Decades prior to being officially renamed by the City Council, a two block section of 11th Street had earned the nickname, “Petticoat Lane.”

As 11th Street heads east from Grand Boulevard to Main Street, it stops at Main before it turns south and continues eastward. For Victorian ladies visiting the many new clothing stores that catered to the latest fashions at that intersection, the wind might just blow a certain way, lifting long skirts slightly upward and revealing a hint of petticoat.

One of those retailers would eventually use the nickname to his benefit. Siegmund Harzfeld (1876-1944) opened his Parisian Cloak Company at 1108-1100 Main in 1891 and continued to expand until a new building was constructed across the street in 1913.  The eleven story building at 1101 Main housed a fine collection of ladies wear, including perfumes and furs, and also carried children’s clothing.

While some of the merchants had a dislike of the Petticoat Lane label and had suggested a counter nickname of Hogan’s Alley for Officer John Hogan who patrolled the area, Petticoat Lane had already been used as a title to a poem published in 1896 by Miss Minnie McIntyre (1873-1957). Music publisher Thomas H. West also penned a song, “With Jane on Petticoat Lane” about a decade later.

Harzfeld accepted the popularity of the nickname, and used Petticoat Lane as the address for the store, even though the actual address was on Main.  By 1937, he had registered Petticoat Lane as a trademark and was offering a line of dresses, shoes, handbags and a perfume with the Petticoat Lane label.

One such special offering was a silk scarf featuring an etching of a street scene on Petticoat Lane. Measuring 32 inches square, the scene depicts the lane as it would have appeared around 1940, looking east from the intersection. With Harzfeld’s on the left and Emery, Bird, Thayer, another popular department store on the right, it captures the height of downtown Kansas City’s days as a shopping destination, with the Bryant Building at 1100 Grand shown as the tallest building on the left.

In 1952, then-City Manager L.P. Cookingham had decorative signs reading “Petticoat Lane” installed below the 11th Street signage. The name change became official in 1966.

Harzfeld’s was one of the few downtown retailers that opened additional stores in the suburban shopping areas, with locations at the Country Club Plaza (1956), Blue Ridge Mall (1958), Corinth Square (1963) and Metcalf South (1967).  All these locations also offered items with Petticoat Lane branding.

By 1981, the Harzfeld family sold their stores to the Allied Stores Corporation but consumer shopping habits had continued to change to more casual fashions. The downtown store closed after the 1983 Christmas shopping season, and the remaining stores all closed, one by one, in 1984. The Harzfeld Building is now part of the Town Center Pavillion and uses the address One Petticoat Lane.