Kansas City, MO

Kansas City's 1901 McGee Street building used to be a downtown automotive service building for decades

CJ Coombs

1901 McGee Street Automotive Service Building.BrandonMcCall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

If you live in Kansas City, Missouri, did you know that 1901 McGee Street has been home to several businesses? Take a look below:

  • The Dey Motor Company
  • Erwin Davis Motors
  • Century Motor Company
  • McGee Radio
  • DERMAdoctor, Inc.
  • Today: Menlo, Inc., K12itc

In 1912, the 1901 McGee Street Automotive Service Building was built. In 2009, this building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I remember when the building was DERMAdoctor.

The building

The architect of the building is listed as C.C. Smith on the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. It is a two-story commercial building that was originally built for automobile sales and service.

Naturally, as automobile sales increased, buildings were being constructed to showcase vehicles that offered both sales and service. As people walked by these buildings like the one at 1901 McGee Street, they would get an inviting view of new vehicles through very large windows.

The design of the building falls under the commercial style which was popular in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The foundation is concrete and the walls were brick and stucco with an asphalt roof. The building now housing Menlo, Inc. is located less than a mile from the Crown Center business and entertainment area and Union Station.

The building otherwise retains architectural integrity and clearly communicates its historic associations with the early automobile industry. (Source.)

This building is used for commercial and is on a corner lot in the Crossroads District. It's near other early 20th century commercial buildings as well as some industrial warehouses. It's also near the old Western Auto Building which is also on the National Register of Historical Places. Some of the buildings in the area were associated with automobile sales or services. There's also a paved parking lot located to the east of the building that is historically connected with it.

As the automobile industry began to boom, business developers like those who developed the building at 1901 McGee embraced the opportunity to create businesses that would cater to new automobile owners.

Longest tenant

The auto boom came to an abrupt halt in December 1941 when the U.S. entered World War II. Almost immediately private industrial plants converted to government defense functions, and the production and sale of automobiles ceased. With their stock frozen, many dealers sought a way out of the auto business. (Source.)

At the end of 1941, a local Ford dealer named Berl Berry purchased Ford vehicles available in the Kansas City area and stored them in 15 warehouses. He also purchased Dean Redfield's dealership, Esquire Motors, which increased his vehicles to 700. In three years, Berry liquidated his entire backlog of vehicles. Many were purchased by government agencies, local police and public works departments, and individuals with ration permits.

Berry renovated the building and it was converted from housing two tenants to one. After World War II in 1946, he continued with improvements to attract consumers. Berl Berry’s company, the Century Motor Company, had the longest tenancy at 1901 McGee Street until early 1952.

The last automotive tenant was Erwin Davis Motors through 1953. In 1954, the building was sold to Asa Kaler who then opened McGee Radio. Kaler was a wholesale supplier of radios and radio parts until the 1980s.

In 1968, due to rioting as a result of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., metal panels were installed over the window openings on the first and second stories.

Current tenants are Menlo, Inc. and K12itc, both technology-based. K12itc is a brand of Menlo.

Another historical building has not been torn down.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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