Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Growth in KCK renews interest in reviving Victory Junction

October 24, 2007

It's called Victory Junction, but the only thing reminding people about the site now is a shuttered restaurant that at one time bore the same name.

"It used to be quite a busy place," said Jim Masson, a volunteer at the Wyandotte County Museum. "There used to be a doughboy statue right in the middle of the intersection."

In 1929, the placement of the statue brought the intersection -- at Parallel Parkway and Kansas Highway 7 -- special recognition as a memorial to World War I veterans. Located in Wyandotte County, adjacent to the Leavenworth County line, Parallel Parkway then was U.S. Highway 40. And U.S. 40, built to connect New York with San Francisco, was called Victory Highway, in honor of those same fallen veterans.

At the statue's unveiling, one of the speakers was Gen. Wilder S. Metcalf, of Lawrence, a veteran of the Spanish-American War.

"The original plan in Kansas was to have a work of art at every place the highway crossed a county line," Masson said. "They never got all the way across Kansas."

But memorial artworks did get built in Douglas and Shawnee counties. For decades, a sculpture called The Victory Eagle presided at a roadside park near the Douglas-Leavenworth County line at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Kansas Highway 32. Another Victory Eagle was placed at the Douglas-Shawnee County line.

In 1980, the K-32 eagle was moved to outside Kansas University's Dyche Hall, home of the Museum of Natural History. The second eagle was moved to Topeka's Gage Park. A third eagle is in Wamego.

In 1941, the doughboy statue was moved from Victory Junction to the front yard of the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

Victory Junction was once a bustling intersection, Masson said. There were restaurants, bars and gasoline stations. There was even a full-scale model of a Dutch windmill. During World War II, buses loaded with newly inducted soldiers heading to Fort Leavenworth stopped so the men could eat, Masson said.

But sometime in the late 1930s, Highway 40 was moved about a mile south to State Avenue and its current location, which leads into Tonganoxie, Masson said.

"That's the reason the Victory Junction kind of died down," said Masson, who has a bar from one of the drinking establishments in his basement.

Junction revitalization?

Even though Victory Junction has seen better days, western Wyandotte County is booming. The area's growth -- fueled by the Kansas Speedway -- also includes The Legends.

And because of his relationship with the Speedway, NASCAR driver Kyle Petty is interested in establishing a Victory Junction Gang Camp somewhere in the Kansas City area.

In 2004, Petty and his family opened the original Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C. The camp was in honor of son Adam Petty, a driver and who was killed in crash in 2000.

While no one is suggesting that the camp for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses be built at the original Victory Junction, it is possible that the camp could be constructed in the area.

Speedway president Jeff Boerger said metro leaders are working with the Petty family to study the feasibility of a camp in the area, and no site for it has been proposed. No one has suggested that the camp might be at the Wyandotte County Victory Junction, he said.

"I know that the site exists. We've received calls about it; nothing has been proposed," said Boerger, who is also president of the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce.

A spokeswoman for the Pettys' Randleman camp said she recently received an e-mail telling her of the K-7 and Parallel site, but she referred questions to Boerger.

Since it was established, the Petty camp has served about 7,000 children ages 5 to 17. Campers can participate in a variety of activities, including camping, horseback riding and sports.

"They have a very successful camp in North Carolina, and what they found was a lot of children who visit the camp throughout the year are coming from west of the Mississippi (River)," Boerger said. "They want to do research to see if a victory camp will fit in the metropolitan area."

The Pettys will return to Kansas City in late Nov-ember to discuss the idea further, Boerger said.

Talk about a camp has stirred a lot of interest and phone calls, including one from a private landowner in Douglas County, Boerger said. He declined to identify that person. By the end of the year, requests for proposals could be sent to area communities, he said.

Putting the camp at Victory Junction is worth considering, said state Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing.

"Anything like that is going to be good for the area," he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.