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In this installment of “What’s Your KC Q,” in which readers ask us questions about the city, we hear from Brian. He asked: “Is there any potential of relocating the Royals to downtown KC?” The short answer: Maybe, but it’d be a while.
Question: What happened to the really cool looking city hall at 5th and Main?
Answer by Michael Wells, Missouri Valley Special Collections Librarian
Really cool looking is definitely an accurate description of Kansas City’s second City Hall building. To gain a better sense of what’s so cool about it, I began by consulting architectural historian George Ehrlich’s Kansas City, Missouri: An Architectural History, 1826-1990.
The KCTV broadcast tower at 31st Street and Grand Avenue once served as a 1,042-foot tall beacon at night, visible for miles around with more than 1,300 white lights tracing its four legs. But the tower has been unlit for more than a decade. Kansas City native Todd Hembree wonders why — and if — the lights will ever return.
Question: How did “Union Station” get its name and why do so many other older railroad stations have that name?
It’s true that Kansas City’s Union Station doesn’t have a unique name. In fact, I found a similar question had been addressed by The Smithsonian Magazine in November 2017. The author explains that the term “union station” was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to indicate a hub in which multiple railroad companies operated. For example, you could enter a union station via a train on a small regional line and then switch to a larger national line to continue your journey. By today’s standards, it would be like changing airlines during a layover at an airport.
Beneath Kansas City’s urban edges exists more than 20 million square feet of business, said Mike Bell, vice president of Hunt Midwest , which owns SubTropolis — a sprawling underground complex that’s “wide enough to hold 42 Arrowhead Stadiums.” It was developed by Lamar Hunt’s family, who also owns the Chiefs.
Question: What happened to all the Christmas decorations that used to be downtown, particularly the crowns strung across the streets with garland?
A timely question as we enter holiday light season in the Kansas City area. Short of digging through the attic at City Hall, my first thought was to consult Monroe Dodd’s 2001 book Christmastime in Kansas City: The Story of the Season. According to Dodd, the Christmas shopping season was a modest affair in the years before World War I. The economic boom that followed the war changed things, and beginning in 1924, a group of downtown retailers pooled their resources to festoon the streets with garland and other decorations. In 1925 they added a parade to kick off the holiday season.
UPDATED Question: What happened to all the Christmas decorations that used to be downtown, particularly the crowns strung across the streets with garland?
In our first response to this question, I reported that the Merchants Association began displaying crowns at busy downtown intersections in 1957. Thanks to an observant reader with a special connection to the crowns, I now realize that this date is incorrect. In fact, evidence points to the crowns first being installed in 1962.
The name River Quay (pronounced “key”) harkens back to the settlement of fur trader François Chouteau, who established a landing post in the 1820s near today’s River Market. Quay, a word of Old French origin meaning “loading platform” or “wharf,” was used to describe the natural rock ledge that served as a landing place for steamboats delivering cargo to the burgeoning towns of Westport and Independence.