The Kansas City Star Headquarters 1911-2017
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The Kansas City Star is a major newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri. Established in 1880, the paper has been widely influential and achieved national recognition; it is the recipient of eight Pulitzer Prizes. Walt Disney delivered copies as a paper boy; Theodore Roosevelt wrote many columnns for it; Harry Truman and Ernest Hemingway were each briefly employed by it. This building was constructed as the paper’s company headquarters in 1911. It was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by noted Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt. After housing The Star for over a century, the paper sold the building in 2017 and moved into its Press Pavilion facility. Today plans are being made to develop the old headquarters building into office spaces and a data center.
The Kansas City Star has employed a decently sized handful of famous employees including (from left to right) President Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, and Walt Disney.
Co-founder William Rockhill Nelson (pictured above) was a floundering construction magnate and political man before he invested in the Kansas City Star or then Evening Star. After establishing the paper, Nelson became a premier public figure.
This photo was taken of the main door to the Star and is typically used for decoration and formal use today.
Postcard of the Star headquarters around 1912. Image obtained from flickr.
William Rockhill Nelson (1841-1915) was co-founder of the Star and a strong advocate for reform and improvements in Kansas City. Image obtained from Wikipedia.
The historic Kansas City Star headquarters was constructed in 1911 and designed by noted Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt. Image obtained from the Kansas City Star.
Backstory and Context
The Kansas City Star newspaper was established in 1880 by William Rockhill Nelson and Samuel Morss. The pair had previously operated the Fort Wayne Sentinel in Indiana before moving to Missouri. Within a year Morss had left the enterprise and soon afterwards died, leaving Nelson in control of the paper. At its inception The Star faced stiff competition from three established local newspapers, The Times, The Journal, and the Mail. Nelson as a result decided to market his paper at two cents a copy. This undercut his competitors, who all charged five cents, and The Star quickly became more popular; within months subscriptions skyrocketed from three thousand to over fifty thousand. Under Nelson, the paper advocated for reforms and improved infrastructure in Kansas City, such as paved roads and sidewalks, better streetlights and sewage systems, more police and firefighters, and the creation of city parks. Nelson died in 1915, leaving the paper to his wife and daughter. After they had both passed away in 1926, a group of employees banded together to purchase The Star.
The Star had its headquarters at five different locations before Nelson had a permanent building constructed in 1911. Prominent Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt, who had designed Kansas City’s Union Station, was commissioned to design the headquarters. The Italian Renaissance-style structure was built on 18th Street and Grand Boulevard. It consisted of a west building, containing the newsroom, and an east building, containing the printing presses, and also featured a 6,000 square foot skylight.
The Star grew in popularity, influence, and national recognition during the middle decades of the twentieth century. In 1922 it opened a radio station, WDAF, and later a television station (WDAF-TV) in 1949. In 1942 The Star’s last daily paper competitor, the Kansas City Journal, was shuttered, giving it a virtual monopoly in the area. In 1945, due to paper rations brought on by World War II, The Star purchased a paper mill in Wisconsin to have a private, reliable supply of paper. During the 1950s the paper was a strong critic of President Harry Truman, much to his chagrin. In 1953 Truman’s administration pressed antitrust charges against The Star for its ownership of the WDAF radio and television stations, eventually forcing it to sell both.
By the 1970s The Star was facing financial difficulties, brought on by the cost of new printing technology and the need to pay for pollution damages caused by the paper mill in Wisconsin. In 1977 the paper was sold to Capital Cities Communications Inc., and has since traded hands several times. Today it is owned by the McClatchy Company. In 2006 The Star constructed the Press Pavilion, a new high-tech printing and distribution plant to the northeast of its headquarters. The massive, two-block long structure cost $200 million, and was supposed to help revitalize the downtown area. Over the next decade the newspaper industry rapidly declined; The Star was hit hard, and the Press Pavilion became a financial burden. In 2017 The Star sold its historic headquarters building and moved operations into the Press Pavilion as a cost-cutting measure. Currently plans are being developed to renovate the old headquarters building into new office space.
Collison, Kevin. “Kansas City Star Owner Scraps Deal to Sell Massive Press Pavilion Overlooking Downtown – For Now.” CityScene KC. October 17, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018. https://cityscenekc.com/kansas-city-star-owner-scraps-deal-to-sell-massive-press-pavilion-overlooking-downtown-for-now/
Collison, Kevin and Dan Margolies. “KC Star Sells Headquarters, Printing Plant For Combined $42 Million.” KCUR. July 21, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018. http://kcur.org/post/kc-star-sells-headquarters-printing-plant-combined-42-million#stream/0
Collison, Kevin. “Sale of The Kansas City Star Press Pavilion for Fraction of 2006 Cost Reflects Declining Newspaper Industry.” CityScene KC. July 27, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018. https://cityscenekc.com/sale-of-the-kansas-city-star-press-pavilion-for-fraction-of-2006-cost-reflects-declining-newspaper-industry/
“Our History.” The Kansas City Star. Accessed June 12, 2018. http://www.kansascity.com/customer-service/about-us/
“The Kansas City Star.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed June 12, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Kansas-City-Star
Image 1: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article553486/The-Star-is-honored-at-Heart-of-America-awards.html
Image 2: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94765621@N08/8666010048/
Image 3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Rockhill_Nelson#/media/File:William-nelson.jpg
Photo by David Trowbridge, 2022