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Central Library, Kansas City Public Library

Zone 3 of 6: Vault Level

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An iconic feature of the Central Library is the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault. Located on the lower level of the Central Library, with walls of steel and reinforced concrete, it was a bank vault for more than 70 years before being redesigned as a mid-20th century movie theater. The massive vault door has been refurbished and remains permanently open. Another attraction is the Orval Hixon Gallery of portraits. Hixon was based in Kansas City and photographed hundreds of theater and vaudeville performers of the early 20th century. In keeping with the focus on film and media, the Vault Level also houses the Central Library’s audio-visual collection.

Building, Interior design, Fixture, Circle

Entrance to the safe deposit vault, First National Bank. It is now the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault.

Electric fan, Automotive lighting, Automotive tire, Motor vehicle

Safe deposit vault, First National Bank. The interior is now used as 28-seat movie theater.

Building, Rectangle, Gas, Tints and shades

Interior of the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault. Photo: Brian Ingle

Television, Curtain, Chair, Audio equipment

When the historic former First National Bank building was renovated and transformed into the Central Library, the aim was to retain many of the bank’s unique attributes. The vault is one of the most recognizable of these preserved features. Visitors to the lower lever will notice a massive 2-foot-thick, 7-foot-high vault door. Weighing 35 tons, it was so well balanced that it could be moved with just a single finger but now is permanently mounted in place.

Since the Central Library opened in the former bank building in 2004, the vault has been used for public and private film screenings. The Stanley Durwood Foundation donated more than $200,000 for major design and technology upgrades and, in 2007, the space reopened as the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault. Durwood founded the prominent AMC Theater Company and was a pioneer of the multiplex theater concept.

Butler, Robert W. “The Library’s Film Vault is Growing Richer.” The Kansas City Star. January 31, 2010, F11. Kansas City Public Library.

Kansas City Public Library. “Durwood Foundation Funds Film Vault Renovations at the Central Library.” April 23, 2007.

Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections. “KC Public Library Offers a Film Vault to Bank On.”

“Library Gets Photo Donation.” The Kansas City Star, June 23, 2008, B2.

Sherman, Kathy. “Shooting Star: Vaudeville and Hollywood Celebrities Beat a Path to the Door of KC Photographer.” The Kansas City Star, Star Magazine. January 28, 2007, 8.