A hulking white building at 911 E. Linwood was in the news this week, with a developer successfully requesting assistance to overhaul it. The building – formerly a hotel, a nursing home and a government headquarters – is now slated to reopen as market-rate apartments in 2017.
According to the Kansas City Star, developer Ted Sleder says the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It is by far the largest structure on the south side of Linwood Boulevard in the block between 33rd Street, Campbell and Harrison, the focus of this week’s look back in time.
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 a block of Linwood to 33rd, from Campbell to Harrison. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).
911 E. Linwood has a long and diverse history
The building at 911 E. Linwood goes back to the early 20th century. The owners of the Belmont Hotel, which had been downtown at 303 W. 9th Street, bought the lot at the southwest corner of Linwood and Harrison from Congregation B’Nai Jehudah. W.A. Michaels also bought the adjoining lot, paying a total of $20,000 for a tract with 138 feet of frontage on Linwood and 2015 feet on Harrison.
Sometime later the building became known as the Lucerne Hotel, as it was in 1949 when it was converted to a specialty hospital, Thornton Minor Hospital, which billed itself as “the oldest known institution specializing in the treatment of rectal and colonic troubles.” The hospital was founded in 1877 and claimed to have drawn patients from around the world.
In a 1949 newspapers ad, Thornton Minor announced its move to Linwood and Harrison.
“Ever since Dr. Thomas W. Thornton began treating his patients in his West 10th Street residence back in 1877, a home like this one for the Thornton Minor has always been our goal. Not so long ago, we were able to purchase the Lucerne Hotel at Linwood and Harrison. Since then, we’ve been busy remodeling this huge fireproof building to provide all the things for our patients that years of experience tell us are necessary. We’re proud of the job we have done…and we want you to see it. Won’t you drop in soon for a visit? You’ll be more than welcome.”
Thornton & Minor converted the hotel into a 300-bed hospital. Patients had previously been forced to stay in hotels near its facilities.
In 1957, Thornton & Minor moved to Excelsior Springs.
The following year, the building became the regional office for the Veterans Administration. By the late 1960s it had again found a new use as the Mission East Nursing Home. Jackson County operated the facility until the mid 1970s when it transferred indigent patients to the Jackson County Public Hospital. And in 1977, the state briefly considered turning the building into a dormitory-style state prison, but that plan never materialized.
Other homes and building on the block
Perhaps the most lavish home on the block stood at 3240 Harrison, appearing on an early map from 1897-1907. In 1910, the Charles J. Schmelzer family lived in the home. The J.F. Schmelzer and Sons Arms Company moved to Kansas City in 1885 and sold athletic goods, firearms, toys and children’s vehicles until 1928. That home later became a rooming house and in 1964, the owners were advertising furnished rooms for rent at $30. The home is no longer there.
The rest of the block consisted of single-family homes, small hotels and apartments. The slideshow below shows the buildings as they looked in 1940. Most are still standing today, with a line of old homes lining Campbell Street (those marked 18-26 in the slideshow), along 33rd Street (numbered 14-17) and on Harrison (numbered 5-13).
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 email@example.com.