I’m happy to report that the Kansas City Museum has reopened and is well-worth visiting.
The museum is housed in Corinthian Hall, a spectacular 1910 mansion built by lumber baron Robert A. Long. The first floor of the home has been meticulously restored, and now displays much of the family’s original art and furnishings.
A walk through those well-proportioned rooms is a lesson in the values of wealthy Midwesterners at the turn of the 20th Century. For example, two gorgeous Steinways grace the receiving rooms, but both are player pianos as none of the Long family had taken piano lessons.
In my opinion the museum’s basement holds the best room in the house. The billiard room has been restored and furnished with balls and cue sticks. If billiards is not your game, you’ll find other board games set out around the room. Visitors can stay and play for up to an hour during their tour.
Across the hall from the billiard room is the historic Kirby Drug Store soda fountain, donated by the Kirby family in 1977. Though the soda fountain wasn’t operating during my recent tour, I hope it figures into the museum’s future plans. The room would make a great location for parties.
Happily, the Kansas City Museum is more than just a restored mansion. Take the grand staircase to the second floor (stopping to admire the exquisite stained-glass windows on the landing), and you’ll find a Kansas City history exhibit, beginning with the native tribes that inhabited the area and continuing all the way to the end of the 20th century. Not only do the exhibits include the usual stories of stockyards, gangsters, and jazz, they also discuss the displacement of the Indians, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement.
The third floor holds information about collecting, curating, and preserving the artifacts of Kansas City history. We also found a wonderful exhibit about the El Toreon Ballroom at 31st and Gillham Road. The ballroom existed 1927-1934, after which the building had several other uses. In the 1970s it became the Cowtown Ballroom, known for bringing in big-name acts like Charlie Daniels, Steve Miller, and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. This exhibit included perhaps my favorite item in the museum: A mirror ball from the early days of El Toreon. Turns out, Disco didn’t invent the mirror ball after all.
I would recommend the Kansas City Museum to anyone interested in old mansions or local history. Many of the history exhibits will interest kids from elementary school on up, and the billiard room makes this place a good spot for a date.