Living Lenexa History – Octave Chanute


{Music} Good day! Octave Chanute here, and welcome to
Lenexa, Kansas. Lenexa, Kansas…my town And what a job they’ve done with my town. Just beautiful! I call it my town because I’m the civil engineer who laid out and platted the original town of Lenexa. I sure didn’t envision what it is today. When I laid it out, it was only 42 acres large And now they have parks larger
than that. I was in the Kansas City area designing and building the first railroad bridge over that treacherous Missouri River. People thought it was impossible to bridge the Missouri in those days. But I had a good reputation as a bridge builder. I had built the world’s largest draw bridge over the Illinois River at Peoria. That’s where I met my wife, Annie. It took me nearly three years to build that bridge at Kansas City Over the “Mighty MO.” But on July 3rd, 1869, we cut the ribbon on the Hannibal Bridge. And that bridge made Kansas City the big city in the Missouri Valley. Because now all the trains had to come through Kansas City to cross the Missouri River. They could cross that Missouri River in two minutes after the bridge was built. Chanute, Kansas in Neosho County Two counties north of Oklahoma is named for me. As is the Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. And, there’s a street feature named for me in Paris, France. That’s where I was born in 1832. I moved to America when I was 6 And when I was 21, I added an “e” to my name. Everybody was misspelling it anyway. So I added the”e.” and then I became a United States citizen the next year at age 22. Throughout my whole professional life, I gained a good reputation as a bridge builder, a railroader and a civil engineer. And that good reputation allowed me to contact people all over the world when I became interested in flight and aerial navigation and to ask them “What’s happening in Germany with
flight?” “What’s happening in France with flight?” “What’s happening in South America?” But with all that information, I became frankly the world’s expert in gliders and aerial navigation in the 1880s and the 1890s. And, I wrote the book “Progress in Flying Machines” in 1894. And when Wilbur Wright wrote to the Smithsonian asking for direction, they suggested that he read my book And also contact me in Chicago. In 1900, Wilbur contacted me asking for advice and of course I was happy to give it. He visited me in Chicago. I visited him and his brother in
Dayton and at Kitty Hawk. In fact, I was at Kitty Hawk in 1901, 1902 and 1903. But I wasn’t there in 1903 when they finally flew on December 17th. But, their sister Katharine telegraphed me that evening with the success of their flight. And I’m very proud to have been associated with those Wright brothers and to help them get off the ground. I’m also very proud to be depicted with them in the frieze of American history in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington,
D.C. It’s a long way from Paris, France to
Washington. D.C., but I’m very proud and very thankful of my 1869 stop in Lenexa, Kansas.

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