There’s a new option for group tours at the Kansas City Museum in Missouri. The museum celebrated its grand re-opening in October 2021, following a $22 million renovation that began in 2017. The four-story museum is housed in Corinthian Hall, a glittering beaux-arts mansion built in 1910 by Gilded Age lumber baron Robert A. Long.
The building itself, especially the exterior and grand welcoming space of the first floor, is a big part of the museum’s draw. Entering the Great Hall, visitors encounter a brilliant white marble staircase and a meticulously restored original chandelier surrounded by ornate architectural detailing. A refurbished billiard room also provides a gathering place for educational and public programs.
The museum’s mission is to share the local and regional history from the Kansas City, Missouri, area and especially untold stories, said Paul Gutiérrez, director of visitor experience and public programming at the museum. The museum experience is usually self-guided, but staff welcome tour groups and are prepared to offer guided tours to groups as large as 25 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The second floor of the building houses galleries and exhibits chronologically, from the 1870s to the 1990s. Third-floor exhibits cover more contemporary decades and feature “Our City, Our Stories,” where visitors encounter photos and summarized stories of 21 Kansas City residents from interesting backgrounds and representing many ethnicities.
“My favorite artifact on the third floor is a 3-foot-tall mirror ball that opens the door to tell the story of the city’s nightlife and fashions,” Gutiérrez said.
Crafted in 1918, the ball was an iconic symbol of Kansas City nightlife, which hung above concertgoers at El Torreon, a ballroom later converted into an ambitious roller rink. It later morphed into the Cowtown Ballroom, a music venue that featured musicians like Frank Zappa, Charlie Daniels and Kenny Loggins before finally closing in 1974.
Also on the third floor is a 42-seat theater, which serves as a venue for films, lectures and cultural presentations. The museum is well known in the community for hosting seasonal events open to the public that include a holiday fairy princess event, a Kentucky Derby party and Day of the Dead celebrations.
Set on 3 acres, the 35,000-square-foot museum has more renovations on the horizon that will host future public programs in the Carriage House and other on-site buildings.
The museum is part of a rich family of Kansas City museums available to tour operators, including the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Science City at Union Station. Motorcoach parking is available on Gladstone Avenue.
The Kansas City Museum is operated as a nonprofit organization through a cooperative agreement with the City of Kansas City and Missouri’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Main image: “Our City, Our Stories” exhibit, Kanas City Museum; credit: David Remley
Article by Mark Shuman