Kansas City Power and Light Building
The exterior of the KCP&L Building has changed little since its construction. Image obtained from Power & Light Apartments.
KCP&L Building in the 1930s. Image obtained from Power & Light Apartments.
The building features elaborate ornamentation, including depictions of a sunbeam to reflect the KCP&L's role as a provider of light. Image obtained from Power & Light Apartments.
A series of color-changing LED lights illuminates the building every evening. Image obtained from Power & Light Apartments.
Backstory and Context
The Kansas City Power & Light Company (originally known as the Kawsmouth Electric Light Company) emerged in 1882 when it opened the first electric power plant in Kansas City. The company struggled to compete against multiple rival electric companies in the area in its early years but survived thanks to its work to provide consistent power to the city’s growing system of electric trolley lines. The company began to prosper after building the Northeast Power Station in 1921. Today the KCP&L services over 18,000 square miles in Kansas and Missouri, providing electricity to 800,000 residents. Originally the company’s offices were scattered in various locations around the city. In 1930, KCP&L President Joseph Franklin Porter decided to consolidate all the offices together by building a single company headquarters.
The popular architectural firm of Hoit, Price, and Barnes was commissioned to design a building for the KCP&L. The firm was noted for designing multiple structures in Kansas City during the 1920s and 1930s, including the R. A. Long Residence (now the Kansas City Museum) and the Fidelity Nation Bank & Trust Building. Construction of the KCP&L Building began in 1930 and was completed in 1931 by the Swenson Construction Company. It was built in the new Art Deco style that included Indiana limestone and elaborate ornamentation on the exterior. It also notably featured a six-story lantern tower on the top. A series of color-changing, copper floodlights illuminated the building at night and gave it the appearance of a flickering candle. At 36 stories and 479 feet tall, the KCP&L Building was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River until 1962 when the Space Needle was built in Seattle. It remained the tallest building in Missouri until 1976. KCP&L occupied the first nineteen floors of the building and rented out the remainder to various tenants in the early years. In 1957 the company sold the building but leased thirteen floors for continued use. In 2002, the KCP&L Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The KCP&L Company left the building for good in 1991 and relocated its headquarters elsewhere. In 2014 the building lost its last tenant, leaving it vacant. Soon afterward it was purchased for $10 million by NorthPoint Development Co., which announced a $70 million project to convert the building into a luxury apartment complex. Renovations were designed by NSPJ Architects and completed in 2016. Now known as Power & Light Apartments, the building includes over 200 apartment units and a plethora of amenities for tenants. As part of the refurbishments, the original exterior floodlights were replaced with LED lighting. The old floodlights were refurbished into light fixtures for the building’s Beacon Lounge bar.
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