Van Brunt & Howe, a prominent architectural firm in Kansas City during the late 1800s, designed some of the city’s most impressive – and unfortunately, razed– buildings, like the Emery, Bird, & Thayer department store and tearoom and the Gibraltar building.
Today, if you pass by 818 Wyandotte Street, it’s nothing but a tar-paved parking lot. When the Gibraltar building opened in 1888, the spot looked, oh… a little bit different.
And my, the publicity the Gibraltar building (and Kansas City itself) attracted that year! Though the saying goes: any publicity is good publicity, a murder in the brand-new building definitely turned off some prospective office tenants.
As the Fulton Times reported:
“His Skull Crushed. Murderous Assault… in Kansas City. On Friday afternoon Albert H. Ramsden , a prominent architect of Kansas City, Mo., was found in his office [in the Gibraltar building]suffering from a severe fracture of the side of the head , which was made with a brick which was found lying near. He was conscious when found, and stated that a man had entered the office some two hours before and struck him with a brick… The doctor pronounced death a question of but an hour or two… Ramsden was not known to have any enemies.”
Somewhat incredibly, the Gibraltar building’s rocky start was not its ruin; the building would be home to many businesses over the years. The Argentine Republic seven-column publication ran out of 818 Wyandotte as early as the building’s construction. As of 1911, The United Factories operated from an office in the building, makers of the “Wonder Lamp – a marvelous, new incandescent 100 candle power oil lamp.” In the 1920s, Barbo Manufacturing Co. tenanted the Gibraltar, as well as the Exchange Club matchmaking service, best described as the forerunner for today’s match.com. Look over the ladies in the issue, choose a few, send in a dollar and receive their full name and address. Ah, times have changed.
The Gibraltar building, as well as the Emery, Bird, & Thayer building, were both razed in the 1970s. Next time you pass that 818 Wyandotte parking lot…
Remember the Gibraltar.