When Charles Boley, owner of Kansas City’s Boley Clothing Co., hired renowned hometown architect Louis Curtiss to design his new location, Curtiss delivered – in a big way. The result was astonishing, as Curtiss’ semi-Nouveau signature style inspired a building the likes of nothing observed in its time.
Just one other glass structure such as the Boley building had been attempted by 1909 in the United States; tragically, it collapsed in 1903. Curtiss employed a method called a metal-glass curtain wall, leaving six stories of a bright, dazzling legacy in his wake. Thousands of people visited the new Boley’s store at 12th and Walnut streets on opening day just to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring design.
Boley Clothing Co., specializing in menswear, opened in 1904 at 10th and Main. The clothier’s swift success prompted the move to a larger – and much more impressive – locale. In 1908, Charles Boley bought out the land at 1130 Walnut, clearing out a saloon and signing a deal of ownership for 23 years on the plot. The Boley building: “without a peer,” claimed the Kansas City Journal upon its completion, “in the entire United States.”
Abruptly and without much explanation, Boley closed his shop in 1916 (just seven years after its grand re-opening) and headed west. A myriad of businesses occupied the building after Boley Clothing Co. departed, including the Federal Film Company, Oppenstein Jewelry Company and the Bliss Cafeteria. Of course, the most influential occupant after Boley himself would move on over in 1931 – Katz Drug Co. The Katz Company, an incredibly prosperous Kansas City-staple business, had occupied the next-door building for years, and transferred its headquarters to the very vacant, shiny glass-encased corner store. The Katz brothers immediately converted the bright, naturally-lit first floor to a pharmacy – it’s believed that at the time, it was the most expansive pharmacy in the country.
In the 1980s, the Boley building, more familiarly known as the Katz building after decades of the drug company’s operation there, underwent some major renovations within. It’s currently home to the locally-owned Andrew McMeel Universal publishing biz, a 44 year old company, relocated from the Country Club Plaza.
Kansas City is lucky to have this truly distinguishing landmark – it was the most progressive structure in its era. Cheers to Mr. Curtiss!