Remembering stock yards’ glory days

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

About two years after the opening of the “new” Hannibal Bridge over the Missouri River, Kansas City’s first Livestock Exchange building was constructed. Prior to that time, the Stockyards were essentially large stock pens with five acres of open land on the east bank of the Kansas River about where 12th Street would cross if it went through. The stock was watered at the river for convenience. In 1867, a market was established here in Kansas City to serve the growing number of stock entering the city each day from the great western grasslands in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

In 1876, the first Livestock Exchange building was constructed at roughly 16th Street and the state line for the then-extravagant cost of $35,000. It featured Romanesque architecture, a Mansard roof and had a footprint of 105 feet by 127 feet, standing a full three stories tall. Through the years, the building was added on to many times, sprouting “wings” and numerous additional floors.

Some postcards published around the turn of the 20th Century show livestock ramps entering the building at various levels. The great flood of 1903 spelled the end for the old building after water 15 to 30 feet deep at times swept through the building and the Stockyards,  killing hundreds of thousands of cattle, sheep and other livestock.

Following the flood, plans were drawn for the present Livestock Exchange building located at 1600 Genessee. Ground was originally broken in 1909 (after the great flood of 1908) and the new facility was opened for trading in December of 1911. The building is nine stories tall and was originally constructed with three wings off the back of the building stretching west toward the site of the old Livestock Exchange building, which was razed when the new building opened. Original cost of the “new” exchange building was $650,000.

The message on the back of the card sent to Mrs. A.B. Williams of 365 Sherman, Denver Colo., on Feb. 9, 1920, reads: “Dear Lottie & babies. Sunday, p.m., just passed Raton New Mexico. Am having fine weather. Haven’t seen snow. Papa seems to be getting along fine. Slept well last night. Hope all is well with you each and all. Love, Mother.”

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