Do you recognize this unique Midtown block?

row-house-main-This block of row houses is a one-of-a-kind in Midtown.

There are several reasons for that. First, it predates much of the architecture in this part of the city, built in the early days of the southward development. And its style – Queen Anne with some Eastlake elements – is also not common in Midtown.

row-house-detailThe block is at 34th and Main, peeking out from behind a streetscape of commercial businesses, but still giving the feeling of the days it was built in 1887-8.

The block is on the National Register of Historical Places, but not much is known about it. According to the national register application, the block is one of the rare surviving examples of Kansas City row house architecture, as most of these types of buildings have not survived.

There’s also not much information about who built the row houses. Records show George W. Craig, a laborer for the Metropolitan Streetcar Railway Company, as the builder. But, the historic application points out, its unlikely that a laborer for a streetcar company would have had the financial means to build such a structure, so it’s presumed he was a representative for an out-of-state speculator.

When the row houses were built, there were four buildings along Main Street and seven along 34th, creating an L-shape with a courtyard in the rear.

If anyone knows more about the buildings, we’d love to hear from you.



  1. These buildings were saved, renovated, and maintained by Dr. James Hueser and his brother now retired architect John Hueser. John occupied a suite in the west building on the southwest corner of 34th and Main until they sold them to man formerly of Kansas City now in New York City in 2013.
    The Huesers bought them and preserved them starting approximately 40 years ago.

    I will provide contact infomration on John Hueser who knows much about the questions you seek to answer.

  2. M Hudson says:

    According to KCRAG, these apartments were once known as “Rat Castle” and have even been rumored to have housed Janis Joplin (amongst “many a Kansas City freak”) for a short time. Apparently it was known as a hippie haven.

  3. Joe Montanari says:

    The city limits were around 39st Street at the time these row houses were built, and they would have been near the end of the first electric trolley line. You could work downtown and live in the “‘burbs”, where it was a few degrees cooler in the summer. Although these were pretty swanky places when they were built, by the 1960’s they had become run-down tenements, many of them occupied by hippies and other representatives of the counter-culture who referred to them as the “Rat Castle”. “Urban Renewal” was the predominant driving force in architecture in the “60’s: the notion that we should tear down all the old-fashioned, antiquated buildings and replace them with the shiny new city of the future.There was little or no interest in historic preservation. Many of Kansas City’s iconic old structures were razed to the ground during those years, perhaps most notably, the Emery, Bird, Thayer building downtown at 10th and Grand. Thankfully, the urban renewal concept ran its course, before the wrecking ball reached 34th Street, and thanks to the Huesers for their dedication in restoring this lovely and graceful reminder of an era long past.

  4. Karen Geary says:

    The Genuine Article was in a lower level before moving to 39th and Msin. I knew lots of people who lived at the Rat Castle.

  5. J DeWitt says:

    Thanks, everyone – I’ll forward this link to a NYC-based artist friend who expressed interest in the history of this block!

  6. Arthur A Flores says:

    I stayed in a burnt out basement in the early ’70’s toward the end of the block. My friend Jay Hueser,worked restoring them in late 70’s,early 80’s. Vietnam, SDS,FBI,quite a place.


  7. nancy says:

    Janis joplin stayed there. During the days of freedom palace the performers stayed here. It was called the rat castle

  8. JLC says:

    During the mid and late 1950s I, and my friends would walk past this location. It was not in real good shape even then. I lived on third floor of 640 East Armour ,(the Armour Towers Apartments built in 1952). There was a tap dance studio just around the corner of the “Rat Castle” row of apartments. Also a two roller rinks not far. The El Torren was the one I was at most. It was a former dance hall located on second floor to the east on Gillum Road. This strip of row apartments always reminded me of scenes in movies of New York and San Francisco. At 73 years I remember this block of city life while it was still a safe time in city history for kids to walk the street for an afternoon and explore.

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