Gillham Plaza, between Gillham Road and Oak Street, was coming to life in 1928, soon after it was paved. A newspaper that year rounded up business life on the block which included the El Torreon Ballroom, the Martha Washington Candle Company, the new Luzier cosmetics laboratory, and the Stine-McClure Undertaking Company.
A few years later in 1933, the Fieth Brothers built a factory to expand their shoe dressing business on the block. Clarance and Wesley Fieth had started a small business in a corner of their Higgensville barn. They found a steady and increasing market for cream dressing used to treat kid gloves and women’s high boots. At first they traveled around, stopping to manufacture more product in whatever apartment they were renting. But later they bought frontage at Gillham Plaza and Linwood and put 50 people to work in their factory.
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. The 1940s photos are not available for this block, but fortunately, a 1928 newspaper article contained images of the block, which had recently been paved as part of the Gillham Plaza boulevard link.
One of the first buildings on the block was the Martha Washington Candle Company on the southwest corner of Gillham Plaza and Linwood. The retail store and offices employed about 100 people when this 1928 image appeared.
Also in 1928, the Kansas City Star showed plans for a new building going in on Gillham Plaza. The building would become the new home of the Special Formula Laboratories, a cosmetic manufacturing company operated by Thomas Luzier, which had recently become a nationally-known brand. Architect Nelle Peters designed the building.
Another building under construction in 1928 was Stine-McClure Undertaking Company opposite the MarthaWashington Candies Company.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.