Kansas City, MO

The Midland: KC's historic theatre & office building

CJ Coombs

The Loew's Midland Theater and Midland Office Building at 1228 Main Street and 1221 Baltimore Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, are part of an L-shaped complex. There are two main sections. The first is a six-story theatre building, and the second is a twelve-story office building. On September 28, 1977, these buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The architectural styles include Second Renaissance Revival and Second Empire with Commercial style elements. There are three major thoroughfares on the east, south, and west sides of the buildings: Main Street, West 13th Street, and Baltimore Avenue.

The foundations are made of reinforced concrete and the exterior walls are made of steel skeletal frames and brick masonry.

The theatre and office building reflect the luxuriousness of theatre design during the 1920s. Many of the country's theatres were built by Marcus Loew and Lowes Incorporated. The Loew's Midland was constructed in 1926-1927 for silent films and stage entertainment. The Loew's Midland had a seating capacity of 4,000 seats. When this theatre opened, it was the third largest one in the country.

The Loew's Midland was designed by theatre architect, Thomas W. Lamb, from New York City. This theatre had the first cooling, heating, and ventilation system.

At the time, the interior of the theatre represented the most expensive application of ornamental plasterwork compared to other theatres in the country.

Marcus Loew (1870-1927)

Loew had developed and financed Loews Incorporated of New York City. He came up with the idea of the vaudeville motion picture theatre. Early on, Loew invested in penny arcades which was popular at the turn of the century. Due to his success, he opened arcades in Cincinnati and New York including motion pictures in each venue.

Loew opened 40 motion picture theaters in and around New York City. The idea was to have vaudeville presentations on stage with motion pictures, all at a low price. In order to protect his own theatre interests, he was forced to produce movies.

During the late 1920s, Loew acquired and developed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corporation. In 1924, Herbert M. Woolf, president of Woolf Brothers Incorporated, a local clothier that's now defunct, came up with a notion of a marvelous theatre in Kansas City. It would be patterned off of two other theatres in Chicago and New York City.

As a movie mogul, Woolf had a key role in the creation of Loews Midland Theater. He would later be heading up a chain of 70 theatres. When he met producer Samuel Goldwyn, it was Goldwyn who introduced Woolf to Marcus Loew. Loew liked Woolf's idea of building an elaborate theatre and office building complex in Kansas City.

The Midland Investment Company was established to manage the property. Nicholas M. Schenck served as the company's president and Woolf was the vice president. Construction commenced on the complex in 1926 and was completed in a year, and six weeks after Marcus Loew died. The cost was about $4.5 million.

The theatre's opening night was October 28, 1927. All of the 4,000 seats were filled. Imagine opening night and watching the concert orchestra rise with the elevating platform. The highlight of the night was the showing of MGM's A Road to Romance starring Ramon Navarro along with Aileen Pringle and Buddy Rogers. They also appeared in person for the audience.

The theatre ran films by MGM, Paramount, and United Artists. There were also stage presentations, Loew's Midland News, and entertainment by the Midland Concert Orchestra.

The Midland was also part of a premier chain of theatres that included others in New York City, Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, and the Loew's Palace in Washington D.C.

With the development of cinematic sound, Loew's Midland was rewired for sound. Before it closed on January 31, 1961, it ran major films and had some top attractions. In February 1961, the theatre was remodeled and reopened in October of that year for the Kansas City Stars which was the city's National Bowling League.

The Midland Office Building was remodeled in 1962. In December 1961, due to financial issues, the Kansas City Stars gave up their franchise. Durwood Theaters Inc. subleased the Midland Theatre from Recreation Enterprises, a company that also folded. This forced the president of Durwood Theatres, Stanley H. Durwood, to close the theatre.

While under a lease contract, Durwood renamed the theater The Saxon and opened up a smaller theatre in the cocktail lounge of the bowling alley. That was called the Little Saxon. It was only open for a little over a year.

In April 1965, Durwood Theatres had possession of portions of the property. The remainder of the theatre space and stage was leased from Loews Inc. The theatre was renovated and reopened on April 7, 1965, as the Midland Theatre. The Little Saxon then became the Studio and a third smaller theatre was added. The two smaller theatres were known as the Midland II and Midland III.

The Midland Theatre is located in the Power & Light District of Kansas City. From the 1950s until 1971 when it relocated, the National Collegiate Athletic Association had its headquarters in the building.

The theatre has had several names since it was originally known as Loew's Midland Theatre:

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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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