The Kansas City Museum at historic Corinthian Hall is nearing completion after a $22 million restoration and renovation project.
Northeast residents have long been advocates for saving the museum, which had fallen into disrepair. On Saturday, October 16, residents of Historic Northeast had the opportunity to see a sneak peek of the renovation and the first exhibits.
Although crews were still hard at work Saturday installing panels, artwork and display cases, the spirit of the museum has been renewed. The new Kansas City Museum is home of the whole story.
The museum will open to the public on Thursday, October 21 with a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m., but reactions from residents of the surrounding neighborhoods are already overwhelmingly positive.
Cecil and Marcella Hernandez live in a little house two blocks away from the museum now, but have been residents of the neighborhood since 1979. They had a glowing review of the new space.
“Beautiful, very nice,” Cecil said. “When we first moved into the neighborhood – I don’t remember if it was after we moved over here, two or three years – we finally went in and looked at it. To me, it was kind of dark and dingy and it was in really bad shape, but we were like, ‘Well, it’s in the neighborhood, we’ll go look.’”
Now, he will tell everyone that if they don’t have time or don’t like big museums, that they should go to the Kansas City Museum because it’s the perfect size. Since he likes to read each and every panel, caption and description, the big museums are overwhelming for him.
They hope the new museum will change outsiders’ perspective of the neighborhood.
“I think even before, when it was open, the people that came, I think it changed it,” Marcella said. “And now that it’s been renovated, I think it will be even more so.”
“Well I’m just two rooms in but so far it looks great,” Scarritt resident Frank Murphy said.
“What I like about it is the detail,” Scarritt resident Sean O’Toole said. “I like that there’s so much detail you can’t see it, you can’t take it in all at once, you’ll have to come back another time… I think people will enjoy taking their friends to take a look at this.”
They’ve both lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, and have said over the years that, as the museum tried to find its identity, it needs to be a museum of what it was. The historic building is Kansas City history in itself, and the 1910 mansion is the best example of Beaux-Arts style architecture in the city.
Diana Graham, Vice President of the Lykins Neighborhood Association, thinks the progress they’ve made at the museum is wonderful.
“I am so impressed with what they have done,” Graham said. “I love all the little mini biographies, I mean, there’s people – I’m from Kansas City – there’s people there I’ve never even heard of. Why not? So it’s pretty cool.”
She can’t wait for them to put together the final details. Graham used to come to the soda fountain in the basement of the museum.
“They had little round tables,” Graham said. “Yeah, I used to come here all the time. I lived at 6th and Gladstone, I could walk up here. I spent a lot of hours up here in the summer.”
She is impressed with the quality of the renovation, but also the detail in the exhibits.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was vacant for so long – I mean, not vacant, but not really used for so long – and I was kind of anxious to see how they did,” Graham said. “But I think they’ve done an amazing job.”
Starting Thursday, Oct. 21, the Kansas City Museum will be open for visitors. Reservations are required, and can be scheduled for free at kansascitymuseum.org.
CORRECTION: On the cover of this week’s issue, we incorrectly identified a portrait of SuEllen Weissman Fried as “Loula Long Combs.” SuEllen Weissman Fried is an anti-bullying and kindness activist, educator, writer, and co-founder of Reacing Out from Within, a reentry and rehabilitation program for incarcerated individuals. SuEllen was married to Harvey Fried (1927-2018) for 65 years. A World War II veteran, Harvey owned Fried-Siegel Company, a garment manufacturer, and championed downtown development and the preservation of Kansas City’s Historic Garment District.