Historically Speaking

Last week Historic Kansas City Foundation released its list of the most endangered Historic structures in Kansas City. Topping the list are some surprises, such as the The Aladdin Theater (6044 Truman Rd.), a beautiful Moorish style theater designed in 1927 by the Boller Brothers architectural firm. The Aladdin is one of a few remaining Boller Brothers theaters in the Kansas City.

Also on the list are a number of abandoned Kansas City, Missouri School District school buildings. This News-dog has made no secret of the fact that the District’s re-purposing “initiative” is nothing more than a shell-game that uses the term repurposing rather than demolition. Time and time again, historic schools that are completely sound from an engineering and structural standpoint are bulldozed and carted off to landfills in the name of development.

The list is a what’s-what of prominent historic structures that are in eminent danger of becoming landfill fodder. Especially troubling is that the present City Council, with the exception of two members, votes against historic preservation time and time again. Proof of that is the recent decision to raze the Historic Westport Bank building in favor of some developer-advanced project that resembles a hideous pile of chrome, steel and glass, with no redeeming historic character whatsoever.

Add to the mix the city’s so-called Historic Preservation Commission – actually an oxymoron in this dog’s eyes, given their ongoing anti-historic preservation stance – and a department head (in name only) who hasn’t adjudicated a single Historic Preservation violation in his tenure, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster and demolition that’s unparalleled. Think about it; this is the same preservation commission that in 2016 gave the green light to the razing of a row of Historic Apartments on the country Club Plaza designed by noted turn of the 20th century female architect Nelle Peters in 1927. Seriously?

Here’s the deal: we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; not one thing is going to change in this cowtown on the Historic Preservation front until a competent department head is hired to oversee the city’s historic structures and districts. The future of Kansas City’s historic structures also hinge on the appointment of a historic preservation commission that actually knows the difference between a historic designation and a new development; and the election of a city council that isn’t joined at the hip with every fist-full of cash developer in town with a slapdash story and a vacant lot.

Until those three stars align, more colonnaded buildings will fall – replaced by surface parking – and more of Kansas City’s Historic structures will end up in the landfill.

Ed. Note: To have a look at this year’s most endangered list, visit Historic Kansas City’s web site at https://www.historickansascity.org

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