Fits and starts, excitement over plans, then failed plans, excitement over announcements, then withdrawn announcements. They all litter Kansas City’s path to a jazz museum as recounted in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this series. Then, in March, 1989, the announcement that all competing groups had come together for an International Jazz Hall of Fame and a plan, described in my post The Jazz Museum That Wasn’t, would be built in Kansas City.
Let’s revel in the excitement of the moment.
“The dream goes something like this:
“You drive south on Vine Street from the historic 18th and Vine District, turn right on 21st Street, and pull into the parking lot behind the new International Jazz Hall of Fame.
“You might be dropping your kids off for music lessons in one of the facility’s studios or attending a jazz performance in the building’s 535-seat theater.
“You could be a jazz lover who wants to soak up the historic atmosphere, or you might be a tourist who leaves with a souvenir from the memorabilia shop.
“After you’ve explored what the hall of fame has to offer, you may take a colorfully decorated walkway east across Vine Street, where statues of Count Basie and Charlie Parker rise from a courtyard. Just beyond, in a building that looks like a movie-set castle, is a black history museum….
“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who performed before a sell-out crowd at the Folly Theater on Saturday night and is scheduled to perform again at 2 p.m. today, gave his blessing to the project at a press conference Saturday at the Allis Plaza Hotel.
“‘My heart has always been in Kansas City,’ Gillespie said. ‘I think no other place on the planet deserves to be (the home of) the International Jazz Hall of Fame, and I say that graciously, because I’m from South Carolina. Kansas City has always been the place for the development of our music.’”
—The Kansas City Star, March 12, 1989
“If all goes well with fund raising, the hall of fame will be in the former city water works building and stables that have been vacant for decades at 2018 Vine St. The buildings are across the street from the Black Archives of Mid-America Inc….”
“[Organizers] estimated that renovation of the buildings will cost nearly $5 million, with money coming from contributions and endowments, and will take place in three phases.
“Organizers expect the building to be home to a museum housing the John Baker Film Collection and to numerous jazz academies, including the Parker-Gillespie Institute of Jazz Masters, the Count Basie Academy of Performing Arts, the Count Basie Jazz Band headquarters and the Mahalia Jackson Academy of Gospel Music….
“[Organizers] said the Baker Film Collection, purchased by the city in 1984, would be included in a museum that would house other jazz artifacts….
“Hall of fame plans also call for space for the world renowned Count Basie Orchestra.
“Aaron A. Woodward III, son of Count Basie and chief executive officer for Count Basie Enterprises Inc., recently wrote a letter to [Eddie] Baker, executive director of the Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation in Kansas City, congratulating him on the jazz hall of fame.
“‘With the support of Berkley, Hazley, the Hallmark Company and the Kansas City community, there is no way that jazz cannot and will not flourish in Kansas City, the United States and throughout the world,’ the letter said. ‘The opening of the Basie Academy of Performing Arts will enable young people from all over the world to learn what Kansas City Jazz is all about.
“‘We hope and pray that with the opening of the International Jazz Hall of Fame the Count Basie Orchestra will finally have a home to help keep the legacy alive.’
“The decision to put the hall of fame on Vine Street came after much discussion….
“‘Everybody involved finally came to realize that it would be better to have the project in the 18th and Vine area because it had the historical significance there, [organizers said]….
“The water works building and stables are still owned by the city. Project organizers are working on an agreement with the city under which the buildings could be leased for $1 a year, city officials said.
“‘We’ve dreamed that this would happen for a long time, [Horace Peterson, director of the Black Archives of Mid-America] said. ‘It will help the entire area. When people go to the Black Archives they’ll go across the street to the International Jazz Hall of Fame, and when they go to the hall of fame, they’ll go to the Black Archives.’”
—The Kansas City Times, March 10, 1989
“…Six weeks ago, the hall’s financial plan received…a public-assisted jump start in a big way. That’s when 5th District councilman the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver introduced what he calls his ‘107 Plan,’ known officially as Res. No. 64698. The plan calls for a city-funded $109 million capital improvements appropriation that includes a $20 million allocation for the hall and the surrounding area.”
—The KC View, a now-defunct alternative weekly, November 15, 1989
“Start-up money for the hall is to come out of a $100-million-plus capital improvements program adopted earlier this month by the Kansas City Council. About $20 million from the improvements program will go to revitalizing the 18th and Vine Histroric District, which could include a black archives museum and a Negro League baseball hall of fame. About $8 million of that goes directly to the jazz hall….
“The cost for the jazz hall presented to the City Council was $10.325 million. Financing not provided by the city will be made up by major grants and gifts….
“‘It’s not going to be supported by the citizens of Kansas City,’ [an organizer] said. ‘The percentages of people who love jazz aren’t there….’”
—The Kansas City Star, December 21, 1989
Fits and starts, plans, failed plans, announcements, withdrawn announcements.
Surely you don’t think the pattern was about to change.
Details, in another blog post, when this series continues next month.