Natural and Cultural Features of Kansas City, Part 11: Crossroads

Crossroads Area

Crossroads, the area south of the I-670 business loop, is rapidly changing into a bar and restaurant district. A bicycle lane separated from traffic runs along 18th Street and connects the 18th and Vine Historic District with the McGee Street Automotive Historic District in the Crossroads area.

17th Street

Acme Brass and Machine Works, 609 East 17th Street (N39o5’35” W94o34’34”), was built in 192 as a Two-Part Commercial Block structure. It is considered a locally significant example of a small manufacturing facility constructed in a secondary industrial district after World War I. A secondary industrial district featured smaller manufacturing and service buildings that served local needs and depended on trucks to transport products. In this case, the company produced drinking fountains, mechanisms for filling toilet water tanks, polishing and nickel plating. A notable architectural feature is a barrel-shaped, riveted steel truss roof system, showing advances in steel technology. The company ceased operations in 2000. The occupant is now DBA Distribution Services.

19th Street

Kansas City Police Station No. 4, 115 West 19th Street (N39o5’27” W94o35’7”), dates to 1915. It is a two-story, reinforced concrete, L-shaped building with Mission/Spanish Revival architecture. It was included in the National Register as a government-support building for the property type, “Railroad-Related Historic and Commercial Resources.” The station provided support to Kansas City’s burgeoning industrial freight district to the south along the railroad tracks. The building started out as Kansas City Elevator Company and was remodeled in 1915 into a police station and courthouse. The police occupied the first floor and the municipal court the second. The police vacated the building in 1938 and was then used by the Works Progress Administration.

Montgomery Ward & Company General Merchandise Warehouse, 819 East 19th Street (N39o5’23” W94o34’25”), was built in 1908 as the westernmost distribution facility of Montgomery Ward and quickly expanded to 575,000 square feet. The 9-story red brick building has Classical Revival decorative elements and is a three-part Vertical Block, reinforced concrete building. It was built in this location to take advantage of the adjacent tracks of the Kansas City Suburban Belt Railroad. In 1915, Ward began moving to a larger facility on St. John Avenue in the East Bottoms. Since 1916, Tension Envelope Company has occupied the building and it is known as the Tension Envelope Building.

Holmes Square former park, between 18th, 19th, Cherry, and Holmes, is now occupied by a substation.

Baltimore Street

TWA Corporate Headquarters Building, 1735 Baltimore Street (N39o5’32” W94o35’4”), dates to 1956. Built in the Miesian (International) style, the L-shaped building features the red and white signature corporate colors. The building was listed as significant in transportation—the first consolidation of TWA headquarters in Kansas City. During occupation of this building TWA transitioned from propeller to all-jet aircraft. TWA left the building in 1969. TWA flew the first commercial passenger flight on July 8, 1929, with Charles A. Lindbergh as pilot. The flight began in Los Angeles and stopped over in Kansas City overnight, then continued to New York the next day. At the time aircraft could not navigate at night. In 1932, TWA constructed a headquarters at what is today the Kansas City downtown airport. In 1946, TWA began non-stop long-distance flights across the Atlantic Ocean. Other milestones were in-flight movies in 1961 and the Doppler airborne navigation system in 1962. At one time, TWA had 30,000 miles of worldwide routes. The building is occupied by Barkley brand management today (2022).

Grand Boulevard

Kansas City Star Building, 1729 Grand Boulevard (N39o5’33” W94o34’50”), dates to 1911 and is an excellent example of Italian villa architecture, a style rarely used for non-residential buildings.  No other building in downtown Kansas City is built in this style. The four-story building has tapestry brick cladding with marble ornament. The unique style conveys the importance of the company and the processes housed in the building, according to the National Register nomination. The Star used the building for its offices and printing plant and operated in this building from 1911 until 2005. It is now Grand Place KC.

City Bank Building, 1801 Grand Boulevard (N39o5’30” W94o34’51”), dates to 1926 and is one of the more substantial buildings outside of the central business district. The seven-story, U-shaped structure includes Art Deco lighting features such as the placement of stone torcheres rising from the molded belt up the center of the piers separating the vertical banding of the windows. There is also tapestry brick and terra cotta medallions. The bank contained the only burglar-proof steelcrete vault in Kansas City and was the first bank with a drive-through window. The bank was built at this location to take advantage of parking, which was not available downtown, as well as proximity to Union Station. In the mid-70s, the bank was sold to HNTB Engineering, which left in 1982. The building is now occupied by the Church of Scientology.

