Kansas City, MO

Historic Hoover Brothers Building on Oak Street: early 1900s school supply retailer

CJ Coombs
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The historic Hoover Brothers Building is located at 922 Oak Street in Kansas City, Missouri (Jackson County). On November 14, 2019, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This building served as a warehouse and retail store. At the time it was nominated for the National Register, it was vacant. The architectural style of this building is Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements: Commercial. The foundation is stone and the walls are brick. In 1914, the architectural firm was Saylor & Seddon. In 1985, it was Donald Philo.

The three-story Hoover Brothers Building was constructed in 1914 and had the third floor added in 1923. It's located in Kansas City's Central Business District. In 1985, some modern replacement window units were installed on the first floor. There is still the loading dock at the rear of the building.

This building was for the Hoover Brothers school supplies company. It was one place where the school districts could find and order their supplies. This company became a successful school supply company for the Kansas City School District and other local educational institutions.

In 1920, Hoover Brothers expanded into Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. The Hoover Brothers became a "primary distributor of general school, manual art, and industrial supplies while retaining their position as an exclusive agent for Milton Bradley Company." In 1950, Hoover Brothers relocated to a larger building.

Orves Urias and Alvin Boyd Hoover

O.U. and A.B. Hoover were from Paola, Kansas. They became involved with the school supply business in 1895 when O.U. moved to Kansas City to work at a school supplies warehouse called H.O. Palen & Co. It was also the second official branch office for the Milton Bradley Company.

In 1900, A. B. Hoover resigned from his teaching position in Miami County, Kansas so he could join O.U. in the school supplies business. The Milton Bradley Company offered H.O. Palen a manager position for its San Francisco branch location. Palen accepted the offer and sold his school supply business to O.U. and A.B.

With the H.O. Palen & Co. becoming Hoover Brothers, the company remained the sole agent for the Milton Bradley Company for Missouri and the southwest territory (Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas).

Once Hoover Brothers moved into the Oak Street location, the company was already a chief supplier of kindergarten and other school items for Kansas City and the southwest territory. Hoover Brothers didn't focus on just supplying one item. It also supplied the following on top of various items of school supplies:

  • Furniture
  • Art supplies
  • Learning aids
  • Blackboards
  • Janitorial supplies

Hoover Brothers maintained an exclusive relationship with the Kansas City School District for several decades in the 1900s. The district later started taking bids which stands to reason in order to save money.

It used to be that Hoover Brothers carried Milton Bradley supplies exclusively, but by 1920, it was carrying other high-quality school and office-related items at lower prices. In 1927, O.U. Hoover was elected vice president of the National School Supply Association and its president in the following year.

Hoover Brothers also kept a relationship with Milton Bradley until 1995 when it was sold. Milton Bradley supported the kindergarten movement dating back to the 1860s. This company's items helped children experiment with different shapes with primary or secondary colors helping children to learn through creativity.

Instead of having items imported which was more expensive, Bradley began to mass produce and distribute supplies, including items for kindergarteners.

With Kansas City being a centralized location for Hoover Brothers, this saved on shipping costs from either back East or even Chicago. The clients of Hoover Brothers were provided with a positive impression by the personal interaction and prompt service received from Hoover Brothers' employees. By 1995, the company had 30 salespeople.

Orves Urias Hoover died on February 28, 1932, at age 56. Alvin Boyd Hoover died on July 23, 1941, at age 68. After they died, business interests were passed down to O.U.'s wife, Lillian Hoover.

After the Hoover Brothers moved into a four-story building, the building on Oak Street was put up for lease. Before the Hoover Brothers took over the Oak Street building, it used to be a public garage and they modified it for the company's needs.

In 1984, O.U.'s great-grandson, David McGuire, became president of Hoover Brothers which he later sold in 1995 to J.L. Hammet Company, one of the largest school supply companies in the country back then. This brought a close to the growing history of the Hoover Brothers.

Now, the building is on LoopNet for lease. Visit here for images.

Thanks 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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