The next two issues of “All Around Town” are inspired by a 1977 book I came across the other day. The book, “Kansas City: A Place in Time,” by the Landmark Commission, piqued my curiosity.
Here is the first half of my list of top 10 Kansas City landmarks:
1. Country Club Plaza
When J.C. Nichols began buying hog farms in the Brush Creek valley in 1907 to build the Country Club Plaza, Kansas Citians dubbed the plan “Nichols’ folly.”
But in 1922, they had their last laugh when the Plaza opened.
The Plaza borrows heavily from Seville, Spain’s Moorish-influenced architecture.
Tile roofs, ornate iron-work, terra cotta detailing, mosaics, fountains, statues and domed towers embellish the Plaza’s many buildings, which include a replica of Seville’s Giralda Tower. Today, the Plaza is widely considered the first planned, auto-oriented shopping center in the U.S.
2. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins building opened in 1933 on the site of William Rockhill Nelson’s former estate. It featured a neo-classical exterior clad in Indiana limestone and boasted a grand pillared entrance overlooking a 20-acre manicured lawn.
The Bloch Building, a 2007 addition designed by renowned architect Steven Holl, offsets the monumental Nelson-Atkins building with its clean, organic lines. It is built primarily underground, with only a handful of
glass “lens” structures appearing above the surface. At night, the lenses emit a soft white glow against the backdrop of the museum’s sculpture gardens.
3. Kansas City Museum
The Kansas City Museum is housed in the former R.A. Long estate. Completed in 1911, the Long mansion was Kansas City’s first million-dollar house (it would cost $50 million to build in 2011). The estate’s main building, Corinthian Hall has over-the-top architectural detailing, 70 rooms, 15 bathrooms and more than 30,000 square feet on three main floors.
It is undergoing extensive renovations and will allow visitors to see the mansion as the Long family left it in the 1930s. For more information, visit www.friendsofkansascitymuseum.org.
4. The Midland Theatre
When it opened in 1927, the Midland was the third largest theatre in the U.S. and the first in Kansas City with a combined heating and cooling system. The building’s exterior is a combination of French baroque and Austrian rococo styles. For more information, including upcoming concerts, visit www.midlandkc.com.
5. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
With a grand opening set for Sept. 16, the long-anticipated Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will elevate Kansas City’s fine arts to the next level.
The massive steel, glass and reinforced concrete structure can be seen in the Kansas City skyline in front of the Bartle Hall pylons. The center will include an 1,800 seat theatre for the Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera and 1,600 seat performance hall for the Kansas City Symphony. The two halls are linked by a multi-level glass lobby. The $300 million building, designed by Moshe Safdie, will no doubt evoke other cities’ envy.
Check out U-News next week for the second half of the list.