Downtown shoppers, hang on to your petticoats!
At the turn of the 20th Century, when ladies wore long skirts and layers of petticoats, a short street between Main and Walnut was notorious for strong winds that would lift the ladies’ skirts, reveling their petticoats. Eventually, that one block of 10th Street would become “Petticoat Lane”, home to several fashionable shops that utilized the name to brand their business.
Prior to 1970, downtown Kansas City offered a wide array of shopping experiences. Whether shoppers arrived via streetcar, bus, or drove, multi-storied department stores supplied fashionable dresses, suits, housewares, and more. Emery, Bird, Thayer (11th & Walnut) and Macy’s (10th & Main) offered shoppers a respite from shopping in their tea rooms. The Jones Store Co.(12th & Main) operated a hair salon for those who needed a new style to accentuate their new outfits.
Harzfeld’s, at One Petticoat Lane, became the “famous name on Petticoat Lane” when the Parisian Cloak Company, owned and operated by Seigfreid Harzfeld moved one block south to a new building at 10th & Main in 1913. Harzfeld’s specialized in name brand designer fashions, and even had their own brand of dresses and perfume named for the famed Petticoat Lane. The green and white striped motif was used on all store packaging, stationary, and store decorations for nearly 40 years. While Harzfeld’s opened other stores when suburban shopping malls became popular shopping destinations, the downtown store was the only location to feature a commissioned mural by Thomas Hart Benton, “Achelous and Hercules”, to enhance the high-end shopping experience.
As shopping habits changed, Emery, Bird, Thayer was the first to close in 1968. Kline’s (1113 Main) followed in 1970, and one by one the downtown shops closed their doors. Harzfeld’s lasted until 1984, and Macy’s, which had become Dillard’s, closed soon after. The Jones Store Company lasted the longest but closed the downtown store in 1998. Only the Harzfeld’s building, which was remodeled as part of the Town Pavilion complex, remains today.