Current Home Depot site was once Warner Plaza “apartment city”

When it was built in 1929, Warner Plaza was advertised as an “apartment city” stretching from Main Street to Warwick Boulevard south of Linwood. Built of the original site of the home of Senator William Warner, Warner Plaza included two seven-story structures on Main Street near 33rd and ten apartments buildings.

When it was built in 1926, Warner Plaza was advertised as an “apartment city” stretching from Main Street to Warwick Boulevard south of Linwood. Built of the original site of the home of Senator William Warner, Warner Plaza included two seven-story structures on Main Street near 33rd and ten apartments buildings.

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.

A 1909-1950 map shows the block when it was dominated the the Warner Plaza apartments and commercial buildings. On the right is a recent aerial photo of the same location. 

A 1909-1950 map shows the block when it was dominated the the Warner Plaza apartments and commercial buildings. On the right is a recent aerial photo of the same location.

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.

Warner Plaza in 1989, looking nw from Main Street.

Warner Plaza in 1989, looking nw from Main Street.

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.

Warner Plaza from Main Street.

Warner Plaza from Main Street.

warner plaza 2

warner plaza 3

warner plaza 4

warner plaza 6

warner plaza 7

 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 mjdraper@midtownkcpost.com. 

One Comment

  1. Brad says:

    What is so sad, is even had they merely saved just a few of these buildings,(those two twin towered structured edifices and others that faced Main street right there), the Home Depot could have been built behind them and Warner Plaza street could have been used as the entrance to it. That would have given Main street the engaging type of architecture that is so greatly desired for light rail. These Warner plaza buildings could have been coffee shops or like businesses with apartments above… now we are suppose to shelve out another 100 million plus for another light rail stem to go along a corridor that has VERY FEW remaining structures conducive to a light rail experience. Almost all the buildings built along the Main corridor south of Union Station in the last 20 years have a suburban footprint with parking up front. The neighborhood associations have prostested against those newer types of structural footprints that undermind the pedestrian experience, and the designs of the newer buildings,such as the apartments currently being built next to Burger King near Armour, lack charm, and larger first floor windows to engage the pedestrians that will walk along this stretch. Unfortunately, I dont see this city ever learning from its continued mistakes.
    By 2023, (which is the earliest we could possibly see a second light rail link up and running) it will probably be passe anyway; with the advent of generic self-driving cars, we can build however we like. Parking lots will be a relic of the past, we can build again in all the blown out blank spaces created between buildings. At that point, light rail will be a relic concept that no one will want to pay for or use any longer.

Leave a Comment