Natural and Cultural Features of Kansas City, Part 8: Convention Center and Quality Hill areas

For the purposes of this post, the convention center area is roughly bordered by Broadway, 11th Street, 15th Street, and Main Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Quality Hill area is to the west of Broadway and the bluff, between 11th and 15th Streets. The properties described are on the National Register of Historic Places or are city park lands.

Convention Center Area

Aladdin Hotel, 1213 Wyandotte Street (N39o5’58” W94o35’7”), is an Italian Romanesque Style building and dates to 1925.

Continental Hotel, 106 West 11th Street at Baltimore (N39o6’4” W94o35’5”), is an 18-story building constructed in the Late Gothic Revival style and dates to 1924. It was originally constructed as the Kansas City Athletic Club and is currently vacant (2021).

Fairfax Building (Brookfield Building), 101 West 11th Street at Baltimore (N39o6’3” W94o35’5”), is a 12-story Art Deco building that dates to 1930. It is named after the Fairfax Airport, located in today’s Kansas City, Kansas. The building served for decades as a transportation company hub, with railroad and airline ticket offices and the offices of major railroad companies. Today it is the Hotel Indigo (floors 1-9) and the Fairfax Lofts (floors 10-12).

Kansas City Club Building, 1228 Baltimore Avenue (N39o5’56” W94o35’5”), dates to 1918. It operates as the Hotel Kansas City, a Hyatt Hotel. The 14-story, Late Gothic Revival building includes terra cotta embellishments. It housed the premier social club of Kansas City, established as a gentlemen’s club in 1882 by 42 co-founders. Meetings of the club began at the Coates House (1005 Broadway). The club was a meeting place for the wealthy in the Kansas City area. It eventually became large enough and financially able to construct its own building. The original building contained a bowling alley in the basement. Other floors included dining rooms, library, dormitories, pool, gymnasium, Turkish baths, and handball courts. Harry Truman was invited to play poker at the hotel; but did not become a member until he was President, when he was given an honorary membership.

Kansas City Power and Light Company Building, 1330 Baltimore Avenue at 14th Street (N39o5’51” W94o35’5”), dates to 1931. It was built for the offices of Kansas City’s major electric utility, which occupied the building until 1991. The 36-story building is considered one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the U.S. It is capped by a spectacular six-story illuminated tower. This made it the tallest building west of the Mississippi River from 1931 until 1962, when the Seattle Space Needle was completed. Display windows on 14th and Baltimore Streets showcased new electronic appliances. An interior auditorium featured demonstrations of electricity and how appliances could improve lives. A dramatic sunburst design, symbolizing the power of light and energy, is above the east façade entrance. Variations of the sunburst reappear elsewhere in the building.  Today it has been redeveloped as the Power & Light KC Apartments, which feature a rooftop pool. The Grand Hall at Power & Light is an event space that also operates in the building.

Kansas City Southern Railway Building, 114 West 11th Street at Wyandotte (N39o6’4” W94o35’7”), dates to 1913. The 8-story, commercial-style building was used by the company from 1914 to 2002 and is significant in transportation history. Kansas City Southern was a most successful hometown railroad that began with a 40-mile line between Argentine and Independence, connecting all major railroads in town and supplying switching to packing houses, grain elevators, mills, and the stockyards. The railroad began expansions in 1891, constructing track from Kansas City to Hume, Missouri, then Pittsburg, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri. Through mergers, the rail lines were extended to the south. To finance further expansions, stock was sold in Holland, and towns along the rail line extension were named after investors. This includes DeQueen, Arkansas; Mena, Arkansas; Vandervoort, Arkansas, Bloomberg, Texas; Hornbeck and DeRidder, Louisiana; Amsterdam, Missouri; and Nederland, Texas. The railroad founded Port Arthur, Texas. The railroad line crosses the Mexican border at Laredo and continues south to Michoacan, Veracruz, and Mexico City. The railroad became profitable based on oil and timber transportation. A notable local construction feature is the 100-foot-high railroad viaduct on 63rd Street in Kansas City. In 2021, the company was sold to a Canadian railroad company.

Loew’s Midland Theater, 1232 Main Street (N39o5’56” W94o35’0”) and Midland Building, 1221 Baltimore Avenue (N39o5’56” W94o35’3”), dates to 1927, and was the third largest movie theater in the U.S. at the time of its opening, with 4,000 seats. It was built as an opulent and flamboyant movie palace. It was the first theater with a cantilevered loge, a mezzanine-level seating area. It was also the first complete cooling, heating, and ventilation system of any theater in the U.S. The orchestra platform was elevating, a novelty for Kansas City. Opening night on October 28, 1927, was the cultural event of the year. The Second Renaissance Revival Style building has Second Empire and Commercial style elements. The movie theater is 6 stories and the office building is 12 stories. It is currently the Arvest Bank Theater, used for music, movies, plays, and live events.

Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods Building, 1509 Baltimore Avenue south of Truman Road (N39o5’44” W94o35’3”), dates to 1925. The six-story, Classical Revival style building used the first floor for retail, the second floors for offices, and floors 3-6 for manufacturing and warehousing. The company was founded in 1912 by George Lowe and D. Keedy Campbell. The company merged with Wilson Sporting Goods in 1931 and continued to operate in this building until 1961, when it moved to 66th and Troost. The sporting goods industry derived many of its products from the meatpacking industry. Hides were used for balls and entrails were used for tennis rackets. Wilson became the largest producer and distributor of athletic goods in the United States, emphasizing golf, tennis, football, basketball, and baseball. Currently the building is vacant but the rooftop is being used for an event space (2021).

Mainstreet Theatre, 1400 Main Street (N39o5’49” W94o35’1”), dates to 1921 and the golden age of grand movie palaces. It was a Junior Orpheum Theater, which catered to the working class. The Chicago architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp designed the theater, and as the largest of all Junior Orpheum theaters built by the firm, it is considered the most significant expression of the firm, which designed 400 theaters in the U.S. In addition to movies, the 3,250-seat venue presented vaudeville (variety) shows and traveling shows. A Byzantine dome covered with golden tile towers over the entrance at 14th and Main. The building is vacant (2021).

Hotel Muehlebach, 1200 Baltimore Street (N39o6’0” W94o35’5”), is a 12-story Beaux Arts style building which dates to 1914 and is operated as part of the Marriott Hotel. The Presidential Suite at the hotel served as Truman headquarters during his Vice Presidential and Presidential Campaigns from 1944 to 1953. It is operated as part of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown hotel.

New Yorker Inn (Hotel Bray), 1114 Baltimore (N39o6’1” W94o35’5”), is a 9-story Jacobethan-style building dating to 1915. The tall and narrow building houses a coffee shop on the ground floor and the New Yorker Suites in the rest of the hotel.

Phillips Hotel, 106 West 12th Street at Baltimore (N39o6’0” W94o35’5”), is a 20-story Art Deco and Jacobethan-style structure dating to 1929. It is operated as a hotel of the Curio Collection by Hilton and houses the Tavernonna Italian Kitchen.

President Hotel, 1327 Baltimore Avenue at 14th Street (N39o5’51” W94o35’3”), is a 15-story building constructed with Jacobethan elements and dates to 1925. The Drum Room Cocktail Lounge has operated since 1924. It is part of the Hilton Hotel chain. A Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission Historical Marker faces 14th Street.

Standard Theatre, now the Folly Theatre, 300 West 12th Street at Central (N39o6’1” W94o35’14”), dates to 1900. The Neo-Renaissance style building has a Palladian motif with arch windows. It is the oldest and most important Kansas City area theatre and has been a hub of activity in Kansas City theatrical circles for years. When it opened in 1900, the fare was burlesque comedy and vaudeville, opera, and comic opera. Saturday evenings featured prize fights and wrestling. After 1923, traditional plays of Eugene O’Neill and Shakespeare were presented, but the theatre closed during the Depression. It reopened in 1941 with striptease shows.  The Folly Theatre now features jazz, concerts, and dance.

West 11th Street Historic District consists of three buildings at the corner of West 11th Street and Central Street (N W). At the time of construction, the architects collaborated in design of the three buildings to make a unique classical architectural look. The American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association, 300 West 11th Street, is a three-story, Neo-Classical Revival Building, constructed in 1919. Today it is occupied by the Financial Holding Corporation. Ararat Shrine Temple, 222 West 11th Street, was constructed in the Neo-Classical Revival style in 1926. There are five arched openings on the ground floor. Today it is occupied by the Kirk Family YMCA. The W.R. Pickering Lumber Company Building, 301 West 11th Street, is a Second Renaissance Revival style building constructed in 1925. Pickering was an early 20th century lumber company that operated sawmills in Louisiana, Texas, and California. In Louisiana, the company owned more than 70,000 acres in Vernon Parish and operated mills in Pickering, Cravens, and Barham. In Texas, the company owned 120,000 acres in Sabine, San Augustine, and Shelby Counties, and operated a mill in Haslam, near the Texas-Louisiana state line. The company operated in Louisiana and Texas until 1930 when it exhausted its timber supply. Over 73,000 acres of the Texas property was incorporated into the Sabine National Forest. In California, the company operated a mill in Standard, California, near Sonora, in Tuolumne County. The company stopped operating in California in 1931. However, in the late 1930s, the company was resurrected as Pickering Lumber Company and continued operating its California mill until 1963. The Standard mill is now owned and operated by Sierra Pacific Lumber Company. Part of the company’s landholdings was sold to the state of California in 1953 for incorporation into Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Today the building is used by Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company.

