, however, the individual town homes are actually owned by the residents. "It's good for people, especially a family with a limited income," Turney explained. "It gives them space and feeling of ownership."
The "cooperative townhouses" also offer input for owners. A board of directors composed of member residents has responsibility for decisions such as the upgrading of individual town homes or the design of a playground. Therese Madison has lived in Riverside Townhouses since 1972 with her husband Jim. A member of the board of directors said the differences go beyond even ownership and responsibility. "It's a community," she said. "It's really the best of both; the convenience of an apartment complex and the ownership of a home. There's permanence here so you make friends and get to know people."

Many families and retired people find the townhomes a perfect solution to housing needs. The location has also drawn a number of students from an area medical college. "That's one of the things I like best," Theresa said. "We have a community from all income brackets. That's nice." Depending on income, a resident can receive federal assistance for their payments, Turney noted. Riverside Townhomes has obviously been successful. The original 88 units were built in 1972, and the remaining 88 built in 1976. "It's a very successful formula," Turney said. "I came here when my daughter was three months old. Now she lives here and has two children of her own."

Musicfest

The Riverside fall festival known today as Musicfest was founded in 1976 as a fun weekend for young people. Loo Rodeberg, Riverside Alderman, came to a meeting one night and expressed the long-held wish that Riverside should have a festival for children and young people. But little revenue and starting from scratch was a major challenge. Thankfully, then Mayor E.H. "Ed" Young and Alderman David Brenner said they would help. These three – Young, Brenner and Rodeberg – were the founders of today's Musicfest.

Lack of funding was a real issue. Mayor Young became a major supporter, using his own funds to ensure that the festival got off the ground. Other local residents came forward, making donations and building by hand the games and activity booths that were a key to the early festival. The clown toss, rope ladder, beauty contest stage and other festival highlights were made possible through these hands-on contributions.

Other volunteers searched throughout the metropolitan area for affordable prizes: candy, rubber snakes, stick-on "tattoos" and Halloween teeth were the most popular prizes. These prizes were often seen for days after the festival in the hand of Riverside children. During the festival itself, volunteers from throughout the community were "victims" in the dunk tank or helped by operating other games and activities.

The first festival was held on Sept. 4, 1976 and was a major success. The festival saw 700-800 participants arriving despite a virtual absence of advance publicity. The theme that year was "Riverside: Our Hometown." Organizers began immediately to plan for the second year. In the festivals third year (1978), the city of Riverside agreed to support the growing effort by underwriting activities with a $500 contribution. More prizes could be purchased and, with the handiwork of people like Dick Grogan, games such as the bottle throw were added.

In the early 1980s, Riverside's Pride and Progress committee was in full swing and operation of the festival was a natural responsibility for this organization. Under their guidance, the list of activities grew with popular events such as mud volleyball. The year of 1981 saw the first parade, an activity that also reflected the festival's emphasis on children and young people. The bulk of the parade consisted of children on decorated bicycles and tricycles, an event that finally drew some area press coverage because of the unique emphasis on children.

City-wide support for the festival continued to grow, with individuals, businesses and organizations contributing directly or through in-kind donations. The original $500 budget had grown to $2,000, allowing more prizes, fireworks and activities. In 2001 the city of Riverside contributed $10,000, allowing activities that would have been impossible in 1976. That growth also took a dramatic turn in 1999 with the incorporation of a formal non-profit group to operate the festival, Riverside Riverfest and Development Corporation. Creation of this group not only allows tax-deductible donations but also the possibility of other events, such as a spring festival, July 4th or other special event. All of these changes and improvements have contributed to the primary emphasis of Musicfest; to provide a good time for everyone in the community, especially children.

Theatre

The David Theatre is one of Riverside's most dramatic sagas both figuratively and literally. In 1987, the David Theatre had been operated by the "Bell Road Barn Players" for more than three decades. Jenkin and Barbara David started the summer theatre in 1954. Owners of a farm in Parkville, they utilized a barn as a community theatre for some 32 years.

As head of the drama department at Park University for 25 years, David began the theater as a way for his students to experience a summer workshop and participate in acting, directing, set and costume design. After Jenkin's death in 1984, Barbara realized that she could not continue with the care of the farm and subsequently decided to sell the home place. This caused the Bell Road Players to seek a new location, but their budget and space needs were a difficult combination. Not surprisingly to anyone familiar with Riverside, E.H. Young read about the plight of the Bell Road Players and came to their rescue. He offered the use of another, perhaps even more historic barn located in Riverside – a barn once used by the Riverside Downs Jockey Club horse race track.

