Kansas City, MO

The Jenkins Music Company Building was once the largest retailer and wholesaler

CJ Coombs

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Historic Jenkins Music Building in Kansas City, Missouri.Mwkruse, CC BY-SA 3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The historic Jenkins Music Company Building (a/k/a J.W. Jenkins and Son Music Company) is located at 1217-1223 Walnut Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It's also within the Kansas City Power and Light District.

This building was constructed in 1911 and its Modernistic style of commercial architecture includes a combination of Late Gothic Revival and Art Deco. In 1979, this building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From 1911 to 1912, it was a six-story building. From 1931 to 1932, eight stories were constructed to the south. With the expansion of this building, there were two more stories added to the six-story building that was built in 1912.

The building faces Walnut Street. The west facade contains the more ornate details of the building and the property is controlled by Copaken Brooks.

The historic Jenkins Music Company building is to be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with commercial space on the ground floor and loft style apartments in the balance of the space. The nine story building is the only residential project located in the heart of the Power & Light District, Kansas City’s premier entertainment district. (Source.)

Brief history

It's understandable why the Jenkins Music Company has been thought of as a musical institution in Kansas City. The company was the "largest wholesaler and retailer of musical goods in the country." It was founded by John Wesley Jenkins, Sr. in 1878. In the following decade, his son, John Wesley, Jr. became part of the company and the name changed to J.W. Jenkins and Son Music Company.

In about 1890, Jenkins, Sr. died, so his three sons, J.W. Jenkins, Jr., Frederick B., and Clifford W., formed the J.W. Jenkins' Sons Music Company. Their company became a large manufacturer of mandolins and guitars worldwide. They also published sheet music. They reorganized in 1931 creating another name change to Jenkins Music Company.

According to a 1932 music magazine article, at the time of its restoration the Jenkins Building was a unique institution, with features on every floor. On the first floor was a salesroom for band and orchestra instruments, sheet music and records. The mezzanine had a department displaying rare violins. The second floor included more sheet music and books. (Source.)

After the expansion to the six-story building, changes were made that included an air conditioning system. The fifth floor had a remote control broadcasting studio. There was also an auditorium and recital hall on the eighth floor that could seat nearly 240 people.

The first summer conference sponsored by the music company occurred in 1947. Many who were musically inclined such as teachers, composers, and performers attended. They would talk about all things that were associated with music. This annual event continued for eight years.

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West facade; detail of spandrels between second and third stories.Kansas City Landmarks Commission, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

About 700 people were employed by Jenkins Music Company in the 1950s. The Jenkins family managed locations in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.

By 1971, the Jenkins Company filed for bankruptcy. This was a result of financial problems arising out of competition. The company was acquired by Rich Music Inc. in 1973. Most of the other Jenkins Music Stores in the city closed.

The building is expected to be redeveloped into lofts. "At this time, there is no expected plan for construction start or plan confirmation."

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO
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