Octave Chanute: Bridge Builder to the Heavens

It's a wonder that nothing in Kansas City Missouri is named in honor of Octave Chanute. Had it not been for Mr. Chanute (and his civil engineering talent) building the first railroad bridge over the treacherous Missouri River at Kansas City, two other towns (Leavenworth Kansas or St. Joseph Missouri) would be the big city in the Missouri Valley. As it was, KC got the first bridge and all the train traffic and became the dominant city. That was 1869 and Leavenworth and St. Joe were, at the time, much larger towns than Kansas City. The bridge flipped the equation and KC became the center of the area.

Today, February 18 Chanute's birthday, seems like a good day to suggest we here in Kansas City honor him by naming something for the great man. If building THE piece of infrastructure that put Kansas City on the map is not enough to get Chanute's name attached to a park, a street, an overpass, or a room in City Hall/Sprint/Bartle, then how about considering this short list of his accomplishments?
  • He designed the KC stockyards,
  • He mentored and was eulogized by the Wright Brothers,
  • He became a US citizen at age 22 (born in Paris France in 1832),
  • He designed the Chicago stockyards,
  • He introduced the date nail in Railroad maintenance,
  • He chaired a national engineering committee that improved RR efficiency through wood preservation,
  • He platted the town of Lenexa Kansas,
  • He is the namesake of Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul Illinois,
  • He authored two books; The Kansas City Bridge (1870) & Progress in Flying Machines (1894)
  • He is the namesake of Chanute Kansas,
  • He is honored on two USPS Air Mail Stamps (1979),
  • He is depicted in The Frieze of American History in the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. (Yes, that rotunda in that capitol. There are only 19 panels in that history lesson, and he is on one of them.),
  • He was Chief Engineer of the Chicago & Alton RR,
  • He was Superintendent of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston RR,
  • The Paris France street network honors him with "Place Octave Chanute",
  • He was awarded a gold medal by The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain,
  • He was inducted into The National Aviation Hall of Fame and The International Aerospace Hall of Fame,
  • He was honored by 4 foreign civil engineering societies: British, Chilean, French and Canadian.
It would elevate Kansas City to name something after the great Octave Chanute.


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