What was one of Kansas City’s tallest buildings in 1914?

Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.

Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.

The address the Kansas City Star called “the most conspicuous building on the skyline” in 1914 doesn’t stand out that much today.

But the St. Regis Hotel, which has stood solidly at the northeast corner of Linwood and The Paseo for 100 years, was once not only the tallest building outside of downtown, but one of the most prestigious places to live.

The idea for the St. Regis began as Kansas City was experiencing a population boom. At the same time, the new parks and boulevards system was offering new routes and leading to the development of new parts of the city to the south of the old city center downtown. Property values along boulevards had increased between 200 and 500 percent, according to the Historic Register nomination for the St. Regis, as developers built apartment hotels to replace mansions with more dense multi-family “apartment hotels, ” which offered apartments with luxury amenities and services.

Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

Real estate broker and developer Howard Vrooman and investor Henry Owen saw a chance to take advantage of the new reinforced concrete technology to build a nine-story building on a narrow urban lot. They hired the architecture firm of Owen and Payson, known for designing a “better class of buildings.” They picked the Italian Renaissance Revival style, which fit the extravagant and detailed mood of the public.

And they figured they had the perfect location – at the intersection of luxurious Linwood and another new boulevard called The Paseo.

Their instincts appeared to be right, because when it opened the luxury hotel attracted millionaire Theodore Gary, who moved into one of the building’s suites. Other prominent Kansas Citians joined him in the towering hotel. But the building also attracted single folks and young couples who had not yet started a family.

Residents entered the St. Regis through a lavish lobby with silk draperies, a piano and intricate furnishings, according to the Historical Register form. A first-floor restaurant served both residents and the public. The basement housed a billiards room “where a novel ventilation system granted players the luxury of smoking with impunity.” The 9th floor included an elaborate ballroom.

By the 1970s, the St. Regis like many other the other luxury apartment hotels had been converted to low-income housing.


  1. Joe Vaughan says:

    To Whom It May Concern:
    Wasn’t the NY Life Building (now the Archdiocese Headquarters at 9th and Baltimore) Kansas City, Missouri’s first skyscraper: 12-stories, completed in 1889?
    –Scarritt Building, 9th and Grand, 11-stories, 1904?
    –The R. A. Long Building (now UMB Bank, 928 Grand) 14-stories, 1906?
    –Original Commerce Bank Building, 10th and Walnut, 14-stories, 1907?

    Please check out this information. Thank you

    Joe H. Vaughan

  2. Eric S says:

    Thanks for writing this. Midtown KC Post is the best. Who else gives out such interesting information about our neighborhood?

  3. Joe Vaughn:
    You are correct that there were taller buildings downtown and we have amended the story to make this clear. The NY Life Building, built in 1889, was 10 stories, and the Commerce Trust Building, built in 1906, was 17 stories.

    Mary Jo Draper

  4. Louis Tofari says:

    The St. Regis Hotel was situated on one of the highest geographical points of KCMO in 1914, the Cumberland Ridge (I think that’s the name), which extends from about 27th Street south to Armour. Thus why it was advertised in 1914 as one of KCMO’s tallest buildings.

  5. Glen Zeller says:

    This is my home ??

  6. Josephine Ragan Neal says:

    I have fond memories of KC . 31st and Indiana – the Central movie theater – 27th and TROOST bowling alley . My G G Grand was Jacob Ragan although I never knew our history until 2005 when I was 70 years old. I now have the old photos and history , thanks to cousins . I enjoy the info you have and photos that are familiar to me .

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