Christopher Elbow Chocolates

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One of the best chocolatiers in the country is based in Kansas City.  Christopher Elbow’s store, located at 1819 McGee in the Crossroads District, offers an eclectic assortment of chocolate products.  From bars, bite size pieces, drinking cocoa, and ice cream (Elbow’s recently opened up two ice cream stores, Glacé), this place is a chocolate lover’s dream.  There is also a viewing area where you can watch the chocolate creation process.  The bite size pieces are the star of the store, however, and some of the more unique flavors include single malt scotch, cinnamon black tea, and bananas curry.  There are also more traditional chocolates available.

Elbow, who’s from Liberty, got his start at Lincoln Country Club after attending the University of Nebraska.  He moved on to Las Vegas before coming back to Kansas City  and settling at The American Restaurant where his chocolates became well known.  He eventually opened his own store on Southwest Boulevard before he moved into his current location in 2007.  He’s seen double digit growth every year and his chocolates were ranked #1 in the country by Food and Wine Magazine in 2009.

Travel Note

The Kansas City Lens is alive and well.  I’m in the process of moving and I’ll be  heading to Europe for two weeks soon so my posting schedule will be a little erratic.  I’ll try to add a few more posts before my trip and I’ll be back to posting multiple times a week in late October.

Fire Station No. 9

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Architect William E. Harris designed Fire Station No. 9 to blend into the Grandview neighborhood of Kansas City, KS.  Built with a mix of Prairie School and Collegiate Gothic styles, the station is similar in appearance to homes around the turn of the century.

Erected in 1910 at 2 S. 14th Street, the station operated until 1967.  The building has been renovated twice (mid 1970’s and early 2000’s).  The original restoration converted the building into a community center but it was vacated again in the late 1980’s.  The most recent work was done with its historical past in mind and much of the building has been restored to it’s past form.  It’s currently used for office space and a community meeting center.

St John’s Catholic Club

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St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Kansas City, KS is located atop Strawberry Hill, a traditionally Croatian section in KCK.  From the high ground of the Church there is a clear view of Downtown Kansas City (see the picture at the top of this blog).  The first cornerstone of the church was blessed on May 15, 1904 and each priest who has served the parish has spoken Croatian.

Located behind the church, at 414 Barnett Ave, is the St John’s Catholic Club.  Built in 1925, the club aimed to keep Croatian men off the streets and out of trouble.  Inside the club there is a bar, pool table, and a 6 lane bowling alley.  There are still active leagues and the building can be rented out for functions.

    

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Granada Theatre

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The Granada Theatre opened on May 22, 1929 at 1013 Minnesota Ave and seated 1,217 patrons.  Designed by the Boller Brothers Architectural Firm, who specialized in theatre design, the Granada was built to remind customers of a starry outdoor night.  The ceiling was painted blue and light bulbs were installed to resemble twinkling stars.  There were also artificial cloud machines and fake birds running on wires above the seats to add to the experience  The theme was Spanish colonial and the construction cost was $150,000.

After 39 years of operation the Granada closed in 1968 and was vacant until Screenland Theatres renovated and reopened in 2004.  The Screenland Granada closed in 2008 but in November 2010 the space was converted into a live music venue.

      

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Fervere

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Fervere is located on the West side of Downtown at 1702 Summit and it’s a bread lover’s paradise.  Fred Spompinato opened the bakery in May of 2000 and the shop uses premium ingredients and a lengthy fermentation process to ensure a superior product.  Fervere is only open 3 days a week, (Thursday, Friday, & Saturday) until 7 p.m. on the weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturday.   The bread sells out quickly though so they often close early.  Patrons who’ve tried any of their 11 different bread offerings can understand the demand.

Newcomers to Fervere have to try the Orchard Bread and the Cheese Slipper.  The Orchard has pieces of apricots, apples, and raisins baked into the dough.  The Cheese Slipper is ciabatta with garlic cheese curds on top and smokey cheddar pieces mixed in the dough.  Both are sensational.

The surrounding neighborhood boasts some of the best food destinations in Kansas City.  Blue Bird Bistro, Chez Elle, The Westside Local, Lill’s on 17th, and FUD are all within walking distance of 17th and Summit.

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John Brown Statue at Western University

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The John Brown statue at Western University, located at 2899 Sewell Avenue, was dedicated on June 8, 1911.  Rev. Abraham Grant of the African Methodist Episcopal Church lead the fundraising effort to build the monument, which cost $2,000.

Brown was an anti-slavery crusader who played a prominent role in the Bleeding Kansas conflict of the 1850’s.  He was executed in 1859 after his failed raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia.  This statue was the first memorial dedicated to John Brown in the US.

    

Western University once stood behind the statue.  Originally named Quindaro Freedman’s School, it opened in 1865 and taught the children of escaped slaves and black families in the area.  It was the first all-black school West of the Mississippi.  After a brief closing, the school reopened as Western University under the leadership of Rev. Adams and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Western offered a variety of majors and their music program was considered one of the best schools for black students in the Midwest during the early 1900’s.  Funding and students sharply decreased during the Great Depression, however, and the school closed in 1943.  A few cornerstones and the John Brown Statue are all that remain.

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Paseo YMCA

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Julius Rosenwald, one of the early owners of Sears, offered a $25,000 donation to cities interested in building a YMCA.  The Kansas City YMCA program needed a larger building and accepted Rosenwald’s gift.  The local government and the African American community raised an additional $75,000 for construction costs.  The Paseo YMCA opened in 1914, just South of the 18th and Vine Jazz District, at 1824 Paseo.

On February 13, 1920, eight men, including Rube Foster and J. L. Wilkinson, met at the Paseo YMCA and created the Negro National League.  The Kansas City Monarchs were among the founding members.  The baseball league lasted until 1931 and the Monarchs won 4 league titles, second only to the 5 titles of the Chicago American Giants.

After the demise of the NNL, the Monarchs survived in various leagues until 1965.  During their run, baseball greats Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neil, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Willard Brown, and Elston Howard played for the team.

 

The YMCA closed in the 1970’s and was boarded up until a push by the Negro Leagues Museum in 2006 to renovate the building into the John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center.  The museum is attempting to raise $15 million for the project.  Some of the work, including new windows and the Monarchs mural, have already been completed.

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Scottish Rite of Freemasonry

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The Kansas City Scottish Rite of Freemasonry building, located at 1330 E Linwood Road, was completed in 1929.  According to the Kansas City Scottish Rite’s website, however, the economic climate of the 1930’s led to financial problems for the group and they lost the building in 1939.  They regained it in 1971 and have been at The Paseo and Linwood location ever since.

The building is guarded by two sphinxes.  The statues, weighing 20,000 pounds apiece, were created by sculptor Jorgen Dreyer in 1928.  Dreyer was an immigrant who carved numerous works around the city and was a teacher at the Fine Arts Institute.  The back of the sphinx heads are adorned with Masonic symbols.

 

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