Top stories of 2016: Midtown neighborhoods rich with history

crrbin-parkSince 2012, the Midtown KC Post has been celebrating the history of Kansas City block by block by block.

As 2016 draws to a close, our Uncovering History project has spotlighted more than 100 individual blocks of Midtown, and we’re getting started on a new year of research. The goal is to use historical photos and newspaper articles to pull together what is known about each block of Midtown (the area between 31st and 55th, State Line to the Paseo) and, more importantly, encourage people who have lived on those blocks to share their memories so they can be documented.

With the New Year looming, we’re sharing some of our most popular posts from 2016. If you have a block you’d like us to investigate, or if you have memories to share, feel free to comment on this post or email me at

Most popular history posts of 2016

  •  A pioneer family once owned this Valentine block. Early maps of this Valentine neighborhood street show most of it once was owned by Nellie G. Nelson, the daughter of Kansas City pioneer A.B.H. McGee. Nellie married William W. Nelson, himself the son of a pioneer family, in what was one of the most celebrated weddings in Kansas City history in 1890. Nellie later lived at 3765 (later 3711) Pennsylvania.
  • Do you remember the 4200 blocks of Wyoming and Terrace in the Volker neighborhood? The Swedish Evangelical Mission Church in the Volker neighborhood was once a center of Swedish life in Midtown. The church still stands at the corner of 42nd and Terrace Streets. A look at the history of the surrounding block shows the diverse cultures that settled the area, with Swedish and other immigrants moving into the homes built shortly after the turn of the 20th century.
  • Drexel Hall, built by shrewd businesswoman, has seen a century of history. It would be easy to drive past Drexel Hall at the corner of Linwood and Baltimore day after day without any idea of the layers of history within its walls. Beginning with its unusual beginnings as a spur-of-the-moment purchase by a shrewd businesswoman, to its early days of concerts, dances and suffrage association meetings, to the fiery union rallies of the 1960s, few buildings in all of Kansas City have facilitated more important cultural, political and social events.
  • Block of Southmoreland was home to prominent city figures. Midtown has a number of distinctive streets: some characterized by their commercial importance; some for their grand residential apartment hotels; and some for their classical turn-of-the-century architecture. Warwick Boulevard, clearly one of Midtown’s most important thoroughfares, played a unique role in Midtown’s development. Few other streets attracted the number of wealthy and well-known citizens. As they hired prominent architects to design new homes on Warwick from 1900 to 1915, their confidence in the area convinced others that the new “south side” suburbs were where Kansas City residential development was headed.
  • Early Plaza Westport neighborhood builder helped working people buy homes. The history of Midtown Kansas City is full of tales of fortunes made and lost in real estate, but the Plaza Westport neighborhood’s past tells a different kind of story. A real estate developer and builder there, Will Corbin, is remembered for finding a way to help working class people in Kansas City afford the modern bungalows he was building in Corbin Park.
  • Do you remember neighborhood grocery stores in Midtown? Decades ago, Midtown Kansas City had a grocery store in almost every neighborhood. Before the advent of large chain “super markets,” grocery stores were often literally mom and pop businesses. They grew up along streetcar lines and within walking distance of Midtown residential areas. Our map shows all of the groceries within Midtown boundaries in 1949, based on a Kansas City Star newspaper advertisement in May of that year.
  • Mansions at Armour and Main gradually repurposed, replaced This historical post looked at the block from Armour to 36th Street, from Main to Walnut, a block that undertook a radical transformation in a few brief decades. From an exclusive enclave of wealthy families like the Armours in the early 1900s, the block became a center of culture around the Conservatory of Music in the 1940s, as Main Street moved from a block of fine homes to a major commercial corridor.
  • 1905 Armour Boulevard apartments and workingmen’s cottages now gone Although his apartment building and small homes along Armour Boulevard no longer stand, W.H. Collins is remembered as a pioneer who left his mark on Midtown Kansas City. Collins’ structures once dominated the block from Armour Boulevard to 36th Street, from Central to Wyandotte, although neither his groundbreaking apartment building or workingmen’s cottages remain today.
  • Do you remember this Nutterville block in Westport? The block between Archibald and 41st Street and between Central and Baltimore today is part of Nutterville, an area of brightly-painted and carefully landscaped homes that have been converted to business spaces by the James B. Nutter company. Homes that once stood on the block along the west side of Baltimore Street are gone, for the most part.  But two rows of former residences, along Central and Archibald Streets, offer a colorful glimpse into the early days of Kansas City.


  1. Jill DeWitt says:

    This site is terrific! I’ve enjoyed reading about our neighborhood histories. I’m ordering additional copies of the book, since mine seems to find its way into guests hands – then homes as a special gift.

    Thank you, Mary Jo Draper!

  2. Nadja Karpilow says:

    Thanks for all of your work in researching and sharing the stories of midtown! Best wishes for a happy new year.

  3. Angela Pruiett says:

    This is very interesting. My grandfather who was from Sweden, built a two story duplex at 4603 Fairmount. Grandfather was a carpenter that went to work for Swenson Construction. My mother was the fifth of six children but was born in a rental house in 1922. The family moved into the duplex two weeks after she was born. The only boy died in 1922 of diphtheria. The girls all lived there until the grew up. Grandmother was killed in Westport Rd. by a drunken driver in 1933. The duplex has stayed in the family. My sister and I sold our share to one of our cousins when our mothers passed away. He still owns the house.

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