The barn restoration efforts began in early 1987. It took nine months. Young, the David family, the Bell Road Barn Board of Directors and many volunteers spent hours developing the new David Theatre in Riverside and moving all of their material to the new facility. Finally, after months of work, the Bell Road Barn began their 33rd season on June 18, 1987 at its new location, 4200 NW Riverside Street. For just over five years, the players, their facility and Riverside were ready to "break a leg." Unfortunately, the year of 1993 brought down the curtain on this successful endeavor. The Great Flood of that year inundated the theater and much of Riverside with it. Unfortunately for the theater, not only was the building a total loss, but much of the contents, including sets, costumes and other equipment and supplies. When the floodwaters receded, the Bell Road Barn was forced to look for a new facility. New quarters were eventually found once again at Park University and the relationship with Park was again forged.

Parks

Riverside's first park, appropriately named City Park (renamed Homestead Park) is located at the corner of Homestead Road and Homestead Terrace. In 1974 there were three duplexes located on this property but after the May 1974 flood, all the duplexes were completely destroyed.

Since the land was located in the flood hazard area, residential building was prohibitive. Two parcels of the property were donated to the city by Kirk Artley and Emery Brenner, and the city ultimately purchased the two remaining parcels. In 1980, E.H. Young established the first Park Board fund by donating $5,000 to the city. A resolution was adopted by the Board of Aldermen on May 4, 1982, establishing the Park and Recreation Advisory Board. Many major improvements have been made over the past three years including basketball goals, picnic tables and grills, a drinking fountain, playground equipment and landscaping.

Almost 10 years after acquisition of its first park, Riverside added the unique Renner Brenner Park with its beautiful grounds in the heart of the city and archeological significance.Many would argue, however, that the real crown jewel of Riverside and the surrounding region is the new E.H. Young Riverfront Park. This stunning facility includes approximately 100 acres donated by E.H. Young and features a river-walk that is second to none in Missouri.

Public Safety Department

The Riverside Public Safety Department was formed January 28, 1975. With a limited budget, the city's first fire equipment was not luxurious. The first fire equipment in early 1975 was a 1953 Seagraves fire truck. Shortly thereafter they purchased a large Ford FMC fire engine and in 1979 a Chevy mini pumper. All of this changed dramatically with the increase in community revenue afforded by the Argosy Casino funds.

The biggest news was the arrival in 2000 of the HME Custom 75-Foot Ladder Fire Truck. This large safety equipment vehicle is the first in the city's history and replaced the 1976 Ford Pumper that was retired after many years of dedicated service. The new addition improved the effectiveness of the Fire Divisions personnel with their continued fire suppression and rescue efforts. In 2000, the Public Safety Communications Center was also equipped with a DTN Weather Safety monitoring system, enabling personnel to monitor local weather radar and satellite images 24 hours a day. This takes the guesswork out of severe weather forecasting, allowing the department to be more proactive with immediate reporting of any severe weather events.

The city also approved and added two additional rotating, outdoor, early-warning sirens. These sirens were strategically placed throughout the community so that effective advance warning is provided to everyone regarding any severe weather moving into the area. Riverside's Public Safety operation added three Lifepak 500 Automated External Defibrillators. An AED is a computerized defibrillator that is among the most modern equipment available to help restore a heartbeat.
A new Public Safety facility was completed in 2004 and features a 911 dispatch center, camera surveillance of the City Hall campus, police patrol facilities, a detention center, a large training classroom and fully-equipped fire fighting facilities including pumper and ladder trucks.

Argosy Casino

Arguably the biggest news in Riverside's history was the 1994 opening of the Argosy Casino gaming riverboat. From the first announcement of its construction, the Argosy drew controversy. Much of the question comes down to whether the observer believes that adults should have a choice about gambling as entertainment or whether they see unavoidable problems with an industry based on gambling.

Riverside recognized the issue and early in the area's debate selected one of the most credible firms to operate a local casino, The Argosy Company. "Betty (Burch) was mayor at the time," Judge Dan Czamanske said. "She did a great job bringing in that casino. Several casinos wanted the rights to come here so Betty studied what they were offering and found the best deal for Riverside."

The first casino to open in the metropolitan area, the Argosy began business with the only working riverboat in metropolitan Kansas City, complete with a captain and sailing schedule. The community impact of the Argosy for Riverside has been significant. Within a year of its opening, Argosy paid millions of dollars to Riverside's once-weak budget. In 2005, funding from the Argosy added to $11.7 million. Where city officials formerly worried about even minor expenses, they now had enough funding to examine city improvements on a comprehensive scale.

Their choices for improvement are equally important. From the beginning, the Riverside Board of Aldermen recognized that it would be a mistake to budget ongoing expenses such as salaries from the gaming monies which could be eliminated by outside forces. Instead, they targeted one-time expenses such as street improvements and other capital expenditures.

These improvements continue to impact people's lives in Riverside. In dozens of neighborhoods, streets, for the first time have curbs, gutters and sidewalks. In 1996, a beautiful new community center with a pool, meeting room and gymnasium offered citizens their first-ever such facility. A new city hall not only adds to the city's architectural beauty but provides much needed space and modernization. Perhaps most dramatic of all, a total reconstruction of the city's main thoroughfare, Gateway Drive, is expected to be a major catalyst for commercial development in the city's core.