Stories of the 1900 Convention Hall Fire

LaDene Morton
Missouri Valley Sundays
convention hall with large crowd
Sunday, January 8, 2023
2:00 pm
Helzberg Auditorium
In Person Event
Event Audio

At the turn of the 20th century, Kansas City was betting its future as a major metropolis of the New West on the construction of a grand convention hall and its selection as host of the 1900 Democratic National Convention. The city’s fortunes looked promising. But tragedy struck April 4, 1900 – a mere three months before the convention – when a devastating fire turned the hall into smoldering ruins.

Drawing from her KC 1900 blog series, local author and historian LaDene Morton examines how the city rallied to rebuild the facility in time to welcome 11,000 delegates and spectators at the opening of the convention on July 4. She details the "new money" that made it possible, the emergence of some of Kansas City's most prominent civic leaders, and the true origin of the oft-cited "Kansas City Spirit.”

Morton is a former researcher and policy analyst at Midwest Research Institute and past vice president of the Applied Urban Research Institute. She has authored books on the histories of the Brookside, Country Club, and Waldo neighborhoods, and currently publishes the KC Backstories blog.