Do you know the history of this Armour Boulevard block?

Drugstore at the corner of southeast Troost and Armour.

Drugstore at the southeast corner of Troost and Armour.

 

The same block today.

The same block today.

The businesses that once lined the southeast corner of Armour and Troost are mostly gone now, with the remaining ones boarded up.

But in earlier days, the block from Armour south to 36th Street, from Troost to Forest, was a lively part of Armour Boulevard’s apartment hotel district. And the corner of Armour and Forest was the scene of a 1933  shootout.

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. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).

As seen in this 1909-1950 map (below), Troost Avenue from Armour to 36th Street was lined with businesses including a drug store and a bowling alley. The corner offered local entertainment and convenient shopping for folks traveling along the city’s most well-used streetcar route, the Troost line.

The Cavalier Apartment Hotel in 1940.

The Cavalier Apartment Hotel in 1940.

Around the corner on Armour Bouelvard between Troost and Forest, the Cavalier Hotel (now gone) offered “bachelor apartments” in the 1950s and 60s. Just to the east, the Boulevard Manor Hotel (still standing but boarded up) was known for its dance club and pool where local kids took swimming lessons.

On Forest Avenue, the block between Troost at 36th Street was lined with single-family homes, many still intact today.

The corner of Forest and Troost was the scene of a famous shootout in 1933, when Kansas City Sheriff Thomas J. Bash accidently came upon a gangster-related execution involving an associate of gang boss Johnny Lazia. An assassin had already shot and killed several people when the sheriff’s car reached the scene.

” A sheriff who carries his riot gun to lawn parties chanced upon a gang murder today in time to visit swift death on two of the executioners and capture a third member of their group.

The victim of the underworld death sentence, slain as the sharpshooting sheriff Thomas B. Bash went into action with his slug-laden weapon, was Ferris J. Anthon, a fugitive from a Chicago indictment naming him as a member of a liquor syndicate.

The men who died in the assassins’ automobile, from which the burst of bullets that killed Anthon, were Sam Socia and Gus Pasone. They had been identified as operators of night clubs here, and as henchmen of John Lazia, northside political leader under indictment for income tax evasion.

armour-and-troostA ballistics expert who examined the bullet that killed Anthon said it was fired from a .45 caliber automatic pistol. That was also the description of a gun dropped by Charles Gargotta, captured by Bosch when the gunman pleaded for his life after emptying his weapon at the battling sheriff. A companion of Gargotta escaped.

“No gangster from now on will walk the streets of this city or drive its streets in high-powered cars without molestation from my men,” Sheriff Bash said…

…”The staccato bark of firearms along Armour Boulevard, in the midtown apartment hotel district, and the screams of a terror stricken women arrested the attention of Sheriff Bash as he was returning with Mrs. Bash, 14-yer-old Melva Taylor, and a deputy, Lawrence Hodgez, from a lawn party.

Stopping the automobile not far from that of the assassins, Bash seized his riot gun and dismounted to investigate. He was immediately forced into the fight by an attack upon him from the killers’ car.

To keep the killers from escaping the deputy swung the automobile containing Mrs. Bash and the 14-year-old child into the path of their departing car. Meanwhile the sheriff blazed away with his riot gun The gunman’s car, its driver dying, crashed into the sheriff’s blocking automobile.

“I noticed Gargotta crossing the street toward me and shooting as he came,” the sheriff said in describing the brief but sanguinary battle. “I pulled down on him but didn’t shoot.”

“Don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me,” he sobbed, dropping a revolver at his feet. As Gargotta was taken to jail another fully loaded revolver was found in his pocket.

Armour Boulevard at Forest in 1933, the scene of a triple shooting.

Armour Boulevard at Forest in 1933, the scene of a triple shooting.

One explanation of the fatal attack on Anthon offered by police was that a northside gang feared he might be the means through his Chicago connections, of importing gunmen to resist large vice payments which have been extracted from rival racketeers in other sections of the city. Anthon was arrested dozens of times in Kansas City, Kansas for liquor activities and once turned state evidence which led to the resignation of several city officials.

His 24-year-old blond widow, who witnessed his death at the conclusion of an automobile ride about the city, was taken to the prosecutor’s office for questioning.
Associated Press, August 13, 1933

The slideshow below shows the block from Armour to 36th, from Troost to Forest, from the 1940 tax photos.

There’s still a lot more to learn. Do you remember this block? What special memories do you have of this section of Midtown? What questions do you have about it? Let us know and we’ll share your history and help to preserve it on our website as part of our Uncovering History project.

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

Our new 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. Order the book  

 Photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections.

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