One hundred and sixty-four years ago this month, Union Cemetery was founded in an area between what was then two frontier Missouri towns: Westport and the Town of Kansas. Having been opened in 1857, the grounds were not named after the Civil War sense of the word Union, but rather a nod toward the coming together of the two communities.
This Sunday—Halloween—the historic cemetery will host the fifth and final Walktober event of 2021, this one organized by KC Parks and the Union Cemetery Historical Society. The walk is free, dogs on leashes are welcome, and attendees are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes (even the dogs). More information is available here.
It was on Halloween in 1923 that Kansas City’s Society for Suppression of Commercialized Vice released “Ten Years Of Fighting Vice In Kansas City Missouri,” A Report of the Secretary of the Society for Suppression of Commercialized Vice.
Among the many targets of the Society was the original Gillis Opera House, opened in 1883, and located Downtown at 500 Walnut. From the report:
“One of the factors working against the suppression of vice is immoral shows. The public tolerates an increasing degree of absence of clothing on the stage. Not many years ago theatre goers were shocked if dancers appeared on the stage with uncovered limbs. Now, the exposure of the entire lower limbs awakens no surprise. This condition is by no means peculiar to second and third rate shows. It is common in the presumably best play houses.”
“One of the worst offenders against decency has been the show in the old Gillis theatre. The character of the performances was brought to the attention of former Mayor Cowgill, who ordered the “Midnight Show” closed. A few months later after the police vigilance had somewhat relaxed, the same character of shows, of vilest description, was repeated. Our Society again sought the help of the police who put the manager on the carpet.”
Interestingly, the Gillis Opera House (which had devolved into, “a low-priced burlesque house” according to a New York Times article of the day) would be completely destroyed just two years later by an explosion and fire, which killed at least four people (possibly more), plus a firefighter en route. A suspect in the investigation, the owner of a drugstore in the building, was not be held under suspicion until he was linked to a separate arson fire a few years later. After being formally accused of the Gillis explosion by a grand jury, the druggist committed suicide.
The second, much smaller, version of the Gillis Opera House was opened in 1926, and still stands today on the corner of Fifth and Walnut in the River Market.
You can see the full “Ten Years Of Fighting Vice In Kansas City Missouri,” report at the Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library. A photo of the original Gillis Opera House is available here.
A new downtown stadium for @KCWOSO, Kansas City’s soon-to-be-named NWSL team, is expected to open in 2024. The women’s club will bring more than professional soccer matches to the riverfront, however. The new complex will likely bring more apartments, more entertainment, more businesses—and possibly another streetcar extension. Kevin Collison of CityScene tells more:
Tennis legend Billie Jean King took note as well:
Sports Business Journal @sbjsbdThe world’s first stadium built for a professional women’s sports team will be home to @KCWoSo 👏 The club announced the construction of an 11,000-seat, $70M downtown venue along the Berkeley Park riverfront 📸 (via @KCStar) https://t.co/zkivfRVUJj
Speculation continues regarding a Downtown baseball stadium, with Royals owner John Sherman telling local media that the team is exploring such a move. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star has more on the story:
Bo Lings’ sit-down restaurant in the City Market will close, but a smaller location focusing on carry-out service will open less than a block away, reports Joyce Smith of the Star:
Florence Hawley, matriarch of the Steamboat Arabia Museum family, passed away at age 93 on October 17. For 30 years, she was co-director of the museum in the River Market. Donations may be made in her name to the National Steamboat Museum here. Her full obituary at the Independence Examiner is here:
Fringe Festival KC is seeking a new executive director. Submission deadline is November 8. More info here:
Artful City: One weekly selection from a Downtown artist, gallery, or museum
Quick Clip: The city in motion—15 seconds at a time
Union Station, October 25, 2021
Downtown Lens: A single shot depicting life around the Loop
Who are those people walking around downtown with lanyards and name tags, looking for a place to eat?
Nov 4-7 at Battle Hall: Give a friendly Downtown-Kansas City hello to the Missouri School Boards Association and the Missouri Association of School Administrators—the largest gathering of education leaders in Missouri.