Firestone Building, 2001 Grand Boulevard (N39o5’20” W94o34’52”), is an eight-story, reinforced concrete building with terra cotta, dating to 1915. It was the largest investment in the city by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. The building is significant for the early use of reinforced concrete and is a typical Commercial style building of the early 1900s. It is owned by Abdiana Properties and available for commercial use. Urban Event has event spaces in the building.

Twenty-Twenty Grand Building (N39o5’19” W94o34’55”), 2008-2020 Grand Boulevard, dates to 1922. It was built as a speculative industrial building and includes Prairie school ornamentation on a two-part commercial block form. Located on a rail spur, it was listed for association with railroad-related historic commercial and industrial resources. The building illustrates the commercial expansion that took place as railroad freighting expanded following the construction of Union Station in 1914. A raised viaduct (Grand Boulevard) begins at the north end of the building, meaning the first floor is at street level and the loading dock at the rear was at ground level. The first story contained commercial storefronts. The longest tenant was the KC Oxygen Gas Company, which stayed until 1962. Other early tenants were McDougall-Martin (confectionary wholesalers), Gil Piston Ring Company, Pyrene Manufacturing Company (fire extinguishers), Harvey D. Rush Cigar Company, E.V. Schnoor Cigar Company, and Brunswick-Balke Collender (billiard tables). Today the building is Hotel Indigo.

Main Street

Monroe Hotel, 1904 Main Street (N39o5’24” W94o35’2”), a five-story, Two-Part Commercial Block structure, had a storefront on the main façade and terra cotta on the storefront and second story. Built in 1920, it was placed on the NRHP as an example of a working-class hotel. Along with Midwest Hotel and Rieger Hotel, it is one of three remaining working class hotel buildings in the 1900 block of Main Street. The hotel was owned by Thomas J. Pendergast, who also owned the adjacent building, used the hotel for functions and guests of the Jackson County Democratic Club. Today the building is used for the Hotel Monroe Condominiums (2022).

Thomas J. Pendergast Headquarters, 1908 Main Street (N39o5’24” W94o35’2”), is a two-part Commercial Block building with a storefront on the first story and private offices on the second floor. In this case, the private office had a somewhat unusual access to the adjacent building, the Monroe Hotel. This allowed clandestine meetings to take place in the second-floor offices. From 1926 to 1939, this building was the site from which Pendergast influenced Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, and even national politics as part of what was known as a political machine. Pendergast held positions with the Johnson County Democratic Club starting in 1900. He also owned the T.J. Pendergast Liquor Distributing Company and Ready Mixed Concrete Company. His first office was in the Jefferson Hotel on West 6th Street. As head of the Democratic Club, Pendergast was able to place politicians into positions of importance into Kansas City and Jackson County positions. He was able to do this because ordinary people saw him as getting things done on their behalf. In 1925, Pendergast saw that Henry F. McElroy became city manager. McElroy saw that public works projects and supply contracts went to politically favored entities. Pendergast also backed Harry S Truman for county commission in 1922. Pendergast was influential in nominating Matthew S. Murray to be head of the Works Progress Administration in 1935, ensuring that jobs from the federal agency went to Kansas City and Jackson County. Under the influence of Pendergast, millions of federal dollars and thousands of jobs were brought to Kansas City. Pendergast’s influence with police allowed gambling, prostitution, and liquor sales to prosper in Kansas City during Prohibition. Pendergast’s downfall occurred when he took bribes and kick-backs from insurance companies while trying to help them in a dispute with the state insurance department. J. Edgar Hoover attended the 1939 trial in which he was convicted of income tax evasion. After his prison term, a court ordered the door to the Monroe Hotel to be sealed and he was barred from further political activity.

Rieger Hotel, 1922 Main Street (N39o5’22” W94o35’3”), was built in 1915 as a three-store Commercial Block hotel with a storefront on the main façade. There is terra cotta veneer. It was listed on the NRHP as a representative example of a working-class hotel, within walking distance of Union Station via Main Street to the south. The hotel closed with the coronavirus pandemic and is currently vacant (2022).

