Armour Boulevard and Main Street, then and now

This postcard looks east along the north side of Armour Bouelvard from Main Street around the turn of the 20th century. The first home was owned by A.J. King of the King Realty Company. The second belonged to Edward Smith, a grain dealer whose wife was the sister of Simeon Armour. The majestic Kirk B. Armour home is the red brick mansion at the corner of Armour and Warwick

This postcard looks east along the north side of Armour Bouelvard from Main Street around the turn of the 20th century. The first home was owned by A.J. King of the King Realty Company. The second belonged to Edward Smith. The majestic Kirk B. Armour home is the red brick mansion at the corner of Armour and Warwick

Many blocks of Midtown look much the same today as they did 100 years ago, but this corner of Armour and Main is completely changed. In the early 1900s it was a peaceful street lined with new mansions built for wealthy Kansas Citians who were moving south. Today, the mansions on the block are gone, replaced by commercial buildings which are now being put to new uses.

The block extends from Armour Boulevard north to 34th Terrace (once Woodword Avenue) between Main Street and Warwick Boulevard.

 Today, the corner is much different. Armour and Main is a busy intersection and the mansions that once lined the block have been replaced by commercial buildings, including the former Interstate Brands Building, currently under redevelopment, and the Foreign Language Academy School, which occupies what was once the Standard Oil Company’s regional headquarters.

Today, the corner is much different. Armour and Main is a busy intersection and the mansions that once lined the block have been replaced by commercial buildings, including the former Interstate Brands Building, currently under redevelopment, and the Foreign Language Academy School, which occupies what was once the Standard Oil Company’s regional headquarters.

The mansion era on Armour

Armor looking east from Main in 1907.

Armor looking east from Main in 1907.

Armour Boulevard was named after Simeon Armour, a member of the Armour meatpacking family who came to Kansas City to run the company’s operation here.  Simeon was a large landowner and civic leader and was a member of the park board from 1892 to 1901. In thanks for his support, the board renamed Commonwealth Avenue Armour Boulevard.

Simeon Armour lived downtown, but several of his family members moved south and choose the intersection of Armour and Main as the perfect site for new homes. First to build was Kirk B. Armour, Simeon’s nephew, who hired Van Brunt & Howe to create a French chateau-style mansion in 1893.

In 1900, census records show Kirk living in the home with his wife, two sons, daughter and servants including a butler, a waitress, a cook, a laundress, a chambermaid, a nurse, a coachman, and a groom.

A postcard of the Kirk Armour mansion.

A postcard of the Kirk Armour mansion.

By 1910, Kirk Armour had died but his wife and children still lived on the block. They also had new neighbors: The Arthur J. King family home stood on the corner of Main and Armour. Merchant Edward Smith and his wife Mary (sister of Simeon Armour) built a home in the middle at 12 East Armour.

Behind the mansions, five more modest homes were built on E. 34th Terrace.

Although Kirk Armour had imagined his home would last a century, it was demolished in 1930. Armour underwent major changes in the 1920s as many of its mansions were replaced with luxury apartment hotels.

The block in the 1940s

A second snapshot of the block is founding in these 1940s photos. Of the mansions, only the King home is still shown as standing.

34th-terrace-1940The 34th Terrace homes were still there.

main-street-1940Along Main Street between 34th Terrace and Armour, a car dealer and flower shop served Kansas City residents.

armour-and-main-1909-1957-sanbornA later map of the block shows  changes to Armour, with the Standard Oil Company moving into its new regional offices on the former site of Kirk Armour’s home in 1956. Next door to the west was an office building once occupied by Interstate Brands.

The block today

Today, the block is alive with activity, although the uses of the buildings has changed. The Kansas City School District’s Foreign Language Academy occupies the former Standard Oil property. The houses along 34th Street are gone. MAC Properties recently announced plans to build a new building on Main Street and renovate the Interstate Brands building.

As part of our Uncovering History Project, the Midtown KC Post is taking a look at the 1940 tax assessment photos of each block in Midtown. This week we’re focusing on the block from  Armour Boulevard north to 34th Terrace (once Woodword Avenue) between Main Street and Warwick Boulevard.  (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).

Historic photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collections.

 Do you have memories or more details about this area of Midtown? Please share them with our readers.

 Would you like us to focus on your block next week? Send us an email.

 Our book, Kansas City’s Historic Midtown Neighborhoods, is available now. Let us know if you want us to come to your neighborhood association or organization’s meeting to share what we’ve learned about Midtown neighborhood history and tell your members how they can help preserve Midtown history. If you’d like to order the book, email Mary Jo Draper at mjdraper@midtownkcpost.com.

2 Comments

  1. Jesse says:

    I look forward to these posts and hope that they continue. Thanks.

  2. Brad says:

    This postcard ought to be more than a subtle reminder why historic preservation is so important. Had those mansions survived to this day, this intersection would still be beautiful and reflective of the stately homes of Ward Parkway: it is now a permanent eyesore. Mansions still exist in St Louis in more challenging areas than these have historically been, and yet now have been beautifully restored because someone saw the wisdom in STEWARDING (a word nearly forgotten in today’s society) them through to a time when people would see them and their location again with the same desire as those that had originally built them. Each pre war structure that had attentive beauty should be always given consideration over short term and short minded business interests. Wealthy people live in areas that appear like this postcard, and more importantly, their tax base, leaves when that beauty departs. This city has gotten a bit wiser, but with every beautiful old building that goes down, look very hard at what replaces it. It rarely is beautiful, and is NEVER elegant. That word is extant in architecture today. This is what ignites the anger and furor of historic preservationists, preserving elegance in architecture for future generations, the likes of which will and never again can be built,

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