Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

Google tweaked something in its Life Magazine Archives search and now I am finding some of the best photos I was ever able to post on this blog. This batch was taken by the Life photographer William Vandivert in 1938. I can’t place most of these, so feel free to comment.

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

There may be a clue to the last two photos – similar ones by the same photographer were published in the book “Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop-A History“, maybe Plastic Sax will be able to help with additional information.

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

Old Photos: Kansas City 1938

© Time Inc. William Vandivert

  • Anonymous

    Love em.

  • Karen

    I grew up shopping at the Kresge’s in the first photo. It was a great store with a wonderful food area. They had cookies and candy sold by the pound, plus roasted chickens, hot dogs, submarine sandwiches and cold cut sandwiches. I furnished my first apartment almost entirely from Kresge’s.
    Was the Westport Room in the Union Station? I’m thinking I went there as a small child, but I could be dreaming.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, the Westport Room was in the station, an offshoot of the Fred Harvey restaurant. As a kid I loved to get something exotic…the flaming sundae (ignite a little brandy atop a regular sundae). A couple of pics above this is one, I think, of the fountain at Ward Parkway and 62nd. The mansion shown may be the recently demolished Bloch residence.

  • Melaniemonty

    Fabulous pics! I am not old enough to remember this era, but do remember shopping at the old Katz stores with my parents as a kid, and having a danish at the snack counter. Thanks for posting these. I love KC and all of it’s history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502001994 Paul Lagle

    Peeking in the window of yesteryear is mezmorizing :)

  • Corwin

    I think the 9th picture with the ball field is Gillham Park, around 39th and Gillham.

    • http://kcmeesha.com kcmeesha

      That’s one of the few places I actually recognized. It still looks very similar, plus a playground, minus the tennis court.

      • nicky

        The tennis court is still there – that view is from west of gillham, up the hill by the former westport high.

  • SKC Observer

    I love this stuff. 1938 is the year my mom was born so I wasn’t around for this era. I often wish I could time travel, see Kansas City before downtown died, before the interstate system cut up the neighborhoods and the city sprawled out so far, when where I live now in Ruskin/Hickman Mills was unincorporated and out in the country!

  • Pingback: Old Photos: More From 1938 Kansas City | Kansas City With The Russian Accent

  • Pingback: Old Photos: Even More of 1938 Kansas City | Kansas City With The Russian Accent

  • Mandybray

    8th photo down:”Chesterfield Club” is between 38th and 39th on the West side of Main st. (Sanderson’s lunch was at the corner of 38th and Main.)The Grand Emporium would be on the left of this photo.

    9th photo: Gilliam Park?

    12th photo: May be on the East side of Main st, about 40th & Main. Harling’s upstairs is to the right (lower tiles are probably cobalt blue.)

    14th photo: is a fountain North of Downtown, off of Independence Av. They used to keep this fountain running in the winter, until the water became a huge ice sculpture.

    17th photo: The building with a dome top is at about 33rd and Main st. The dome top is on the East side of Main St., and it is still there as far as I know. Most of the other buildings in the photo have been torn down, replaced with parking lots, commercial buildings, fast food, etc.

    • Keith

      14th photo: I’m nearly 100% sure is the fountain by my parents house: Meyer Circle on Ward Parkway (Meyer & Ward).  And an earlier commenter said 62nd and Ward which is really close.  That is where the old Bloch estate was, but the fountain closer to that address is a flat pool that freezes over in the winter giving way to hockey.  If you look at google street views of Meyer and Ward, it seems pretty apparent that not only is the fountain the same (look at the two tiers at the top), but the estate is too.

  • Anonymous

    A 1938 city directory would be a big help. You can find one at the main library downtown.

  • http://twitter.com/massagebyted Adam Walker

    That first pic is looking east from 12th & Main. Jones Store on the SE corner, Kresge’s (predecessor to KMart) on the NE corner, Katz Drugstore sign at NE corner of 12th & Walnut visible, Jackson County Courthouse (13th & Oak) visible in background.

  • http://twitter.com/massagebyted Adam Walker

    Pic #4 shows land that literally doesn’t exist anymore. The Portland Hotel was between Delaware & Main, and between 6th St. and Missouri Ave. A good portion of it is now I-35/I-70.

  • http://twitter.com/massagebyted Adam Walker

    The Chesterfield Club was a nightclub/speakeasy at 320 East Ninth, basically next door to the federal courthouse. It was extremely notorious. Among other things, waitresses worked in the nude, unless a change belt counts. Supposedly the Pendergast machine held regular “sex parties” there. Kind of a vague term, but maybe that’s for the best.

  • http://twitter.com/massagebyted Adam Walker

    #5, Katz Drugstore, was at 8th & Grand. Central Business College was upstairs from it.

    #6, Hotel Muehlebach, is now the Marriott Muehlebach. This shot is facing SW from 12th & Baltimore.

    #12, Jackson Democratic HQ, was at 1908 Main. Pendergast hangout, as mentioned in comment on 3rd set of pics. Both buildings shown are still there.

    #13 was taken facing east on 7th Street. The buildings in the foreground are now a parking lot. The Western Union building in the background is still there at 7th & Walnut. Retail space available, as they say.

    On #17, I hate to take issue with Mandybray, but I don’t think the domed house is the same as the one at 33rd and Main. You can look at that one on google street view and see some significant differences that aren’t likely the result of subsequent “improvements.”

  • Anonymous

    The Nifty & Dandy was on the northeast corner of 14th and Highland.

  • Kathleen

    I think the 2nd picture is from Brookside, the area between Main & Brookside, south of 55th Street. At first I thought it was my parent’s block (57th) because two of the houses look like the houses right across from the street from them, but then realized the houses further down the block didn’t match (too many of them).

  • Anonymous

    Guys should go back to wearing hats all the time. At least I think so.

  • Anonymous

    Gillam Park is here: http://g.co/maps/yrzry.  Only the trees have changed.

  • KaylaS007

    After growing up in that area Im almost 100% sure 9 is Gillham Park and 10 is one of the apartments off Armour.

  • Marion

    Blacks could approach the lunch counter at Kresge’s and purchase a coke, but had to drink it outside on sidewalk in a Dixie cup.
    Blacks could buy clothes in downtown stores like Macys and EBT, but couldn’t try them on or return them later, nor could they use the restrooms.

    Oh . . . the good old days.

  • Pingback: Photos of Kansas City Mo, Circa 1936 | Kansas City With The Russian Accent

  • Pingback: Photos from 1938 Kansas City • Kansas City With The Russian Accent

  • Mischka

    They renamed the lounge/bar down at the AMC (now the Alamo Drafthouse) movie theatre on Main to The Chesterfield, and they were having swing dancing there every Saturday with live bands. They’re remodeling this month into Nov.

    Of course, we lindy hoppers were just tickled that they renamed it The Chesterfield, knowing the history of the real club.

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