Event space, antique dealer, wedding venue, historic West Bottoms
Due to a heavy French settlement of fur trappers and traders in the 1820s, the present-day West Bottoms neighborhood was previously known as the French Bottoms. As the railway and stockyards arose among heavy German, Italian and Irish immigration, the French influence slowly evaporated, and 1221 Union Avenue missed this period by several decades.
But she’s seen her fair share of history. The building at 1221 Union Avenue was erected just a year or so before the completion of Union Depot, the renowned second-in-the-whole-world multi-line railway station. The confluence of the depot, the stockyards and the meat-packing plants – not to mention innumerable saloons and brothels – resulted in a hectic neighborhood of cows, sheep, pigs, drunks, travelers, workers and prostitutes. Union Depot was located on Union Avenue, just a brick’s throw from the now-restored and re-functioning Foundation Architectural Reclamation, an event space and antique dealer.
Since its construction in 1875, many businesses have called 1221 Union Avenue home. In the Bottoms, if a business didn’t pertain to meat, stockyard exchange or railroads, then it probably dealt in warehousing or manufacturing. The red-brick building was occupied by English Morse & Co by 1891. Their expertise? Steam, steam boilers (featuring the Heine Safety Boiler model) and rubber belts and hosing necessary to utilize its power. Eight or so years in, Morse abandoned his business for St. Louis, Mo., and the company briefly operated under English Supply Co. At some point in the earliest years of the 1900s, it served as a branch house for machinery provider Great Western Manufacturing Co., with a home base in Leavenworth, Kans. The Kansas site still runs as smoothly as ever – established in 1858, it’s the oldest manufacturer in the state to operate without interruption.
The history becomes slightly garbled here, when the New York-based company Peerless Rubber Manufacturing boasted in a 1907 ad that their signature product, Rainbow Packaging, was for purchase at 1221 Union Ave. in Kansas City, Mo. – “remarkably reliable, unequaled, and inimitable.” A 1910 ad also states that machinery could be found at the same address, such as the “Western” Gyrating Cleaner and the “Western” Pitless Warehouse Sheller. In 1913, the building was listed as Western Rubber & Supply Co — the building’s occupants likely imported the assorted equipment to the branch. This turned common practice for many West Bottoms businesses, such as the John Deere Co., which opened a branch at 13th and Hickory Streets for distribution of the Illinois-made plows.
However, other documentation shows that 1221 Union Ave. was erected as a mattress factory, and yet another source states that as of 1914, it still operated as such. Though historical clarity is slightly lacking, the building is and always has been an evolving mainstay of the West Bottoms.
The building originally boasted five stories. In fact, 1221 Union Ave. and it’s next-door neighbor at 1225 Union Ave. (now occupied by Sit On It: A Chair Gallery) were once “twin buildings” as you can see in the photo below. The Murdock building is at 1225 Union Ave., and to the left is the previously five-storied 1221 Union Ave., now just two stories high.
These days, good ol’ 1221 Union Avenue touts the unmistakable bright orange sign, “FOUNDATION.” Foundation Architectural Reclamation (the building owned and renovated by Kansas City’s West Bottoms developer Adam Jones) took a deserted structure chock-full of dust and debris and transformed it into a gorgeous event space. Sharing the building is an antique shop overflowing with rare and interesting pieces. Patrick Ottesen runs both the event space and the shop, having traveled the world over to acquire his treasures, but traveling is no longer an option for Ottesen. He’s far too busy with events.
Though Foundation Architectural Reclamation opened in 2006, it underwent another renovation in 2009. Working again with Adam Jones, Ottesen’s original downstairs shop moved up to the second floor and the event space to the first. Originally hosting fashion shows, raves, presentations — you name it — Foundation was approached by a couple with wedding intentions within 1221 Union Ave. At this time, the building and its surrounding land was converted to comply with city codes, such as parking and handicap accessibility. Fun fact? Foundation Architectural Reclamation is one of the very few renovated buildings in the West Bottoms to be able to claim itself “street legal” in regards to zoning and city codes.
When Foundation opened, only one other retailer occupied the West Bottoms. Ottesen knew he must attain foot traffic in the at-the-time-yet-to-be-developed area. His method? Art and entertainment. These unique shows quickly drew attention and love to the building. The wedding suggestion, however, added a whole new facet to Foundation, now a popular (and beautiful!) wedding venue. The shows, though – they remain as well. Remember earlier I said Patrick doesn’t travel any longer? He hosted 62 events at Foundation last year — that’s more than one per weekend. He claims to live both at his Plaza home and at 1221 Union Ave. — that’s how hoppin’ this venue has come to be.
The block of buildings connecting and including 1221 Union Ave. — occupied by The Ship (a speakeasy bar), The Pistol (now closed), and the former Union Press print/skate shop — is fondly known simply as “The Union Building.” An evolving space, each occupant interconnects with the others, enmeshed but as separate entities. Businesses have come and gone in this little brick stretch, but Ottesen considers it an ever-evolving area with plenty of room to expand and grow.
And here I must quote Mr. Ottesen, for not only do his words include the aura of the West Bottoms we know today, but also embodies the very essence of the Bottoms’ history — “It’s a cultural mecca of development.” Indeed, it is true. And Foundation Architectural Reclamation is an emblem of the new renaissance.