Do you remember the corner of 31st and Oak?

The entertainment district called Martini Corner has always been a center of activity, housing businesses that serve Midtown residents.
The entertainment district called Martini Corner has always been a center of activity, housing businesses that serve Midtown residents. 1940 photo courtesy Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Today we call the area around 31st and Oak Street “Martini Corner” in honor of the bars and restaurants that fill the area.

A look back to the 1940s shows the buildings in this area have housed a constantly-changing array of local businesses that serve Midtown since they were originally built.

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 blocks from 43rd to 44th Streets on Forest, Tracy and Virginia, around Bancroft. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).

1896-1907-map
1898-1907 Sunburn Fire Insurance Map.

While there’s not a lot of history written about the area, this early map from 1896-1907 shows Martini Corner housing a drugstore, tin shop, meat market, and cabinet shop.

Just to the southeast of the corner, the Little Sisters of the Poor were running their Home for the Aged. The residents were Irish immigrants, war veterans and others. The only requirement was that they were over 60 years of age, and even that rule was sometimes violated. “To enter there one must be without funds, without means of support, without friends to support him,” The Kansas City Star reported on Dec. 25, 1910.

1909-1950-map
1907-1950 Sunburn Fire Insurance Map.

In this later map from 1909-1950, the Little Sisters for the Poor property has been replaced with the El Torreon Ballroom and the Aines Farm Dairy was in operation. On the southwest corner, the Linwood Ice Cream factory tempted local residents. Along 31st streets, the buildings were now home to a drugstore, neon sign manufacturer, and electrical goods warehouse. A gas station had filled in the corner of 31st and Gilliam.

In 1940, the Linwood Ice Cream factory stood at southwest the corner of 31st and Oak.
In 1940, the Linwood Ice Cream factory stood at southwest the corner of 31st and Oak.

Do you remember this corner? 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 


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