As new Katz Midtown Market begins, a look back at the Katz Building

Here’s how the Katz Building looked in 1982, when the area around it was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Lots of folks have been commenting that they’re excited there will again be life at the Katz Building at 3948 Main – even if it’s mostly in the parking lot for now.  Redeemer Fellowship Church has announced it will hold a monthly Katz Midtown Market outdoors on September 1 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month this fall.

The Katz Building is one of the most distinctive in Midtown. So before we set out for the market on Saturday, this might be a good time to review its history.

According to the Historic Preservation Office/Landmarks Commission staff report from 2006:

  • The Katz Building is part of the South Side Historic District, four blocks from 38thStreet to 40th Street on Main Street, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The area is recognized for retaining a “streetscape indicative of the many diverse architectural styles present during this period.” The Southside District offers a glimpse of a service center: an area of retail, commercial, religious, and educational buildings within a residential area.
  • The building was the first Katz Drugstore outside the central business district. Ike and Michael Katz started one of the most successful drug companies in the country in downtown Kansas City.  According to the Kansas City Public Library,  “In 1917, as the U.S. entered World War I, Isaac Katz turned a challenge into an opportunity. A wartime decree prohibited stores from staying open past 6 p.m. – peak hours for the Katz brothers’ tobacco store near Union Station in Kansas City. Only pharmacies could remain open in the evening. Katz found a retired pharmacist and hired him right away, saving the business and launching a new era – the chain of Katz drug stores.” In 1934, they announced they would build the Midtown store.

Listen to an interview with grandson Stephen Katz recorded in 2009 by the Kansas City Public Library.

  • Clarence Kivett, an important Kansas City architect, was unknown when he designed the building. But he was the nephew of the Katz brothers, so he got the job, his first commercial work and the launching point for a long architectural career. Kivett is known as one of the early adopters of Modernism, which is part of the Art Deco style. “Art Moderne is commonly referred to as a ‘streamline’ design,” the report says. “This has a horizontal emphasis with bands of materials with curved corners.”
  • The building is a mix of Art Deco and Art Moderne styles. The clock tower, with its vertical emphasis, is classic Art Deco. On the other hand, the horizontal building is more characteristic of Art Moderne. The building is unusual because it uses strong geometric lines rather than the more typical polychrome terra cotta or other decorative motifs seen in other Kansas City Art Deco buildings.
  • It began a proliferation of drug stores across the Midwest. The Katz brothers developed the concept of the “discount drug store” — large chain stores that offer pharmacies, groceries and other items for sale. While it seems like these have been around forever, this building was actually the “first stand alone building the Katz brothers specifically designed for their drug store use, as opposed to remodeling an existing store space in the Central Business district,” the report says.
  • The building has been modified from its original design. On the east side of the building facing Main Street, there was aluminum banding between the storefront and the brick, which was later painted orange.

See some older photos of the way the building used to look.

Links to previous stories

Katz building marketplace joins nationwide trend of small neighborhood markets 

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