Michael Bushnell

Hardly the downtown of today, this black and white lithographed postcard shows a view looking east-northeast from the Coates House Hotel at 11th Street and Broadway Boulevard. Published by the Southwest News Company of Kansas City and printed in Leipzig-Berlin, Germany, the undivided back postcard shows what the downtown area looked like between 1905 and 1906.

The shadow of the hotel and its water tower can be seen in the immediate foreground. The large building with the square, pointed tower in the left-center portion of the photograph is the old Board of Trade Building at Eighth and Wyandotte. Built between 1886 and 1888, the impressive seven story building was designed by the noted Chicago architectural firm of Burnham and Root. The Board of Trade Building was the center of Kansas City’s grain market from the time it was finished until 1925 when trading activities moved farther south in the city. It was considered to be one of Root’s finest designs.

The Hotel Savoy can be seen in the center of the picture, and the famous roofline of the New York Life Building, built in 1887 at Ninth and Baltimore, is in the right-center of the photograph. A huge, bronze eagle weighing close to 4,000 lbs. and boasting a wingspan of nearly 12 feet stands watch over the front courtyard of the building, which was long heralded as Kansas City’s first skyscraper.

Farther to the east along the top, left of the skyline, the gilded dome of the old Federal Building and Post Office can be seen at Eighth and Grand Avenue. The building served as a main Post Office and Federal Courthouse for many years until the building of the “new” Federal Courthouse occurred in the 1930s.

At the time this picture was taken (1905-06) single family residences still dotted downtown streets and can be seen just beyond the shadow of the Coates House, close to modern day 10th and Wyandotte. It was still common to see a private home next to a three- or four-story building in the downtown area, as there were few zoning laws present to monitor what sort of development occurred on a given block.

It would not be long, however, until the fabric of downtown would change drastically with the onset of construction of numerous new skyscrapers, including the National Bank of Commerce, the R.A. Long Building and the Scarritt Building and Arcade.

This card has an undivided back, which means it was published prior to 1907. After 1907, divided back postcards were approved by an act of Congress, allowing personal messages and an address to be written on the back of the postcard. This card was never mailed.