Willis Wood Theater (Razed 1918)

Posted on

Currently Mark Twain Building 



Photo courtesy of the Historic Kansas City Foundation
Photo courtesy of the Historic Kansas City Foundation


Willis Wood Theater opened on August 25, 1902 with a performance by Amelia Bingham and her New York-based company.  Willis Wood sought to bring the most opulent and ornate theater to Kansas City after the Coates Opera House burned.  He spared no expense in the theater’s construction at the northwest corner of 11th and Baltimore Streets. The exterior was said to resemble that of a colorful wedding cake made from yellows, reds and greens.

After 15 years of success, a small fire started in a 5th-floor dressing room and made its way to the stage area where it burned up to 15 rows of seats before the night watchman alerted the fire fighters. They were able to save the exterior shell of the Willis Wood Theater, but nothing else.  It was razed in 1918 and replaced by the 20-story Mark Twain Building, which still stands today.