History

Thursday, May 1, 2014

No, the Baltimore Hotel was not on this site

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 12:24 PM

HOTEL_B_PLAQUE_CROP.jpg

Somehow, the bronze historical marker created in 1978 to honor the founding of the Future Farmers of America in Kansas City has mysteriously moved a couple of blocks north of where it used to be.

The plaque, stating that "on this site in the old Hotel Baltimore the Future Farmers of America was founded November 8, 1928, " was positioned, for several decades, in front of  the City Center Square building between 11th and 12th streets on Baltimore. That was the original site where the Hotel Baltimore, one of Kansas City's most glamorous lodging spots (it was designed by Louis Curtiss), stood until it was razed in 1939.

The FFA plaque is now mounted on the exterior wall of the Kansas City Public Library Parking Garage at 920 Baltimore.

So how did it get there?

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jasper's Restaurant: After 60 years, Mother knows best

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Josephine Mirabile surrounded by her four sons, from left, Salvatore, Jasper Jr., James, and Leonard.
  • Josephine Mirabile surrounded by her four sons, from left, Salvatore, Jasper Jr., James, and Leonard.

Several beloved Kansas City restaurants are celebrating anniversaries this year: The American turns 40 and the family-owned Northland restaurant, Cascone's, turns 60. Another family-owned operation - Jasper's Restaurant - celebrated its 60th anniversary this month and continues to offer a special menu of six dishes (through April 30), some dating back to the original restaurant that the late restaurateur Jasper Mirabile Sr. opened in 1954 at 405 West 75th Street.

A fixture of Kansas City's restaurant community since the days when 75th Street was considered the very southern end of the city (the streetcars turned around at 75th Street and Wornall), Jasper's has had at least three distinct incarnations over six decades: the original modest Italian restaurant that served Southern Italian cuisine, fried chicken and grilled steaks (and a hot roast-beef sandwich and mashed potatoes for 60 cents) in the former Rose's Bar; the upscale, glamorous restaurant with tableside service and waiters in tuxedos from 1966 to 1997; and the current more casual trattoria at 1201 West 103rd Street.

The restaurant's namesake, a scrappy and ambitious young graduate of De LaSalle Academy and a college football player at St. Mary's College in California, had married his girlfriend, Josephine Cropisi, a 23-year-old grocer's daughter from Kansas City's Northeast, the year before he purchased the tiny restaurant; the first of their four sons, Leonard, was born several months after he started running the business.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ralph Gaines: Remembering a legendary restaurateur

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 12:14 PM

In the early 1950s, Ralph Gaines opened, on the sly, the first Colony Steakhouse in the building then known as the Ambassador Hotel at 35th and Broadway. Marilyn Maye was discovered singing here.
  • In the early 1950s, Ralph Gaines opened, on the sly, the first Colony Steakhouse in the building then known as the Ambassador Hotel at 35th and Broadway. Marilyn Maye was discovered singing here.


The history of Kansas City restaurants contains many great stories, but one of the best is about Ralph Gaines. The charismatic restaurateur started several iconic eateries in his lifetime (1918-79), including the Colony Steakhouse, which he opened while working as the well-paid manager of a competing steakhouse. When his boss found out, he was fired. The resulting personnel change would have national repercussions.

I recently reconnected with an old friend, Karen Gaines, who worked in her father's restaurants for years after his death and later opened a catering company, finally retiring from the business in 1990 after her son was born.

"I just couldn't do it anymore," says Gaines, now a business instructor at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College. "It takes a special kind of person to be in the restaurant business. You have to put up with a lot."
Ralph Gaines was that kind of person: "He was this larger-than-life character," his daughter says.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ann Brownfield unzips history of Kansas City garment district on Sunday

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM

The Donnelly Garment Company was a potent force in American fashion for decades.

The New York City Garment District, that legendary swath of Seventh Avenue featured in plays (I Can Get It for You Wholesale) and movies (The Garment Jungle, Klute) was once the center of clothing design and manufacturing in America. But Kansas City had its own bustling garment district for decades, located in the commercial buildings between SIxth and 11th streets and Wyandotte and Washington.

Although the companies are long forgotten - Mayfair Playwear, Gay Gibson Junior Dresses, Mary-Lane Coats and Suits - the manufacturers made a huge impact on the local economy: As late as the 1960s, local garment manufacturers employed 5,000 workers. In the decade before that, 150 local garment companies employed 8,000 workers. By 1982, the industry - and all those jobs - had simply evaporated.

Ann Brownfield, who worked in Kansas City's garment industry as a fashion designer, has a unique perspective on Kansas City's rise and fall as a clothing manufacturing center. She'll share her story and the history of the local garment trade on Sunday, September 15, at 2 p.m. at the Kansas City Central Library, 14 West 10th Street.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Orion Building, part of Kansas City's historic Film Row, is razed

A building in KC's historic Film Row is razed for parking.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 1:56 PM

The Orion building is no more.
  • The Orion building is no more.

The Orion Building at 118 West 17th Street, in the Crossroads, is now a pile of rubble. The building was part of the city's historic Film Row District, a group of buildings in which movie studios used to store films and distribute them to area theaters.

Shirley Helzberg owns the Orion Building and razed it in order to build a three-story parking garage. Helzberg has said the parking spaces are necessary for the neighborhood, including Webster House, the restaurant she owns directly across the street from the Orion. See a few more photos of the destruction after the jump.

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  • A building in KC's historic Film Row is razed for parking.

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