Kansas City, MO

Before the Central Library of Kansas City found a home, other buildings were outgrown including the one built in 1897

CJ Coombs

Kansas City Public Library, central branch downtown.Nightryder84, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The main library that’s part of the Kansas City Public Library is known as the Central Library located downtown in the Library District. If you’ve never been there, you won’t be disappointed in making the trip. While the interior is massive, impressive, and historic, a favorite room is the Missouri Valley Room where you can research historical materials.

The current location of the Central Library is 14 West 10th Street (the corner of West 10th Street and Baltimore Avenue). The library is also close to two other historic buildings: Kansas City Club and the New York Life Building. The administration of Kansas City’s library system is housed at this main library.

A former library location at 500 East Ninth Street, Kansas City, Missouri was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 23, 1977.

Brief history

In the early years, you had to be a subscriber to have access to the library. Eventually, students who were in public schools were provided with free access. By 1898, anyone who lived or worked in the school district had free access.

The library was established in 1873 known as the Public School Library of Kansas City.

Although hopes were high, the Library endured a humble beginning. Its first collection consisted of a set of American Encyclopedia placed within a single oak bookcase (both of which are still retained in the Library’s holdings). (Source.)

In 1889, the library had its first building in the city for library use. Naturally, the library outgrew this building so a new building was being constructed at 9th and Locust Streets. This library opened in 1897. Many people visited after its opening.

When the library was at 500 E. 9th St. (construction completed in 1897).SqueezeBox (2015).
Texas granite, 36 inches thick, formed the ground story, and the Second Renaissance Revival style structure boasted nine chimney stacks, Ionic and Doric columns throughout, and an impressive marble fireplace in the rotunda on the main floor. (Source.)

The architects were William F- Hackney and Charles A. Smith, along with Adriance Van Brunt who was in the role of a consultant. These men already had established their reputations. They viewed libraries around the country to look at different interiors and exterior architectural designs. In 1895, they presented their ideas for consideration to the Board of Education. The Board settled for the Renaissance style.

In 1901, William Rockhill Nelson presented pictures from the Western Gallery of Art to the Library (the board renamed it Nelson Gallery of Art). Of course, we know later that the art gallery eventually became its own venue known as The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

By the mid-1930s, there were branches of libraries in high schools and some elementary schools. The main library served as the administrative headquarters for these branches.

To aid with the war effort, the library helped provide technical materials. Between both wars, the library began to focus on needs based on trends that were changing in the community. For example, to serve those between the ages of 14 and 20, a young people’s department was created. There was also a record collection and a film library. Materials associated with the city would help develop a history department.

In 1950, after the effects of the war and depression, a bookmobile program was initiated for those who couldn’t make it to the library. The facility for the library at 9th and Locust also became too small.

In 1956, a $6 million bond proposal was approved by voters. This was used for the building of a new main library and administrative offices for the school district. A building located at 9th and Locust Streets which housed the library and school board for 63 years was sold to U.S. Trade Schools, Inc.

The library shared the new space with the school district in 1960. In the 1980s, it was finally decided the library needed to separate from the school district.

There were plans in 1999 to relocate to 10th and Baltimore which was the former First National Bank building. Other than some remodeling and fifth-floor addition, this building provided a solution for a very impressive library to meet modern and urban needs. The cost for the project was about $50 million which was raised. In 2004, the very large and attractive Central Library opened.

Movies are shown at the Central Library in the vault of the basement of the old bank building.Kansas City Public Library-Central Library via Facebook site.

Of interest, movies are shown at the Central Library in the basement where the large vault of the former bank building was located. Click here to see more interior photos.

The Missouri Valley Room contains so many collections associated with Kansas City's local history. Here, you can find both original and published items. You can find items that go back in time to the early history of the city. Also, the Ramos Collection includes materials that relate to the culture and history of African-Americans.

The Central Library has the following hours:

  • Mondays through Wednesdays: 9:00 am - 7:00 pm
  • Thursdays through Saturdays: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Sundays: 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Thanks for reading! Make sure you check out the facade of the parking garage if you haven't seen that yet either!

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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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