The City of Overland Park was founded in 1905 by William B. Strang Jr., who envisioned a well-planned "park-like" community that would be self-sustaining with a healthy economy, quality education, vibrant neighborhoods, convenient transportation and recreational facilities. Strang plotted several subdivisions and named one "Overland Park." Today, Strang's limestone car barn at 79th and Santa Fe Drive is now the site of Traditions Furniture. The Carriage House at Santa Fe Commons Park, 8445 Santa Fe Drive, is the site of the Overland Park Historical Society. Each building is open for tours and located within the downtown Overland Park business district. Before Strang's death in 1921, he established several housing developments, an interurban railroad and an airfield. During the early 1960s, city leaders adopted a comprehensive plan to manage growth in the following areas: land use, parks, schools, zoning and housing. Also considered were industry, shopping districts and expressways. In recent years they have focused their efforts on renovating the historic downtown center and dedicated their focus to the Clock Tower Plaza and Farmers' Market Pavillion.
In 1993, Overland Park earned a spot in the book 50 Fabulous Places to Raise a Family and In 2006 CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Overland Park sixth on its list of the 100 Best Cities to Live in the United States. The city is home to Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, a 300 acre arboretum & botanical garden. Examples of ecosystems demonstrated there are dry-mesic prairie, dry oak savanna, riparian woodland, and wooded draws. Other attractions and historical sites include the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead, the New Theatre Restaurant, the John Brown Memorial Statue, which is a hand sculpted statue of one of the most iconic figures in Kansas history, John Brown, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Overland Park's economy is supported by several large employers, to include the Sprint Nextel Corporation, YRC Worldwide, the newly formed Embarq, and the restaurant chain Applebee's, and the employee-owned Black & Veatch Corporation. The Shawnee Mission School District, Blue Valley School District and Olathe School District also employ several thousand people in the city. Local institutions of higher learning in the area are the Ottawa University - Overland Park Campus, Johnson County Community College, Kansas City College and Bible School, and Baker University - Overland Park Campus.
The city also prides itself on its parks and recreation facilities that offer baseball/softball, pools, skating, tennis, roller hockey, and trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. Some of these include Indian Valley Park, Cherokee Park, Prairie View Park and Kensington, just to name a few. There is also Music in the Park series that presents a different musical act every Sunday through the summer months that is presented by the Friends of Overland Park Arts and the Music Performance Trust Fund in cooperation with the Musician's Union Local. The union also provides assistance for performers with instruments and instruction.