Kansas City, MO

The Western Auto Building and its iconic sign in downtown Kansas City, Missouri used to belong to Coca-Cola

CJ Coombs

Western Auto building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.Caleb Zahnd from USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This building is over 100 years old and is filled with history. I used to drive by the Western Auto Building every day when I had a 9 to 5. I was always impressed with the size of the sign on top of the building. I wasn't born in Kansas City so I never knew it used to belong to another company.

Coca-Cola Building

Initially, the Western Auto Building was the Coca-Cola Building (or the Candler Building named later after owners, Asa G. Candler and Charles H. Candler). This building constructed in 1914 with 12 stories is located at 2107 Grand Boulevard close to the Crown Center area and is considered to be in what's referred to as the Crossroads District. It ultimately became the Western Auto Supply Company headquarters, a company founded by George Pepperdine in Kansas City in 1909. Pepperdine was only in his early 20s. As his business thrived, he went on to California and founded Pepperdine University.

As the story goes, in 1892, Asa Candler purchased the recipe for the soda, founded the company and distribution quickly expanded. Of course, Candler went on to become a tycoon.

The Candlers had their headquarters in another building in Atlanta, Georgia, but they established other buildings in the Midwest and South. They thought Kansas City was a good central location for commerce.

In 1919, the building was sold to an Atlanta Banker, Ernest Woodruff. The Administrative offices for Coca-Cola, however, stayed in the building until they relocated to another location in Kansas City. In 1922, when the building was sold again, it eventually went into foreclosure, so the Candlers bought it back. The building was renamed the Candler Building and continued under Candler ownership until it was gifted to Emory University in 1947.

Arthur Tufts

Arthur Tufts was the chief of construction for Coca-Cola. He was responsible for designing their buildings. The land purchased in 1913 at 21st and Grand Boulevard in Kansas City was shaped like a triangle and Tufts designed the building accordingly. That shape would transfer into the shape of the building which made it unique. The design was known as commercial-style.

Western Auto Supply Co.

Jerome Riker, a New York investor, purchased the building from Emory University in 1950 and sold it to Western Auto Supply Co.

The Western Auto Supply Co. began its business in 1909 with an emphasis on automobile parts. As the business expanded, it moved to the Coca-Cola Building on the 11th floor. With business doing well, Western Auto took over the building by purchasing it in 1951.

Western Auto's very large circular sign which still remains can be seen from a distance with its bright yellow and red lighting. It has definitely become a landmark in the city even though Western Auto was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 1998. "It’s a staple in the Kansas City, Missouri, skyline." (Source.) The building was put up for sale in 1999.

It's now known as the Western Auto Lofts with its reimagined space from office quarters to living quarters. The building is also in a convenient location to the shops at Crown Center, restaurants, Union Station, and hotels.

In 1988, this building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. There's a lot of history in the building. Click here to see information associated with Western Auto company records including a summary of company history and category listing of records by the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author; 30 years of legal secretarial experience; BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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