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All Around Town: Five Kansas City firsts

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A look at some of Kansas City’s significant first buildings

First skyscraper

The oldest skyscraper, using the definition of 10 stories or more, is the New York Life Insurance Building at 20 W. Ninth St. Completed in 1890, it was also the first building in Kansas City to contain elevators. There is an identical twin building that was completed two years earlier in Omaha, Neb., the Omaha National Bank Building. Both buildings feature two 10-story wings flank a 12-story tower. The brick and terra cotta façade is a prime example of the Italian Renaissance style.

First million-dollar house

Today, a $1 million house may not seem like an anomaly, but $1 million went a lot further a century ago when Corinthian Hall, the four-story, 70-room Beaux Arts estate of lumbar baron R.A. Long, was constructed. The estate at 3218 Gladstone Blvd., which opened as the Kansas City Museum in 1940 six years after the passing of Long, was transferred to the city in 1948.

The estate, which had been altered to accommodate the museum, is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration. The main complex, Corinthian Hall and its adjacent carriage house, are currently closed to the public.

Luckily for prospective visitors, a large part of the museum’s collection is housed in Union Station.

Union Depot was the first train depot.
Union Depot was the first train depot.

First train depot

The first large train station in Kansas City was the Union Depot located in the West Bottoms.

Several problems plagued the building, including the frequent flooding of the West Bottoms and rapid population increase, which made the station quickly obsolete. By 1900, the city’s population had tripled since 1878, when the station was built.

A flood that badly damaged the station in 1903 necessitated the construction of a new train station. In 1914, Union Station opened, and a year later, Union Depot was razed.

First stadium

Municipal Stadium opened in 1923 to house the Kansas City Blues and Kansas City Monarchs at 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, near the 18th and Vine Jazz District and was originally named Muehlebach Field.

The original single-deck stadium was later demolished, and a double-deck stadium was built to accommodate the growing number of baseball fans. Over time, the Blues and Monarchs gave way to the Kansas City Royals. By that time, the Kansas City Chiefs were also playing at Municipal Stadium. It was also the site of the Beatles’ 1964 U.S. tour in Kansas City.

The opening of the Truman Sports Complex in 1972 meant the death of Municipal Stadium, which was demolished in 1976.

The site of the stadium, the surrounding neighborhood of which suffered severe population loss, has since been redeveloped with single-family housing.

First shopping mall

The Country Club Plaza is the first planned large-scale, auto-oriented shopping center in not only Kansas City, but also the U.S. The Spanish-influenced shopping district, which opened in 1922 and was inspired by developer J.C. Nichols’ travels to Seville, Spain, revolutionized urban design. Since then, the Plaza has been expanded.

However, another retail revolution occurred three decades later with the advent of the indoor shopping mall. Kansas City’s first enclosed mall was The Landing, at 63rd Street and Troost Avenue, which opened in 1960.

The mall, which contains 220,000 square feet, is a shell of its former self. The Landing was originally anchored by Macy’s, which later became a Dillard’s shortly in the 1980s before closing.

The Landing, like the area around it, has seen better days.

nzoschke@unews.com

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