In The Loop: Jan 30, 2022
February is Black History Month.
With the Downtown Council’s recently unveiled Imagine Downtown KC strategic plan placing an emphasis on equity and inclusion, it’s timely that Black History Month begins this week. To celebrate Black history is to celebrate Kansas City history. Follow this link to the African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City, Mo., for a list of events associated with Black History Month in our area. Another good source for black history is the the Black Archives of Mid-America, located in the 18th and Vine District. And you can download the free publication, “Kansas City Black History: The African American Story of History and Culture in Our Community,” at the Kansas City Black History website.
Last week marked the date in 1978 when the Coates House Hotel caught fire in 1978. Tomorrow marks the date when the Coates Opera House was totally destroyed in 1901. The renowned theater, diagonal to the Coates House Hotel, caught fire just minutes after an audience had left that evening’s performance of "Heart and Sword" by actor Walker Whiteside and his company. The building was completely destroyed, but no one was injured. (As an aside, the acclaimed actor Whiteside grew up in Chicago, but got his big break when—at only 15 years old in October 1884—he hired Alderman Ford, a theatrical agent in Kansas City. The next month, Whiteside appeared in Richard III at Chicago's Grand Opera House—his first paying gig.)
This Thursday, February 3, marks the date in 1911 when Thomas J. Pendergast married Carolyn Elizabeth Dunn Snider at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Westport. Later that year, Tom took over the Kansas City political machine after his brother James died. Tom’s famous office, where he would hold meetings, run his businesses, and dole out political favors, was Downtown at 1908 Main Street.
A company called Top Trumps USA Inc. (no relation to the former guy) announced plans to create a Kansas City version of Hasbro’s Monopoly board game. You have until March 13 to email your suggestions to KansasCity@toptrumps.com about which Kansas City places, landmarks, and icons you think should be included in the game. I’ve suggested the Penguin Park penguin (if you know, you know) as a game token. The Kansas City Star has more of the story:
More news from The Star: Downtown barbecue icon Danny Edwards has passed away. In 1980, he took over the business that his father had started in 1938, renaming Jake’s Old Southern Pit Barbecue at 1227 Grand to become Lil’ Jake’s Eat It An’ Beat It. Edwards’s successful BBQ biz was a familiar sight in the loop until 2007. When the development of Sprint Center (now T-Mobile Center) and the College Basketball Experience arrived Downtown, Lil’ Jakes moved to Southwest Boulevard. Here’s more:
The nonprofit Tamale Kitchen is changing its mode of operation, but not its focus. “We are moving from a nonprofit social-enterprise model to a small-business model with a social purpose,” explains founder Becky Gripp. The small organization helps bridge the cultural gap between area Latina women and the greater Kansas City metro, while offering skill-development, confidence-building, living wages ($14 an hour)—and some delicious hand-made tamales (I’ve had them—they’re great). The Northeast News expands on how Tamale Kitchen is making a difference in Downtown and beyond.
Last week I was invited to attend the unveiling of the Imagine Downtown KC 2030 strategic plan, hosted on Tuesday by the Downtown Council of Kansas City at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Since the reveal, reactions on social media have ranged (not surprisingly) from enthusiasm to skepticism to near rejection. Cheerleaders gonna cheer; haters gonna hate. But the plan is one of vision and hope—backed by research and community input. It intends to provide a blueprint for maintaining the Central Business District’s strengths, while using that momentum to be a more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant urban core beyond the “River-Crown-Plaza” corridor. Connecting to the marginalized neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown, drawing upon their strengths and assisting with their challenges, will make Downtown even more dynamic and livable. Read more here:
The northwest corner of Missouri Avenue and Grand Boulevard in 1940.
Harry Murphy, owner of modern-day Harry’s Country Club (previously the poultry building shown on the left in 1940), showed me the space above his restaurant (founded in 2003) just a few years ago, and told me that it had been used as a chicken slaughterhouse. There are still spots in the wood upstairs where you can see where the butchers “stored” their hatchets. I did a little search and found this ad in the May 30, 1925, Kansas Farmer publication. Can’t confirm that Kirk Produce was at the Missouri Avenue location in 1925, but it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that it was.
And, of course, here’s the same spot today in the River Market:
Artful City: One weekly selection with a Downtown connection
Quick Clip: The city in motion—just a few seconds at a time
’Bout that time … trip to the Super Bowl on the line today … GO CHIEFS
Downtown Lens: A single image depicting the urban aesthetic
Give a friendly Downtown-Kansas City welcome to….
The lucky, LUCKY fans attending Elton John’s last-ever Kansas City concert this Tuesday at T-Mobile Center
Visitors to the KC Remodel + Garden Show next weekend at Hale Arena at the American Royal Center
Got a tip about Downtown KC?
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Until next week—enjoy the city!