William B. Strang Jr.
Every good story begins with a dream. The dream becomes an idea, the idea, if it is a good one, reality.
His dream was to build a community in the countryside. One away from the noise of the city and the smell of the factories, one that included parks and churches, where tall trees and clear lakes abounded, where pleasant homes could be built in neighborhoods, where life was pleasant and good.
William B. Strang Jr. was born in Syracuse, New York in 1857. The son of poor Irish immigrants, he became a Horation Alger success and a symbol of the American Dream. He had a remarkable career as a railroad builder in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Nova Scotia. He then developed and built the first self-propelled railroad car in the world.
in 1885, with these accomplishments under his belt, he came to Kansas, married a Kansas girl, and settled down to live on the rolling hills of Johnson County. Years later, the thought arose that Kansas City folks might like a day in the countryside.
His vision - a well planned "park-like" community with good businesses, quality education, tree-lined neighborhoods, ease of transportation and recreation. All the amenities that today make Overland Park a great places to live and work.
DOP Takes Off
On a cold Christmas Day, 1909, the first airshow in Overland Park took place.
The daring young man's name was Charles K. Hamilton, who was on his way to Los Angeles, California for the first international airshow in the US. After shows in St. Louis and St. Joseph, Missouri, his Wright Brothers bi-plane was shipped by train to Overland Park and assembled on a snow-covered field beside the Strang Carbarn, known as Aviation Park.
Visitors gathered in the cold to witness history. Hamilton did not disappoint. The ground crew spun the propeller, the engine roared to life, and the self-styled "crazy man of the air" soared into the air. Overland Park had taken flight.
Having invented the first self-propelled railroad car in the world, In 1906, Strang laid the tracks first from Kansas City to Overland Park, and then on to Olathe. The Strang Interurban Trolley Carline gave city-flok a glimpse of “suburbia”. Where 79th Street meets Santa Fe Drive, Strang built the Strang Carbarn to house, which was used to house and maintain the cars. To the north, along what is now 83rd Street, he constructed "South Killarney Lake" (South Lake).
The tracks are gone but the lake and the native limestone carbarn remains. Down the street is the Strangline's original Trolley Carriage House, home to the Overland Park Historical Foundation.
In the 1990's, the city of Overland Park added a courtyard and Clock Tower and a Farmers Market for fresh flowers, fruit, and vegetables in the spring and summer. From spring to fall it is a great place to gather and listen to music.