Quality Hill Historic District

Quality Hill Historic District (N39o6’0” W94o35’25”) includes 18 buildings dating from 1856 to 1929, bordered by Broadway, 10th Street, 14th Street, and Jefferson Street. The focal point is Pennsylvania Avenue. Most houses and apartments are brick with stone or terra cotta ornamentation. Quality was another name for Republican, as the district housed Union sympathizers during and after the Civil War. The corner of 12th and Washington in the district was the original site (1860) of St. Teresa’s Academy, which is now located at 5600 Main Street.

Buildings on West 11th Street:

Montague Hotel, 412 West 11th Street, is a four-story, Neo-Romanesque style building, dating to 1889. It is now apartments.

Normandy Apartments, 501 West 11th Street, date to 1928.

LaHoma Hotel, 510 West 11th Street, dates to 1913, and is a Neo-Classic style building.

The Chimes (Quality Hill) Apartments, 511 West 11th Street, are Spanish Colonial Revival style and date to 1927.

Double Townhouse (Endicott Flats/Girls Club Association, 612 West 11th Street, dates to 1889 and is built in the Victorian Eclectic style.

Buildings on West 12th Street:

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 West 12th Street, dates to 1882. The ornate Roman Catholic Church is topped with a central spire of 23-karat gold leaf. Design is English Rocco-Romanesque. There has been a Catholic church in this vicinity since 1826. A historic marker describes Reverend Bernard Donnelly, who arrived in 1845 to serve at the church. A historic marker erected by the Choteau Society commemorates the site of St. Francis Regis church, or Choteau’s Church, which served the French community in the West Bottoms from 1799 to 1844. Adjacent to the church was a cemetery. As Kansas City grew, the cemetery was abandoned and some burials were moved to Mount St. Mary cemetery at 23rd and Jackson Streets. In 1986, construction at 11th and Jefferson Street uncovered 16 additional burials that were missed during the first removal.

Surrey Court Apartments, 520 West 12th Street, dates to 1927. It is built in the early Twentieth Century Modern style.

Cordova Hotel, 523 West 12th Street, dates to 1889.

Buildings on West 13th Street:

Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 415 West 13th Street, dates to 1888. It is of Norman Gothic design and is richly embellished with Tiffany windows and a Tiffany rood screen.

Buildings on Jefferson Street:

C.A. Brockett Residence and Carriage House, 1025 Jefferson Street, dates to 1874. It houses the Youth Volunteer Corps.

Duplex at 1213 Jefferson Street dates to 1901. It is considered a “builder’s vernacular” style.

Buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue:

Saxon Flats, 1005 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1900. The three-story building is Georgian Revival style.

David Slater Residence and Carriage House, 1020 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1887. It is a Queen Anne style house.

Major William Warner Residence, 1021 Pennsylvania Avenue (N39o6’6” W94o35’27”), use the rank of the Union officer who owned it as part of the name. It is separately listed on the NRHP and dates to 1880. It is considered the “Builder’s Vernacular” style. Today it is occupied by the Working Families Friend and Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO.

Girls Club Association Dormitory, 1028 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1928. It is a Spanish Colonial Revival style three-story brick building embellished with floriate terra cotta panels.

Isaac F. Guiwits Residence, 1029 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1889. It is considered “Builder’s Vernacular” in style.

Mrs. George N. Blossom Residence, 1032 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1888. It is a Victorian Eclectic style building and considered one of the last grand residences remaining on Quality Hill.

J.G. Conkey and Caroline F. Reeder Residence, 1308 Pennsylvania Avenue, dates to 1886. The Queen Anne style house is currently used by the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation.

Within the historic district, The Riverfront Heritage Trail passes through the Historic District, following Pennsylvania Avenue southbound, then turning west on 14th Street; and Washington Street northbound, turning west on 11th Street.

Mulkey Square Park (N39⁰5’54” W94⁰35’39”) is 9 acres on Summit Street, north of I-670, between I-670, 12th Street, and I-35.  The park is a site on the Riverfront Heritage Trail. A playground and ballfield are in the park. The Hereford Bull Statue in the park was originally at the Hereford Association at 715 Kirk Drive (West 11th Street). When the association moved in 1997, the bull was donated to KC Parks and was relocated to Mulkey Square. The park is part of the original West Terrace Park. West Terrace Park from 7th Street south to 17th Street was part of the George Kessler 1906 Parks and Boulevard System plan.