Midwest Hotel, 1925 Main Street (N39o5’22” W94o35’0”), was built in 1915 and was listed as an intact example of a working-class hotel, with a location within walking distance of Union Station. The five-story Commercial Style building is an intact example of Two-Part Commercial Block structure, with storefronts on the main façade. There is terra cotta ornamentation. During World War II, the War Department occupied the hotel for a military police headquarters. Today (2022) the building is used as part of the City Club Apartments.

Oak Street

Hesse Carriage Company Building, 1700 Oak Street (N39o5’35” W94o34’45”), dates to 1903. The four-story, Commercial Block style building has a storefront on the east façade. The nearby Auto Coach Building, 1730 Oak Street (N39o5’32” W94o34’45”) was built by Hesse Carriage Company in 1917 as the business grew and expanded. The Auto Coach Building is a three-story, Two Part Commercial Block building with a storefront. Hesse Carriage began in 1857 as a repair shop for wagons and prairie schooners in Leavenworth, serving emigrants on the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. One wagon style was patented by Otto Hesse. In 1898, the company bought the Grand Avenue Carriage Company and opened a Kansas City office. As the world changed, it was a natural fit for the company to transition from prairie schoolers hauling an entire household to cargo transport. The company’s wagons were sold as delivery vehicles and hauled bread, produce, and beer. They soon added wreck repair to their business as automobiles became common in the 1910s and 1920s. They also supplied Ford with bodies for the Model T and built a separate business trading out summer bodies for winter bodies on cars. Delivery companies would purchase Model T’s for delivery vehicles and Hesse would transform the vehicle into a delivery truck. Later in the 20th century, the company designed cold storage aluminum bodies for beer and soft drink delivery, which kept the company prosperous throughout the 20th century. The company left this building in 1946 and left Kansas City in 1996 after being purchased by Remcor Corporation. Group Hesse is now part of Cambli Group and designs vehicles and trailers for beverage, battery, and propane transportation out of St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The Hesse Building is now Star Lofts (2022) and the Auto Coach Building is now Carriage Lofts (2022).

Wyandotte Street

Webster School, 1644 Wyandotte (N39o5’35” W94o35’10”), dates to 1885. The two-story brick Richardsonian Romanesque (Italianate) style building is one of the few remaining examples of this style remaining in Kansas City and also the oldest school building remaining in Kansas City. It operated as a school from 1885 to 1932.  It is now headquarters for the Kansas City Symphony.

Vitagraph Film Exchange Building, 1703 Wyandotte (N39o5’33” W94o35’8”), is a four-story, Art Deco building built for Warner Brothers Film Corporation and their subsidiary, Vitagraph. It was built in 1930 as part of a Kansas City Motion Pictures District or Film Row, housing several film industry buildings between Central and Baltimore, 17th and 18th Streets. It is the largest remaining intact building of what was once Film Row. Vitagraph developed a uniform system of managing and repairing film, necessary because the regional office reconditioned films after each showing. Vitagraph also had a sound system technology that was used by Warner Brothers; sound studios were in the building. An early film to use Vitagraph sound was Don Juan (1926). In 1927, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, was released, launching the talking film revolution and ending the era of silent movies. Warner Brothers occupied the building until the 1970s. It is now used by Global Prairie web design (2022).

McGee Street Historic District

McGee Street Automotive Historic District (N39o5’30” W94o34’50”) includes buildings on McGee Street dating to 1912 between 17th and 20th Streets. All are related to automotive service and were part of Kansas City’s automobile row. By 1920, one-half of all auto businesses in Kansas City were on McGee Street and Grand Boulevard. Alleys on the east and west of McGee Street, which provide access to the vehicle entrances to the buildings, are contributing structures. Between 19th and 20th Street on the east alley, the historic brick paving is visible. Contributing buildings are on the east side of McGee Street between 17th and 20th Streets, and on the west side between 18th and 19th Streets.

Buildings within the historic district, by street, include:

18th Street:

  • Interstate Securities Building, 215 East 18th Street at McGee (N39o59’29” W94o34’49”), dates to 1950, and is individually listed. This Modern Movement building was the earliest expression of this style by architect Edward Tanner, designer for the J.C. Nichols Company. Tanner was architect for over 2,000 houses plus Country Club Plaza buildings, Crestwood Shops, and Linda Hall Library. The building was occupied by Interstate Securities Company from 1951 to 1960 and Topsy’s International (popcorn) from 1964-1981. It currently houses Working Spaces.

