Kansas City Museum
Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall is Kansas City's oldest and largest museum of local and regional history. It is located in one of Kansas City’s first great residences. Completed around 1909 and 1910, Corinthian Hall was a massive home of Kansas City lumber entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert A. Long along with his family. After his children sold the home to Kansas City Museum Association in 1939, the Museum opened in 1940 and has since featured various artifacts and collections illuminating local Kansas City and regional history. 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. Visitors to the Kansas City Museum can explore the natural history and cultural history of both the city and the region.
Backstory and Context
History and Architecture
R.A. Long was born in 1850 from a well-educated Kentucky family, and by 1877, after 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 Mississippi enabled lumber transport to the westward frontier.
Around 1892, Long owned around 50 lumberyards, and in the early 1900s, his company was shipping around 4,000 railcars of lumber annually. While running the Kansas City lumber scene, Long and his wife were both equestrian enthusiasts, and the Long family was an admired combatant in the show ring as they faced off against the Vanderbilts and the DuPonts.
When creating a spacious and beautiful home suitable for his family, Long contacted famed local architect Henry Hoit of Hoit, Price and Barnes to build his home. Costing an estimated $1 million (which is equivalent to about $26.3 million today), Hoit designed and constructed a Beaux-Arts style home with a 35,000-square-foot interior. It was the first $1 million home throughout Kansas City, and it featured 72-rooms.
The house garnered its nickname, “Corinthian Hall,” due to its six Corinthian columnns around the front. Other buildings on the three-acre property included the Carriage House, the Conservatory, the Gatehouse, and the carpenter's shed.
While the Long’s lived in the mansion, from its construction in 1910 to 1934, the family filled many of its rooms with an ornate assortment of tapestries, paintings, and antique furniture.
In 1980, the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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.