Category Archives: historic warehouses

Warehouse District, Kansas City, Missouri

The area southeast of downtown Kansas City is filled with warehouses, junkyards and other scattered buildings; you might not notice if you’re speeding by on one of the city’s many parkways.

Every city seems like it has to have this functional part of town, the equivalent of east of Broadway in St. Louis.

The interesting building materials and signs, however, always make these parts of town interesting.

There always seems to be a couple of diners, a few bars and a scattered of other businesses that supply local workers with lunch and after work entertainment.

Near North Riverfront

I love the area of the riverfront north of Laclede’s Landing; anchored by the slender Cotton Belt Warehouse (see it here, here and here), the area yearns for reinvestment.

Also, I realized I had photographed this warehouse in the past as well. It is a legacy of the area’s importance in the storage of produce and other foodstuffs.

This old power plant, shorn of its smokestack, is another interesting building sitting along the riverfront.

But the Ashley Street Power Plant never ceases to amaze me; it is an ornate building, built in the Beaux-Arts style, and is a temple to electricity, and now steam.

Crunden Martin Fire

Ironically, as I was photographing this building to document its post-fire condition, a new fire was already smoldering deep inside the old Crunden-Martin building. Reports that homeless people may have accidentally started the fire with wood provided by charities remain unsubstantiated, and certainly the fire would have destroyed evidence of their presence.

I have covered Chouteau’s Landing frequently in the past, and in light of my look at the Cupples Warehouses last week, I see some similarities, with obvious differences in time. Chouteau’s Landing actually still possessed many working factories at a time when Laclede’s Landings was being redeveloped, and while the Cupples buildings were sitting empty and neglected. Fortunes have turned, and I hope this amazing area of the city can be saved before any more buildings are lost.

A few year’s back, there was a beautiful proposal for redevelopment, but it appears to have gone nowhere.

Cupples Warehouses and the Future

There has been all sorts of beautiful renovations downtown south of Market Street, but the area continues to lack something that will make it a truly vibrant neighborhood. Here are some of my suggestions.

First of all, while they should not necessarily be eliminated, the entrance and exit ramps onto the elevated lanes of Highway 40 are intrusive, ugly, rapidly deteriorating and most importantly, they waste space. When the rebuilding of these structures occur, they should be reconfigured to fit in more hospitably with the street grid.

Likewise, there are huge swaths of “greenspace” that waste valuable real estate, often times for the sake of safety. I’ve been told that the government didn’t want buildings across the street from the federal courthouse for safety reasons, but that is totally illogical since you can drive right by the courthouse anyway. After living in Washington, DC in the post-9-11 world, I watched as security barriers went up all around that city, despite many of the measures merely ruining public space as opposed to protecting anyone. For example, the federal courthouse in St. Louis has Jersey barriers up around the courthouse; they make the place look secure, but in reality would only stop a truck bomb from getting a grand total of another ten or so feet closer to the building. Certainly they make the area look bad, at minimal benefit to safety.

Also, work to make Walnut Street and actually appealing street to walk down; as can be seen below, the builders of City Hall clearly intended Walnut to be the grand vista upon which to approach City Hall. It is marred by a bridge from the jail to the courthouse. While I know it would cost large amounts of money, perhaps the bridge could be turned into a tunnel under the street.

Finally, embrace the juxtaposition between new and old; the area south of Market has lost much of its original character, but that does not mean that a neighborhood with its own character can’t rise in its place.

Let’s be honest, the whole area is dominated by courthouses, which in general are places people don’t want to be unless they work inside. My experience is that many courthouse areas tend to take on a similar pallor as the courthouses around them. Likewise, government office buildings seem to have the same effect on creating drab neighborhoods. Consequently, the area should have a strong mix of all different types of businesses and housing to create a strong community in the Cupples Warehouse District.

One More Cupples Warehouse

The only other Cupples Warehouse sitting empty, besides #7, is this one. In some ways, not counting the collapsed roof, this building, which is flagged for renovation, has more problems with its brick facade than its long suffering neighbor.

I love this railroad tunnel in the side of the building; I can only imagine what it must have looked like as a train pulled into the siding, allowing for goods to be unloaded into the warehouse.

The aspect of the Cupples Warehouses that I like the most is that while none of the buildings are identical, they all have a certain flavor to them that unifies them.

There is still a large amount of density down here, and the loss of even one building could hurt that.

Tomorrow, we will look at the future of the area, and see what it portends.

Cupples Warehouse #7

There has been a lot of disinformation, and outright lies being spread about the condition of Cupples Warehouse #7. Read the facts here, at the Cultural Resource Office’s website; scroll down to page 28 to read the official opinion.

Perhaps the most infuriating disinformation is coming from KMOV, which is blindly reporting that a renovation of the building could cost $60 million. The report offers no source for that figure, nor does it address the Preservation Board’s finding that there is no evidence to support that cost.

As Steve Patterson stated on KMOV, the behavior of McGowan-Walsh is inexcusable, and it is behavior that no private individual could get away with. They have not paid property taxes on the property for years, essentially holding the building hostage in retaliation for not receiving permission to demolish the warehouse and the memory of their gross negligence. Could you get away with not paying property taxes for years? I doubt it, but if you’re a big developer, I guess the laws don’t apply to you.

I took the time, unlike KMOV and other news outlets, to actually go out to the warehouse and inspect the building myself. While I am not a structural engineer, I have seen lots of deteriorated brick walls in my life, and I think I know one when I see one. First off, I saw no evidence of brick falling from the walls anywhere on the street or sidewalk.

The roof has indeed collapsed, and as you can see through this window, light (and the elements) can now stream through the hole in the roof.

The motivation of the Treasurer to advocate for demolition is obvious; the brand new (and seemingly pointless) parking garage south of Cupples #7 is largely hidden from Spruce Street. Which is a good thing, as parking garages are necessary evils in an urban environment, and should be placed in less desirable land such as the lots backing up to the Highway 40 elevated lanes.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why such a large garage was built in that location, as there are very few buildings nearby that need parking–other than Cupples #7 if it were renovated. Otherwise, other than one other beautifully restored Cupples Warehouse, the rest of the buildings in the area have their own, ample parking garages for themselves. Is the Treasurer regretting his decision to build the garage, and hoping that a demolished #7 will magically improve usage?

I am not overly concerned by the collapse of the roof for this important reason: many of these industrial buildings were actually designed to allow the floors to collapse easily, thus sparing the exterior walls that could then be reused. Theoretically, if there was a fire in the building, the wood interior was designed in many buildings to collapse in on itself; in many factories the floor joists weren’t even attached to the curtain walls.

So yes, there has been major interior collapse, but I argue that the building was engineered in that way to protect the outside walls.

Tomorrow I will show examples of seemingly fragile brick exterior walls that were recycled and saved, and other examples of the durability of brick through the centuries–even when lacking a roof.