Today it’s a Jiffy Lube, but the building at the corner of Linwood and Gillham Plaza once housed Sight Brothers Motor Company, Kansas City’s oldest Chevrolet dealer. Next door to the south when this photo was taken in 1940, many people attended funerals at the Stine & McClure Chapel, and next door on the west side, a thriving dry cleaning business, Acme Cleansing, operated.
Today, our Uncovering History story focuses on some of the history of this block where commercial businesses have shared space with historic homes since the turn of the 20th century.
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 Linwood to 33rd and from Gillham Plaza to Gillham Road. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).
The Acme Cleansing Company
In 1922, the Kansas City Real Estate Board used this block of Kansas City to lure people into investing in land, saying “real estate wisely bought is always a sensible deal” and using the lot at the northeast corner of the block as an example.
It seems that that year, Kansas City was growing and several events spelled good fortune for one wise investor. The first thing that happened was the citizens of Kansas City wanted to build a memorial to those who lost their lives in World War I and they chose a site near 27th and Main. One of the properties needed for the new Liberty Memorial was the Acme Cleansing Company, which was awarded $117,682 by a condemnation jury.
At the same time, Linwood Road being extended to Main Street. It had previously run from Troost to Gillham Road but stopped at the old grounds of the Little Sisters for the Poor home for the aged.
The real estate board, in a Nov. 12, 1922 newspaper ad, tells the story of the block:
In 1920 the 30-foot lot of Gillham Road, immediately south of the point where Linwood was to be extended, was sold to George W. Tourtellot for $8,000. Although he knew that the same lot had been bought a few days before for $4,000, he bought wisely, and added the 40-foot lot adjoining it on the south for $7,000 His cash payment on both properties was only $5,000.
Three years later – to be exact, Oct. 14, 1922 – he sold the property to the Acme Cleansing Company for $30,000. The absorption of the northwest corner of the lot into Linwood Boulevard a few months before brought $3,000– making the total profit of the investment $18,000. Mr. Tourtellot bought wisely.
But the Acme Cleansing Company also bought wisely. The property increased so rapidly in value in three years that its continued increase in value is assured with the city’s growth. There are many opportunities to buy Real Estate widely today. Buy with your eyes open and a view to the city’s future needs. It will pay you big dividends.
Stein & McClure, a business started in 1861
The business that became the Stine & McClure Undertaking Company was founded at 503 Main Street in 1861, one of the oldest businesses of its type in this part of the country. E. Stine started the business; later W.M. McClure became a partner and the business changed names. W.G. Pearson became a co-owner in 1917. The company built a new facility on Gilliam Plaza in 1928. The southern colonial style chapel stood on a landscaped lot. D.W. Newcomer’s Sons bought Stine & McClure in 1954. The building is now being converted to an event rental space.
Sight Brothers Chevrolet
Stine & McClure owned the land just to its north at the corner of Gilliam Plaza and Linwood, and in 1934, it developed the space for the Sight Brothers Motor Company, Kansas City’s oldest Chevrolet dealer.
Residents of the block
There isn’t much of a record of the people who lived on this block over the years. We do know that John A. Luethy lived at 3210 Gilliam. He’d been born in Switzerland in 1836 and when he was 17 years old, was involved in an “uprising” in Thurndorf, Switzerland.
The movement was unsuccessful, he was given the choice of enlisting in the troops engaged in suppressing similar uprisings in other cantons or of leaving the country. He left Switzerland, went to Louisville, Kentucky, and established a dye company. That was in 1854. Seven years later, in 1861, he joined with other Northern sympathizers in Louisville to form a regiment to oppose the troops that his city was sending to the South.
As soon as the war was over, Luethy went back to Switzerland to claim, as a wife, the girl he had left behind when he had to leave the country in 1854. He brought her to Kansas City. John A. Luethy obituary, 1908
The slideshow below shows the rest of the buildings that stood on the block in 1940.
Do you have memories or more details about this block 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. Order the book