An “apartment city” that once stood where Home Depot is located today was billed as “an innovative approach to multi-use residential development.” Built in 1926, the Warner Plaza development included two seven-story buildings on Main Street near Thirty-third Street, and a roadway also called Warner Plaza with a long row of apartment buildings on either side. By the 1980s, Warner Plaza was decaying and seen by the city as contributing to the decay of the surrounding neighborhood.
As part of our Uncovering History Project, the Midtown KC Post is taking a look at each block in Midtown, including a set of 1940 tax assessment photos which is available for many blocks. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them). Although the 1940 photos are not available for this block, the U.S. Library of Congress has a set of undated photos of Warner Plaza, probably taken soon before they were demolished in 1990.
Former home of Major William Warner
Major William Warner came to Kansas City to practice law in 1885 and was twice elected to Congress. He lived at 3255 Main Street, in a home once owned by Major B.F. Jones, a large frame house considered to on one of the most handsome lots in this part of the city. When Warner died in 1916, the Kansas City Star described said his Main Street home:
could hold only a small portion of those who want to pay tribute to the man whose high character and rugged, kindly manhood reflected honor on the community. More than a thousand stood bareheaded underneath the shade trees outside. Hundreds more waited on the sidewalks and even across Main Street where scores who had dropped the duties of the day until those inside should have performed what could be performed for the man who was dead.
Hundreds of civil war veterans in blue mingled with gray uniformed men who had fought for the Confederacy. They talked softly, there under the trees, of Major Warner, who had fought with some of them, and against others, but who for half a century had been a friend to them all.
After Warner’s widow died, most of the estate went to their son John Warner.
The “most beautiful apartment development ever built”
By 1926, responding to a need for apartments in Kansas City, the McCandles Building Company announced plans to build an “apartment city” on the Warner site. With business frontage on Main and apartment frontage on a new street to be called Warner Plaza, the company began work on two seven-story buildings on Main and ten buildings with twelve apartments each along Warner Plaza.
The company’s newspaper ads promised “ the most beautiful apartment development ever built in Kansas City.” The builder extolled features including balcony porches, an aerial for radio built into building, and both furnished and unfurnished kitchenette apartments. Among the buildings within Warner Plaza were El Capitan, a family hotel just north of 33rd Street and the La Palma at 9 Warner Plaza.
By the end of the year, McCandles was selling off parts of his development.
There are scant records in old newspapers of life in Warner Plaza until the late 1980s, when there was a push to renovate the apartments. In a 1991 editorial, the Star weighed in on Warner’s Plaza’s condition:
“The Warner Plaza area has vexed city officials, neighborhood groups and a succession of would-be developers for nearly a decade. A viable redevelopment is seen as a critical part of efforts to staunch neighborhood deterioration fed by prostitution, drug trade and related crime.”
A year later, the Warner Plaza apartments were described as dilapidated and abandoned, looking out of place among newer businesses and buildings. It wasn’t until 2000 when the so-called Glover Plan helped replace the blighted tract with a new Home Depot and Costco. That plan, conceived by former Councilman Jim Glover, involved replacing the older housing units with the new retail businesses and using sales tax revenues to improve nearby housing.
The photos below were taken during the period before vacant Warner Plaza was razed.
Historic photos courtesy Library of Congress.
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 email@example.com.