McGee Street:

  • 1701 McGee Street, dating to 1916, originally Dougherty Motor Company, now Myer Event Space, Tapcade Screenland Theatre, and Paisley and Stripe.
  • 1721 McGee Street, dating to 1912, originally Noyes-Kill Motor Company, retains vehicle entrance and storefront display windows, now Casual Animal Brewing Company.
  • 1725 McGee Street, dating to 1917, the Bayhyot Building, now Casual Animal Brewing Company.
  • 1727-1729 McGee Street, dating to 1914, the W.S. Epperson Building, used for automotive uses and then the J.B. Osgood Coffee Company, now Myers and Monroe Museum Quality Furniture and the Bredin-Lee Gallery.
  • 1737 McGee Street, Kirkwood Building, 1737 McGee Street at 18th Street (N39o5’31” W94o34’47”), dates to 1920, and is individually listed on the National Register. The brick, four-story structure was developed for lease to automobile dealers. A terra cotta band of crown molding runs across the west façade. It is significant as an early 20th century auto dealership in an “automobile row” commercial district. The first tenant was Gridley Motor Company, a dealer for Auburn brand cars. It is individually listed on the National Register. It currently (2021) houses Service Management Group and Wallace Design Collective.
  • 1801 McGee Street, dating to 1917, originally O’Malley Ford Sales and Service Company, now American Institute of Architects Kansas City and MDL Technology LLC.
  • 1808 McGee Street, dating to 1945, formerly Pat Wheeler Body Repair Shop, now Crossroads Chiropractic and Wellness Center.
  • 1809 McGee Street, dating to 1912, was a one-story public garage, now the MOD Art Gallery.
  • 1813 McGee Street, dating to 1919, formerly C&R Used Ford Car Company, now Josez Records and Renaissance Infrastructure Consulting.
  • 1817 McGee Street, dating to 1914, formerly Howard Motors Company and McDowell Motor Car Company, now Verde Leaf CBD.
  • 1819 McGee Street, dating to 1917, formerly the Paul H. Linn Building housing auto and general storage businesses, now Cristopher Elbow Artisan Chocolate.
  • 1821 McGee Street, dating to 1917, formerly Hall Brothers and Reeves Auto dealers and Elgin Motor Car Sales Company, now Kadean Construction.
  • 1822 McGee Street, dating to 1917, formerly Cowie Electric and Beach Wittman Company, with a rear auto elevator, now vacant.
  • 1824 McGee Street, dating to 1919, formerly Franklin-Williams Motor Company, now vacant.
  • 1827 McGee Street, dating to 1914, formerly Republic Rubber Company, with a rear utility elevator, now vacant.
  • 1829 McGee Street, dating to 1912, formerly Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company, now KC Wineworks.
  • 1832 McGee Street, dating to 1919, formerly Newell Motor Car Company, now vacant.
  • 1833 McGee Street, dating to 1912, formerly Locomobile Company of Missouri, now Built Interior Construction and Cytek Media Systems.
  • 1901 McGee Street Automotive Service Building (N39o5’24” W94o34’48”), dating to 1912, is individually listed. The building was listed because it exhibits the specialized architecture for automobile sales and service functions, including massive steel I-beams spanning the ceiling on the first floor and turnbuckle trusses hanging from the second-floor ceiling, both of which provide support for heavy loads. The first tenant was Gate City Motor Company and Wilcox Trux, along with Presto-O-Lite auto headlights. The building was used as an auto dealership until 1953. It currently (2021) houses Menlo, Inc. offices.
  • 1909 McGee Street, dating to 1917, built by Simpson and Lockett for auto-related businesses, now Bad Seed Farmer’s Market.
  • 1913 McGee Street, dating to 1934, is a continuously operating brake service business. Today it is Kevin’s KC Brake and Auto Repair.
  • 1921 McGee Street, dating to 1919, formerly Van Tire Company, is now KC Nextaff.
  • 1925 McGee Street, dating to 1919, formerly Gilfillan Brothers Smelting and Refining, is now Food Equipment Repair.

