Warneke’s TipTop: A Kansas City icon

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

When John Warneke arrived in Jackson County, Mo. in 1866, Kansas City’s population barely topped 15,000 souls, all intent on making a life in the newly-settled boom town on the edge of the frontier.

Warneke learned the baking trade in Germany, where he was born 33 years earlier. He immigrated to the United States as a young man, settled first in New York, then moved to Independence and ultimately Kansas City. He immediately set up a baking business in a one-room shop near what was then known as the Levy, a row of buildings precariously built along the Missouri River’s edge, not far from the confluence of the Kansas River. (We now refer to this as “The Town of Kansas,” near present-day City Market.) Warneke quickly outgrew the cramped confines and moved his shop to 1509 Grand Ave.

Following his death in 1886, Warneke’s sons took over operation of the prosperous baking business. In 1917, they moved the bakery to a newly constructed plant at the southwest corner of 14th and Chestnut. It is shown on this postcard published by the Elite Postcard Company of Kansas City, Mo. Through consolidations, Warnekes’ bakery became Consumers Baking, and subsequently, the General Baking Company. General consolidated all production to its Smith Steam bakery at 600 East 18th St. in 1937, and the Chestnut property was left dormant until the Wilcox Electric Company bought it in 1942. The baking ovens were removed, and the plant was retrofitted to manufacture communications equipment for the emerging airlines.

The building still stands today and is fully utilized by Certified Safety Manufacturing, which produces first-aid and safety products distributed worldwide.

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