Monday, April 19, 2010

Other Jazz Museums That Weren't, 4

A couple more installments this week, recounting Kansas City’s efforts to establish a jazz museum. Parts 1, 2 and 3 began telling the tale, dating to the 1960s, though quotes from news articles, studies and documents accumulated during my years with the Jazz Commission and the Jazz Festival.

While Kansas City interests fought over where a Jazz Hall of Fame/museum should be located, people in other cities were working to build one before we did.


“Jazz legend Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker, a master of the tenor [sic] saxophone who was born in Kansas City, Kan., and raised in Kansas City, was to be inducted today into the National Jazz Hall of Fame in Charlottesville, Va. Pianist Art Tatum will also be inducted.

“The hall of fame was founded in 1982 and includes on its advisory board musicians Benny Goodman and Chick Corea and critic Leonard Feather. Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were the first to be inducted last year.

“[The] president of the organization said the group was trying to raise $1.5 million to construct the first phase of a permanent facility in the Charlottesville area.”

The Kansas City Star, November 16, 1984


“The 18th and Vine District of Kansas City is rich in Jazz History and was the Jazz Area of Kansas City in the 1930’s, 1940’s and the 1950’s. In the fall of 1982 [this is incorrect; it was in October, 1983] the City Council passed a resolution to establish a National Jazz Hall of Fame in this Historic District….

“PGAV was retained by the Kansas City, Missouri Office of Housing and Community Development to develop a space program, study adaptive use buildings and to determine a feasible concept for a Jazz Hall of Fame in the 18th and Vine District….

“One of the major motivations to identify a suitable site and building was the acquisition by the City of a large collection of jazz films and the need to have a facility to store, catalog, edit and show this rare collection.

“The potential adaptive use buildings identified by the City for analysis were:

“a.  17th and Woodland Parks Department Building;
“b.  YMCA Building at 18th and Paseo Boulevard;
“c.  GEM Theater Building on 18th between Vine and Highland;
“d.  Jackson Property adjacent to GEM Theater at 18th and Highland;
“e.  Armory Building at 18th and Highland;
“f.  Roberts Eblon Building at 19th and Vine;
“g.  Workhouse Castle at 20th and Vine; and
“h.  The Public Works Building at 20th and Vine.”

Jazz Hall of Fame Facility Analysis and Concept Plan, September 26, 1984

The study establishes a need for at least 27,000 square feet of space. It then evaluates each location on condition, suitability, visibility, parking, architectural appeal, expansion potential, availability and cost. It includes floor plans for each building.


“4.2.2  GEM Theater plus a new structure

“The GEM Theater with a new structure could be implemented in a variety of schemes. One would be to construct a new facility across the street to house all of the programmed functions except the auditorium. The new structure would give a sense of commitment to the area and the project. The new structure could be built on the northwest corner of 18th and Vine, on the north side of 18th Street across from the GEM or on the northwest corner of 18th and Highland, all vacant properties.

“The utilization of vacant properties removes them from commercial development which may be more productive to the economy of the area.

“The Jazz Facility with parking could take all of the property mentioned above….”

Jazz Hall of Fame Facility Analysis and Concept Plan, September 26, 1984

There it is, option 4.2.2, the form that the jazz museum would take 13 years later.


“The Kansas City Jazz Commission on Friday formally endorsed the concept of an international jazz hall of fame.

“Commissioners also pledged to work with the Black Economic Union to transform the old Gem Theater near 18th and Vine streets into a jazz center where the John Baker Film Collection owned by the city could be housed.

“[The] co-chairman of the commission said the hall of fame action represented the beginning of a new era because it put to rest bickering between opposing factions on where the hall of fame should be.”

The Kansas City Star, April 21, 1985


Now fast forward to March, 1989 and the plan and press conference described in my post, The Jazz Museum That Wasn’t. That announcement would be the next major public push, and the one that would directly lead to the American Jazz Museum we know today. But not smoothly.

Details in the next post, up later this week.

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