Walnut Street Historic District

Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial Historic District (N39o5’40” W94o34’55”) consists of 23 buildings between Truman Road (15th Street) and 18th Streets, dating to 1899. The buildings are on Walnut Street between Truman Road and 18th Street and on Grand Boulevard between Truman Road and 17th Street. The buildings are associated with prominent commercial enterprises in early Kansas City, including the Emery, Bird and Thayer department store, the John Taylor Dry Good Store, and the Smith-St. John Company, a hotel supply chain. The following buildings are within the historic district, by street:

Grand Boulevard:

  • 1512-1514 Grand Boulevard: built for Olds Oakland Motor Company in 1909, noted for terra cotta ornamentation, now Encompas workplace furniture (2022).
  • 1516-1518 Grand Boulevard: built for Auto Specialty Company in 1909, now Encompas workplace furniture (2022).
  • 1520 Grand Boulevard: Weber Building, dating to 1910, now the Terrace on Grand event space (2022).
  • 1524 Grand Boulevard: Rosemann and Associates, P.C., occupies this structure (N39o5’42” W94o34’53”) in 2022, which dates to 1928 and is separately listed on the NRHP. The consulting architecture company notes that this was the first downtown renovation to achieve LEED certification. There is a green roof. The two-story, reinforced concrete, commercial building has a terra cotta façade. It was listed as a pristine example of a terra cotta-clad two-part commercial block building type. The building has Neoclassical design elements. During its life, the building housed vending machine, liquor store, and the Automotive Trades Association. The longest tenants were Singer Sewing Machine Company, 1942 to 1965; and Central Card Company, 1966 to 2003.
  • 1532 Grand Boulevard: built for Crane Company plumbing supply in 1925, now The Belfrey KC restaurant (2022).
  • 1600-1602 Grand Boulevard: built for Mitchell Motor Company in 1909, noted for terra cotta ornamentation, now the Crossroads Lofts (2022).
  • 1612-1614 Grand Boulevard: built for Maxwell-Briscoe Garage, 1909, now vacant (2022).
  • 1616-1618 Grand Boulevard: built for Maxwell-Briscoe Garage, 1907, now The Bardot wedding venue (2022).
  • 1620-1622 Grand Boulevard: built for Studebaker Automobile Company, 1908, now Schmidt & Klaus floral wholesale (1922).
  • 1624-1630 Grand Boulevard: built for Bruening Brothers Automobile Company, 1919, now Messenger Coffee Company and Ibis Bakery (2022).

Walnut Street

  • 1509-1511 Walnut Street, built for Grand Avenue Storage Company, 1902, now Lifetime Solar (2022).
  • 1512-1516 Walnut Street, built 1927, now vacant (2022).
  • 1515-1517 Walnut Street, built 1946 for General Testing Laboratories, now Lovestoned fashion boutique (2022).
  • 1518 Walnut Street, built for Smith-St. John Company hotel supply, 1926, noted for terra cotta ornamentation, now Vision Source Eyecare and Belle Epoque salon.
  • 1522 Walnut Street, built for Goldblatt Tool Company, 1922, now Crossroads Chiropractic.
  • 1524-1526 Walnut Street, built for Townsend Printing Company, 1924, now Tannin wine bar and kitchen.
  • 1529-1535 Walnut Street, built for Campbell Paint and Glass Company, 1915, now Premier Financial Partners and Arts Asylum Gallery (2022).
  • 1601-1615 Walnut Street, built as Emery Bird & Thayer Company warehouse, 1899, now Emery Lofts (2022).
  • 1617-Walnut Street, built for NS Automobile Sales Company, 1917, now HIVE Design Collaborative (2022).
  • 1619 Walnut Street, built for Exide Battery, 1916, now Helix Architecture + Design (2022).
  • 1701-1703 Walnut Street, the Taylor Building, built in 1902 for the John Taylor Dry Goods Store, now Anderson Engineering and Bishop McCann creative agency.
  • 1705-1707 Walnut Street, built in 1917 for Grant-Reo-Elgin Service Station, now vacant (2022)
  • 1709 Walnut Street, built as Salvation Army Industrial Home and Store, 1909, now Big Brothers Big Sisters (2022).

Just south of the Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial Historic District is the National Register-listed Thomas Corrigan Building, 1828 Walnut Street (N39o5’26” W94o34’58”), which dates to 1920. The 10-story building with Arts and Crafts detailing is associated with Thomas Corrigan, an entrepreneur involved in the growth and development of Kansas City as a major metropolitan area. He helped establish the extensive cable car system in the 1880s which promoted rapid growth of the city. The building is a utilitarian warehouse. Tenants of the building included the Gateway Station Post Office from 1921 to 1931, Donnelly Garment Company from 1935-1947, and the Veterans Administration from 1947-1958. The Corvino Supper Club and Corrigan Station Development with a rooftop patio are uses today (2022).