Exploring Lee’s Summit History Behind the Wheel

In a time where activities are best served socially distant, we bring you an easy, family-friendly car activity called Journey Lee’s Summit. The city of Lee’s Summit boasts a rich history with many fascinating landmarks and sights to see dating back to 1865. In the Journey Lee’s Summit book, you will take five interactive driving journeys to learn history, rediscover nature and navigate roads! Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a new driver needing to learn your way around town or a parent looking for an educational activity for the kids, this interactive drive guide is a great way to get out and explore Lee’s Summit in a fun and safe way.

Journey Lee’s Summit and its Rich History

By: Kristina Long, Author & Creator of Journey Lee’s Summit

Time for a POP QUIZ!

How did Lee’s Summit get its name?

What is the history of Longview Farm?

Does Lee’s Summit have any presidential ties?

I have lived in Lee’s Summit since I was in kindergarten and I couldn’t tell you the answers to these questions prior to 2020!

I have always loved to travel, but one thing the Covid pandemic has taught me is that there is so much to explore right in our own backyard in Lee’s Summit. For this reason, I created a book called Journey Lee’s Summit to learn history, rediscover nature, navigate roads and have fun!

So, put on your thinking caps and let’s learn some local history and get the answers to the pop quiz!

How did Lee’s Summit get its name?

On October 28, 1865, William B. Howard founded the Town of Strother, named for his wife, Maria D. Strother.  He filed a plat containing the 11 blocks that currently encompass the downtown business area knowing that the Missouri Pacific Railroad was surveying a route in the area.

Three years later, in November of 1868, the name was changed to the “Town of Lee’s Summit.” Although “Summit” was used because the town’s elevation is the highest point on the railroad between Kansas City and St. Louis (1,067 feet), there are different theories of the origin of the name of “Lee.” One theory is from Dr. Pleasant Lea, a prominent early settler, and a misspelling on a railroad sign. Another theory is from Civil War General Robert E. Lee.  This is an interesting, and still unknown, part of Lee’s Summit history.

Starting out as only 11 blocks and around 100 people, Lee’s Summit today encompasses more than 65 square miles and almost 100,000 residents!

What is the history of Longview Farm?

Longview Farm was the country estate of Kansas City lumber baron and philanthropist, Robert A. Long (1850-1934).  In just 18 months from 1913-1914, Longview Mansion and 50 other farm structures were built to turn 1,780 raw acres into the “World’s Most Beautiful Farm.” The massive undertaking included over 50 Belgian craftsmen and 200 Sicilian stonemasons among the 2,000 workers employed.

When completed, the farm employed 200 people.  There were 51 buildings on the property, including a horse racetrack that seated up to 1,000 people, giant greenhouses, barns with wood-pegged floors for prize cattle and hogs, a police and fire department, a hotel for men, housing for employees, a church and a community newspaper. Long built the farm with his daughter, Loula Long Combs, in mind, and she lived there from the time it was opened until her death in 1971.  

Today, the Longview Farm area encompasses a 930-acre lake and 4,852 acres of land.  Included in this Lee’s Summit favorite place are nature trails, bicycle trail, balloon port, beach, picnic shelters, golf course, marina, horse park, campground area, radio-controlled model airplane field and softball complex. There is something for everybody at Longview! 

Does Lee’s Summit have any presidential ties?

Not surprisingly, Downtown Lee’s Summit buildings have many historic ties.  One such building is Arnold Hall, which currently houses Third Street Social.  Built in 1946 by Sherwood Manufacturing, it currently sits across the street from City Hall. This location is famous because its steps is where former President Harry S. Truman declared his candidacy for Eastern Judge of the Jackson County Court.

Downtown Lee’s Summit is not only historic, but also an award-winning Missouri Great Neighborhood and home to over 100 locally-owned businesses.  You will find shops, restaurants, bars, historic buildings and entertainment in this walkable area!

About the Author

Kristina Long is the author and creator of Journey Lee’s Summit and resides with her family in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Follow Journey Lee’s Summit on Facebook or Instagram for more information.