Hess Carriage Company Building (Star Loft Building)

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The building at 1700 Oak Street that is now called the Star Lofts was originally home to the Hesse Carriage Company, a transportation manufacturer that survived more than a century by the art of adaptation. It occupied this building from 1903 until 1946, but the Hesse Carriage Company had gotten its start in 1857 and would remain independently owned until 1996. In the early days, William C. Hesse got his start making wagons in Leavenworth, Kan., for the prospectors heading west for the gold rush. The Hesses had already made a presence in Kansas City by the time son Otto inherited the business, and started focusing on automobiles. From this building, the company experimented with weatherproof body design, and had great success adapting their wagons into delivery vehicles. Hesse Carriage Company produced the city’s first Coca-Cola delivery trucks here. Hesse helped on the home front during World War II, producing fire trucks for the military. But by the time they moved facilities in 1946, Hesse had redirected their attention to their specialty: cold storage vehicles for the soft drink industry.