Kansas City Museum
Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall is Kansas City's oldest and largest museum of local and regional history. The museum is located in one of Kansas City’s first great residences, Corinthian Hall, which was completed around 1910 for the home of Kansas City lumber baron and philanthropist Robert A. Long. Long's children sold the home to the Kansas City Museum Association in 1939 and the museum opened the following year with exhibits that share the early development and growth of Kansas City and the region. With more than 100,000 items in its collection, which includes everything from Corinthian Hall’s original furnishings to the Dyer Native American collection of cultural and historical objects. In 1980, the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
Robert A. Long was born in 1850 to a well-educated and connected Kentucky family. Following a move to Kansas City and a marriage, Long incorporated the highly successful Long-Bell Lumber Company. At the time, Kansas City held the proud role of being a major lumber center, and its position along the Missouri River and then as a railroad terminus enabled lumber transport nationwide. By 1892, Long owned around fifty lumberyards, and in the early 1900s, his company was shipping around 4,000 railcars of lumber annually. Long and his wife were both equestrian enthusiasts and regularly challenged other wealthy American families with similar interests such as the Vanderbilts and the DuPonts. In the early 1920s, and together with J.C. Nichols, Long led the effort to create the Liberty Memorial which is now home to the National World War I Museum.
Long contacted famed local architect Henry Hoit of Hoit, Price, and Barnes to build this home which began the first million-dollar mansion in the city. The house was soon referred to as “Corinthian Hall" in reference to the prominent Corinthian columns around the facade. Other buildings on the three-acre property included the Carriage House, the Conservatory, the Gatehouse, and the carpenter's shed.The Long’s lived in the mansion, from its construction in 1910 to 1934.
Creation of the Museum
Robert A. Long died in 1934, and the family sold the house to the Kansas City Museum Association in 1939. With the goal of converting the home into the museum, the Association came across several significant issues. In fact, although the mansion featured 72 rooms, the Association determined that renovation was required to expand the size of the rooms to accommodate a standard museum exhibition.
These renovations hampered the building’s stance as a historic house, but during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely regarded as one of the premier natural science museums. For a while, in fact, the museum often featured presentations and classes on taxidermy to complement its vast diorama of stuffed animals.
Nowadays, the Kansas City Museum carries more than 100,000 objects and covers a vast variety of historical subjects. In fact, its collection and exhibits focus entirely on local and regional attributes, ranging from historic automobiles to natural sciences. Some of its most popular items include the 1903 Model A Cadillac (the 99th car produced by Cadillac), Miss Shizuoka the Japanese Friendship Doll (one of 58 dolls sent from Japan to the United States in 1927 as part of a doll exchange), and the Pueblo to Pueblo collection that holds more than 2,000 Native American artifacts.
"Museum History." Kansas City Museum. Accessed June 28, 2015. http://kcmo.gov/kansascitymuseum/overview/organizational-history.