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.
The mansion era on Armour
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.
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.
A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.