Michael Bushnell

This promotional postcard was published by Kansas City-based postcard publisher James Tetirick, located at 619 W. 33rd. The Royal Family of Downtown Merchants commissioned the picture postcard that showcases “Christmas in Downtown Kansas City, Mo., King of Shopping Centers,” according to the printed legend on the back of the card.

The view is looking west on Petticoat Lane at Walnut in 1962, when downtown shopping was at its zenith, especially during the Christmas season, when merchant’s display windows were all outfitted with a different holiday theme. Merchants along Petticoat Lane dedicated their sidewalk facing display windows to intricately constructed dioramas showing Santa and his elves, reindeer, snowy country scenes and everything in between. Most of the displays were animatronic or had model trains running through them, loaded with brightly wrapped presents and decorations.

To the right in the photo Emery-Bird-Thayer can be seen with its classical arches fronting 11th Street. Across the street, the illuminated sign for Zales Jewelers can be seen just to the right of the famous corner clock. Farther down the block is Harzfeld’s Department Store. At the west end of Petticoat Lane on Main Street, the modern Macy’s illuminated tree can be seen, and next to that to the left, the sign for Peck’s Dry Goods.

The huge crown in the center of the postcard was one of nine such crowns that were custom made for downtown intersections by the Merchants Association of Greater Kansas City. Measuring roughly 13 feet in diameter and seven feet tall, each crown had 621 colored lights, plus the wrapped cables supporting the crowns had 250 colored lights each. The crowns weighed so much that it was necessary to have the support of a building at each of the four corners of an intersection. Frank Mann of The Mannequin Company designed and oversaw the installation of the crowns. Each crown had over 100 60-watt bulbs and required its own electrical transformer.

Kansas City’s crowns were copies of those used by the merchants on Regency Street in London. Each crown cost $28,000 to make and a little over $11,000 to install, bringing the total for each to just under $40,000 each. They were hung downtown between 1962 and 1969, but due to their heavy weight and several of the buildings that once supported the crowns being torn down, they were relegated to storage after the 1969 shopping season.

The crowns remained in storage until 1984 when they were sold to the city of Kansas City, Kan., for display. In the early 1990’s, they were sold to the city of Holton, Kan., and repurposed into playground equipment.

In 2004, the Zona Rosa shopping district at I-29 and Barry Road revived the traditions of the crowns and contracted the original company to design new crowns that now hang over key intersections in Zona Rosa.